Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972) Poster

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Awesome Japanese exploitation flick
zetes22 August 2004
Violent, sick, cruel, and completely sadistic – what more could I ask for? Starring Meiko Kaji, who would go on to the Lady Snowblood films the next year, this women in prison movie simply dazzles. Ito's direction is fantastic, and in some ways resembles that of Suzuki Seijun. It's funny that such great filmmaking is found in a w.i.p. movie, a sub-genre usually reserved for sloppy, direct-to-video work today. Just think, a direct-to-video movie really could be well made. There is an unfulfilled market here. Yet people just keep cranking out the same cliched garbage – an utter waste. The genre in America is too tame when you look at FP701. Actually, I'd almost say that this comes close to being the best prison movie ever made, approaching masterpieces like Don Siegel's undervalued Riot in Cell-Block 11 and Stuart Rosenberg's beloved Cool Hand Luke. Hell, Prisoner 701 makes Cool Hand Luke look like a total pussy. This movie is an absolute must-see for those who love Japanese films, exploitation, or cult movies in general. I'd go so far as to call it a masterpiece in its own way. I loved every damn second of it! 10/10.
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The exploitation series that could
KuRt-3327 October 2004
The "Women in prison" film is a subgenre with a nasty reputation and a devoted fanbase. Usually it's nudity and cruelty galore with a plot barely thin enough to veil the only reason to watch the film is to see the sadist and lesbian (or possibly the lesbian sadist) scenes. Whereas it's true that there are a few good prison films, most of them are only in it for the exploitation. Which is not necessarily a bad point: after all, most blockbusters are only in it for the explosions.

My first Female Convict movie was "Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41". Purchased as it was released in a series of cult films, most of them were excellent enough to convince you to buy the ones you'd never heard of. To my disappointment the movie turned out to be a sequel, the second film in a series of four starring the ravishing Meiko Kaji as Prisoner 701. One year later Kaji would star as Lady Snowblood in the eponymous films that 'influenced' Tarantino quite a lot whilst shooting "Kill Bill". The Female Prisoner tune "Urami Bushi", written by the director and sung by Kaji, was used in both Kill Bill volumes.

Shunya Ito, director of Female Prisoner 701, directed only 8 movies in 26 years, surprisingly few if compared to the output of other Japanese directors such as Koji Wakamatsu and Seijun Suzuki or if you look at the visual flair displayed in Ito's films. Three out of the eight movies were Female Convict films.

If you haven't seen a W.I.P. (women in prison) film before or don't like the edgier films, "Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41" (the second one) is the one to go for. It's the most regular film of the series: most of the sequel takes place out of the prison and follows a group of escaped convicts who try to stay away from the guards who're chasing them. It may still be an exploitation film, but it's not really a W.I.P. film. But never mind your difficulty to find a label for the film: just file it under 'good'.

"Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion", the first film, is definitely exploitation, though it must be said it's a classy exploitation film. Sure, the film may start with an escape attempt by Matsu (Kaji) and another prisoner, but one doesn't have to look further than the titles to see this is exploitation cinema: naked women running up and down stairs whilst being watched by guards. But whereas there are a few traditional exploitation scenes (and some of those are pretty nasty), the film never gets tacky.

Visually a masterpiece (impressive visuals and sets), a strong lead, an excellent director, beautiful settings... this is one of the best exploitation films you'll get to see. If you are too afraid to venture into the dark waters of exploitation cinema, watch the sequel first. You won't know why Matsu is seen as such a threat to the prison or why she's imprisoned, but apart from these details you won't be deprived from an enjoyable ride and find yourself hungry to see the other three films. And if you dare, go straight to "Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion".
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Antihero of the (S)exploitation Film
ncc12056 March 2005
Uttering as few words as possible, Nami Matsushima (played by the stunningly beautiful Meiko Kaji) dispenses with the pleasantries and builds a reasonably impressive body count by the end of "Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion," one of the premiere films in the women's prison genre of films.

Natsuyagi is a cop looking to move ahead in his life, and money, after all, is the root of all evil. He hatches a scheme to use his lovely girlfriend, Nami, to lure the local mafia bosses into a scheme. But when the gang feels something's amiss, they escort Nami into a back room and rape her. Breaking in, Natsuyagi realizes he finally has what he wants: ignoring his fallen girlfriend, he convinces the mob that he can make all of their problems go away if they pay him off. They agree, and Natsuyagi has Nami thrown into prison … where she undergoes the obligatory beatings, teasing, and other forms of degradation so common to 'girls behind bars' films.

What makes "Scorpion" different is the fact that Director Shunya Ito – in his debut film – decided to ride the fine line between art and trash. He combines the best elements of the vindictive woman's feature along with artsy lighting in order to achieve the effect of a car crash: the viewer really hates to slow down and watch, but there really must be something to see here, right? The violence is gratuitous, if not psychedelic, at times, but it all manages to flesh out (pun intended) before Nami manages to finally break out of prison and go on her murderous rampage, taking out the mobsters one-by-one until her final showdown with the unsuspecting Natsuyagi.

Also, in Kaji's graceful hands, Nami isn't so much a victim as she is an antihero, not at all unlike Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. The viewer is pulled into this world by means of a very beautiful woman who refuses to be a 'prisoner' to the genre. Instead, she's defiant and calculating at every turn, refusing to comply with the warden's demands of good behavior. She challenges every authority, instituting her own code of justice which applies to everyone: her fellow inmates, the prison guards, and even the police outside. Uncompromising in her dedication, she ignores the acts she endures for the sake of focusing on one sole objective: revenge.

… and that's an act she takes with complete seriousness.
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Another Great Japanese Exploit/Pinky Film...
EVOL6668 February 2006
I'm really starting to love this era in Japanese exploit film-making. As of this writing I've only seen slightly more than a handful of these films, but they all tend to be top-notch. I end up saying the same things about all of them, and FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION is not much different - excellent sets, interesting and deep story lines, good acting, beautiful camera-work - all the sorts of things that you wouldn't expect to see in an exploitation film, but the Japanese did it consistently in those days spawning plenty of truly excellent trash films...

The FEMALE PRISONER in question is a nice girl who just had a run of bad luck. Her scumbag boyfriend is an overly ambitious cop who uses her as bait in trying to bust a crime ring. When the bust goes to hell, the criminals and the ever chivalrous boyfriend/cop make a deal to hang homegirl out to dry. She ends up in jail and after a failed jailbreak, is abused in all kinds of fun and sleazy ways. A riot eventually ensues in the jail and this time our heroine makes it out to seek revenge on the man who scorned her...

I have to honestly say that FEMALE PRISONER is not quite as compelling and "beautiful" as say, LADY SNOWBLOOD (who is also played by our leading lady in this film...), or maybe SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST, but it is still a very enjoyable, artfully sleazy film that definitely holds up on it's own. Recommended to fans of any Japanese exploit/pinky film - this one won't disappoint. 8.5/10
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Japanese Exploitation
carrienations17 January 2004
Great Japanese exploitation story featuring the incomparable Kaji Meiko ("Lady Snowblood"). Excellent cinematography and use of set pieces as well as exaggerated angles and lighting. As enjoyable as this film is, it's not the best in the series... the second chapter, also directed by Ito Shunya and starring Kaji Meiko ("Joshuu sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bô", aka "Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41") is a transcendent piece of filmmaking and eclipses the first film in every regard: cinematography, locations, acting, script, and music.
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Brilliant - The Definition Of Exploitation-Art
Witchfinder General 66631 January 2008
Shunya Ito's "Joshuu 701-gô: Sasori" aka "Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion" of 1972 is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece of Japanese Exploitation cinema that is not quite comparable to anything else. The WIP (Women In Prison) sub-genre may have brought a bunch of highly entertaining flicks, but each of the four "Sasori" films (all of which were released between 1972 and 1973) outshines any other movie of the kind by a million times. Not only does "Joshuu 701-gô: Sasori", or "Sasori: Scorpion" as it is entitled here, outshine any other kind of WIP flick, this is one of the films that reign supreme in Exploitation cinema generally. More than any other movie, this film combines Exploitation and Art-house cinema, sleaze and artistic beauty in a most unique way. The absolutely divine Meiko Kaji is the star of this unforgettable film and nobody else could have played the leading role of Nami Matsushima aka. Sasori with such brilliance. Not only does she play the lead, Meiko Kaji also sings the beautiful theme song to this film, one of the greatest and most memorable pieces of Japanese film score ever, "Urami-Bushi", which became known to a wider Western audience when Tarantino used it for the soundtrack of "Kill Bill 2".

Raped, imprisoned tortured and abused, female prisoner #701, Nami Matsushima lives only for two things, escape from the hellhole of a woman's prison she is incarcerated in, and revenge on her former lover, who used her for his benefit and is responsible for all her misery. Due to her toughness and power of endurance, Nami, who is constantly tortured by sadistic guards in order to break her will, is referred to as "Sasori" ("Scorpion") by her fellow female prisoners...

The stunningly beautiful Meiko Kaji, one of my personal favorite actresses of all-time, plays her role with sheer brilliance. Sasori, who hardly says a word has an incomparably vengeful determination in her eyes, and Kaji's performance seems to become greater each time I see this movie. The rest of the performances are also outstanding, above all Riye Yokoyama, who is excellently sadistic as Katagiri, another female prisoner who hates Sasori, and Fumio Watanbe as the sadistic prison warden Goda. "Sasori" truly is an absolute exploitation highlight, and probably THE movie in which exploitation and art-house elements complement each other the most. The opening sequence, in which hundreds of naked women have to walk down a narrow hallway in a humiliating exercise (to the song "Urami-Bushi") alone is the best example for that, and furthermore one of the most memorable sequences ever in exploitation cinema. This movie is sleazy and often extremely brutal, with nasty scenes of rape, murder and sadistic torture, and yet so incomparably beautiful and often symbolic in its extreme violence and sleaze. The entire "Sasori" series with Meiko Kaji reigns supreme in the WIP sub-genre, and is a truly brilliant highlight of Japanese Exploitation cinema. Every fan of Exploitation and every lover of film in general MUST SEE this first "Sasori" film and personal favorite of mine, which easily deserves the highest rating of 10/10!
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Better than "Kill Bill"
lazarillo6 April 2007
A beautiful young woman is double-crossed by her corrupt cop boyfriend, raped by his Yakuza thug associates, and then--to add insult to injury--unjustly sentenced to a brutal women's prison. She becomes increasingly stoical, however, biding her time until she can have her revenge on all her enemies both in and out of prison.

This is an enjoyable movie which manages to be both a WIP film and a rape-revenge film. It's also probably the best of the "Female Scorpion" series because it focuses more on the WIP elements while the later films are mostly rape-revenge (or eventually just revenge)movies. To be honest, I've never quite gotten the appeal of these female action movies. While some of their fans are female, the vast majority are men, and it's beyond me the masochistic thrill these guys get out of the "butt-kickin' babe"(personally I prefer women that do NOT beat me up, shoot me, or run me through with a samurai sword). Meiko Kaji's Female Scorpion character is in a class by herself though in that her strength comes not so much from her ability to dish out extreme punishment as to quietly endure it until she has a chance to turn the tables. The epitome of this is when she is she is strung up by the other prisoners (quite naked of course) and tortured with hot lamp bulb--Ouch!

This is also the only film in the series where Meiko has nude scenes. They're pretty tame by WIP standards, but there are plenty of other naked Japanese girls (if you're into that sort of thing)including in one hilarious scene where the female prisoner "rape" a couple of male prison guards during a riot (poor bastards!). It's a matter of taste I guess, but I liked this better than the more famous "Lady Snowblood" (also with Kaji) and definitely better than "Kill Bill".
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Cruel and sadistic
Atavisten6 February 2011
This first installment in the Sasori (scorpion) series featuring Kaji Meiko and is much more of a exploitation movie than the follow up. That means girls running around naked in punishment for whatever lack of discipline and getting raped by idiot prison guards.

Showing the making of Matsu the vengeful prisoner, we understand her motives quite well and it turns out to be a dense action movie.

In the end though this is more or less a display of sadistic torture in both a campy way and a more artistic way. As such it is not quite my cup of tea.

Kaji Meiko is not as developed as an actress as in her later movies here, but still puts up a good show, and a brilliant antihero although inferior to the more psychedelic Jailhouse #41 follow up.
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Fantastic Japanese Exploitation!
The_Void15 January 2008
I've seen a handful of women in prison films and before seeing this one, hadn't seen a really good one. It's a genre closely associated with lesbian sex, torture and general sleaze and is one of the staples of the oeuvres of Italian trash directors such as Jess Franco and Joe D'Amato. Female Convict Scorpion adheres to the trends of the genre, but it does it with so much more class than the majority of genre offerings and the result is a film that transcends its trash origins into masterpiece territory. Female Convict Scorpion excellently straddles the boundary between the two types of film - its trash shot as art! Like most women in prison films, this one focuses on one particular prisoner inside a women's prison. The prisoner is Nami Matsushima, a woman betrayed by her boyfriend (a police officer with mob ties) and wrongly imprisoned. She wants revenge on the man who put her in jail, and since she knows a lot of his secrets; he wants her dead. The policeman/mobster soon decides to have one of the other prisoners arrange an "accident" for Nami Matsushima...

The film starts as it means to go on; first we get a prison break that sees two prisoners hunted down and caught by the ruthless prison guards, and the next scene sees a bunch of naked women being directed about by said prison guards. There is not as much sleaze in this film as there is in my other women in prison flicks, but there's more than enough - and the fact that it doesn't go over the top means that the sleaze we do get is far more potent. The film is also rather gory, and although much of the violence is in a comic book style, seeing the blood spill is still a treat. The film features some stunning cinematography, and director Shunya Ito is obviously keen to get the art-house style across as much as possible. There's also several excellently shot sequences; the scene involving a disgruntled inmate rampaging through the showers with a shard of glass being particularly excellent. It's all topped off by a sensational performance by Meiko Kaji in the lead role, and overall; it has to be said that Female Convict Scorpion is a masterpiece that does not deserve to be missed!
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Well made W.I.P. flick
alansmithee0418 June 2004
Shunya Ito's debut film hits all the genre highlights of your standard Babes Behind Bars flick, but does it so much better than any other exploitation pic of the era.

Action queen Meiko Kaji stars the unbreakable "Scorpion." Betrayed by her slimy police detective lover Sugimi (Isao Natsuyagi), she winds up in a brutal prison run by the evil bureaucrat Goda (every directors favorite badguy Fumio Watanabe) where she endures tortures that would have reduced Cool Hand Luke to jelly in about five minutes.

A solid cast, excellent direction and occasionally brilliant cinematography make this perhaps the second best W.I.P. movie ever made. For the best, you'll have to see the sequel, "Jailhouse 41."
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Where High and Low art collide, that's where I want to be
whalleywhat3 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I think there's a lot of fellow film fans out there who have no time for snooty snooze-fests like the films of Ingmar Bergman or any of those "inspirational tales of redemption" that people like Roger Ebert want to shove down our throat, but are far too intelligent to sit through the vast piles of pumped-out schlock that people find a way to appreciate. So when a film can be equally artful and entertaining, it's a reason to rejoice. If you love Lynch's Wild at Heart, or Miike's genre work, like Dead or Alive, I cannot recommend Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion enough. The structure of the film is pure rape-revenge exploitation and women in prison boobfest, but the acting and directing elevate this into the realm of truly great films. While the camera-work throughout is disorientingly perfect, scenes like the shard-of-glass fight scene prove Shunya Ito is truly masterful. Even a throwaway scene like upper tier prisoners putting on lipstick and discussing Matsu's fate is made surreal and psychedelic by the truly bizarre sound effects. Meiko Kaji in the lead carries the defiance and cold eroticism of her character perfectly. I actually think Chan Wook Park's choice of the lead for his recent Sympathy for Lady Vengeance had something to do with her resemblance to Kaji. Apparently that's her singing in the theme song too. Gotta check out Lady Snowblood. Much of the violence in this film is truly cringe-worthy, and I mean in the good way. It's effective because it makes you uncomfortable. I'd also like to clarify, my understanding of Matsu's betrayal is that she was sent by her Narc boyfriend as bait, as he knew that she'd be found out and raped, so he'd have the blackmail he needed to form an alliance with the drug dealers. If seeing him drop money on her after the deal is cut isn't enough for you to root for her revenge, the endless torture she suffers in prison will be. I'd give this 10 if it weren't for a couple of things, the digging scene is overly long, although that probably has more to do with the script Ito was given to work with, and I've heard the sequel is even better. Still, if you like any of Park's revenge trilogy, Miike films, Kurosawa's Yojimbo or the works of Dario Argento and George Romero, do yourself a favor and watch Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion.
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The Seminal WiP Film
mevmijaumau7 August 2016
The Women in Prison exploitation sub-genre, like many others, found its way to Japan in the '70s, resulting in probably the most well made prisonsploitation series of films to ever grace the screen. It's the Female Prisoner Scorpion series, a pinky violence extravaganza starring the badass Meiko Kaji as the stoic vengeful lady who can't keep herself from getting imprisoned. Kaji signed with the Toei studio in order to avoid having to do pinku films for Nikkatsu, but in this film she nevertheless appears naked, while her character suffers some heavy abuse so I imagine filming some of these scenes must have been a bit stressful.

This is essentially a revenge tale peppered with gore, heavy nudity and some almost surreal moments which showcase the high production value this film had going for it. All kinds of weird colors and gruesome deaths find their way into this film, with Meiko Kaji's awesome theme song "Urami bushi" playing on top of it all. This is a highly imaginative and entertaining WiP film and one of the best Japanese exploitation films.
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Women In Prison Genre Done Right
Peter Mckain7 August 2016
The woman in prison exploitation sub-genre doesn't exactly have the best reputation for example Bare behind bars and SS experiment love camp comes to mind but this is something different. Firstly It feels more like an art film by the way its shot. It uses interesting compositions and at lighting. The nudity in the film doesn't feel like its sexual well to me anyway maybe a sadist would see it differently. The initial rape scene in the film is done so it's not too graphic and hard to watch similar to the one seen in Lady Snowblood. On top of all that the writing is terrific, the motivation of the Sasori isn't revenge for the rape. It's revenge for the double crossing which drives her to put up with the struggles of prison life so that she might get out. What i love about the main character is that she hardly talks throughout the film and does all the communicating with her eyes. Which leaves you guessing what she will do next. The music is great and the movie is action packed with a satisfying ending the only part that didn't seem right was the random Lesbian scene which felt out of place but they justify it later. so give it a watch you won't be disappointed.
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Japanese Exploitation
gavin694223 July 2016
After being set up and deceived by Sugimi (Natsuyagi Isao), a conniving and crooked detective she had fallen in love with, Matsushima Nami's desire for revenge knows no bounds. Her failed attempt at stabbing Sugimi on the steps of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters results in her doing hard time in a female prison run by sadistic male guards. To Sugimi's surprise, Matsushima refuses to testify against him, and now the sheer fact that she knows such secrets makes her a liability. So Sugimi and the Japanese mafia orchestrate a plan whereby Matsushima will succumb to an "accidental" death in prison. They enlist the help of Kagiri, another female inmate with ties to both Sugimi and the mafia, thus their formidable plan is quickly set in motion.

Amazingly, amidst so much gritty, dirty stuff, the film still has an artistic flourish, such as the loss of the heroine's virginity symbolized with a Japanese flag. What the message is, I do not know, but it is visually striking. We also have color-coded uniforms, which make it easy to tell the "good" guys from the "bad" guys and add an interesting balance.

For those less interested in the art and technique, and more interested in the exploitation aspect, they will be happy to know that there is plenty in the way of shower scenes... if you want to see a few dozen naked women scrubbing each other, you probably won't be disappointed.

Arrow Video has released this film and its first three sequels in a box set. I commend them for this and love the effort that went into the special features. Unfortunately, the picture looks really washed-out. Knowing Arrow, they were working with the best materials possible, so this may mean that a good-looking negative ceases to exist (or perhaps never did).
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Before Lady Snowblood , there was Lady Scorpion
Arthouse experimental movie with themes of sadistic prison tortures, eroticism, revenge on ex-lovers and inmates, and major boobage

Matsu (#701) is in jail for attempted murder after her cop boyfriend feeds her to the yakuza to get raped so he can bust them and get a promotion. While in jail, she receives abuse both from the prison guards and a five female inmate gang. She puts up with the abuse for one sole purpose - revenge.
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Lurid Japanese prison mayhem
Leofwine_draca11 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION is the first film in the cult series of women in prison films from Japan. This outing is an eclectic mix of exploitation values, with all of the inmates appearing nude with some frequency, and a plot that involves heady doses of sadism both on the part of the guards and the sadistic inmates. There are debts of inspiration to COOL HAND Luke in the escape attempts and the rivalry inside the prison, but this is very much a Japanese film with nods at both the pinku and yakuza genres.

The violence is hard-hitting and well-handled, and the pacing picks up towards the climax for some satisfyingly vengeful mayhem. I think my favourite sequence is the one where a rival prisoner goes crazy; the sequence is shot with the lighting of a lurid horror tale and ends with a scene of startling violence. Meiko Kaiji deserves plaudits for her intense turn as Matsu the Scorpion, and would dominate the 1970s with leads in this series as well as the LADY SNOWBLOOD and STRAY CAT ROCK franchises.
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And so it began...
Tonypulp10 December 2016
#701: Scorpion is the first feature in the Female Prisoner Scorpion series which I'll be sure to complete on a short term. Shunya Ito is the director of the first, second and third film in the series. I'll be watching them in order though I'm not sure if it matters, but let's stick to the most logic approach.

Prisoner #701 is played by Meiko Kaji, a beautiful woman who's facial expressions tend to say more than words ever could. It's one of the many brilliant aspects of this first installment, making me crave for more and more. I'm not thát familiar with Japanese exploitation but the differences with comparable western films seem obvious from the very first second.

It has an unique vibe, mainly created by the eye-catching camera- work and well chosen settings and backgrounds. It has some sleazy and straight forward content but it's brought with a huge amount of personal flair which makes it impossible not to love every second of it. It's pinky violence at it's best.

The soundtrack is quite special as Kaji sings the main theme ''Song of Vengeance'' herself. It's a nice personal touch and it works enchanting. Her strength carries on for the entire ride, seeking for vengeance while undergoing heavy torture and sometimes returning the favor. The authority makes life as miserable as it can get while the female prisoners also have their own personal problems.

It leads to multiple climax's which all seem to have their own appeal. The hostage scene can not be compared with the (quite random) lesbian scene, but both of them are roughly as good as one another. They just have a different purpose. I've seen so many original angels, crazy 360 shots and plenty of other cool stuff to keep the film visually entertaining. I'd say the broken glass scene in the shower is the best example, it blew me away!

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion turned out even better than I could've expected. Combining a simple revenge plot with a W.I.P setting with great acting, an amazing personal flair and fitting music. It's a complete package and I can only hope for the rest to be as good as this remarkable gem.
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"Female Prisoner #701-Scorpion"
Uriah4320 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
After being setup by her supposed boyfriend named "Tsugio Sugimi" (Isao Natsuyagi) to infiltrate the Yakuza, "Nami Matsushima" (Meiko Kaji) is double-crossed which results in her being gang-raped. When she realizes that Tsugio betrayed her she attempts to kill him only to be over-powered and sent to prison. Once there she becomes the target of the warden and finds herself being beaten, humiliated and repeatedly tortured but she endures all of it in the hope of one day getting her revenge. Now although this is a Japanese version of a "Women-in-Prison" movie what separates this from a number of other similar films out there is the manner in which the director (Shunya Ito) manages to present this movie in an artistic yet sadistic fashion. Possibly a bit too sadistic and unrealistic at times but effective all the same. Additionally, while there are several cute women cast in this film, the lack of sufficient character development and screen time was a definite problem. In any case, this movie is probably worth a watch for fans of this specific genre and I rate it as slightly above average.
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Still good after 39 years
mmushrm15 May 2011
Just watched Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion 39years after it came out and it is still a good movie.

This is the 1st of the Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion series (I had actually watched it backwards from 4 to 1), and it shows how the "Scorpion" ended up in prison and how hard she is. The Scorpion is HARD.

The movie has all the prison exploitation themes, sadistic guards, naked prisoners, mean prisoners, torture etc. But it also has the Scorpion; imagine Cool Hand Luke but who does not talk, with no humour, a willingness and readiness to kill/injure/maim her tormentors and a single mindedness quest for vengeance. Meiko Kaji (actress) is more widely known for her Lady Snowblood character and movies but IMO her Scorpion Character is way more awesome.

I recommend this movie just so you have a lead up to the second movie Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 which is a MUST watch.
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Shunya Itō, 1972
Danny Walker14 December 2010
As the last decade has progressed, comic book adaptations have been coming at moviegoers thick and fast. These have been rather inconsistent in quality with various graphic novels such as Ghost World and the fact based Persepolis proving to be the successes of the medium, with most films, including the large majority of the 21 films Marvel has contributed (with the notable exception of those directed by Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer) being wholly average in quality. However it may seem though, comic book adaptations and the numerous spin-offs and sequels they produce are not a recent development and it's worth casting a look at one of the lesser known earlier franchises, Japan's Female Prisoner #701 series.

Based on the Sasori manga comics of Tōru Shinohara the first of these is titled Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and tells the story of Nami 'Matsu' Matsushima (played by Meiko Kaji, who would later take the title role in the similarly revenge themed Lady Snowblood series) who is sent to jail after attempting to stab the police officer who first seduced her, before using her to implement a sting that resulted in her being raped. The film follows Matsu as she attempts to escape from prison in order to enact her revenge on those who betrayed her whilst at the same time surviving altercations with fellow prisoners and guards alike.

This series was funded by the Toei Company, notorious for their own particular brand of 'Pinky Films' known as 'Pinky Violence Films'. These contained all the nudity and soft-core sex synonymous with the Pinky films but as the title would suggest, with lashings of violence complementing the nudity. Just at the films of the New Hollywood were a response to the advent of television, attempting to get viewers back to the movie houses via increasingly experimental and exploitative films so too were these and Female Prisoner can be seen as one of the best example of this genre.

First time director Shunya Ito (who would later earn himself an Oscar nomination for his 1985 film Gray Sunset) brings a great deal of stylistic flair to his debut, there are sets where the walls revolve as in theatre to reveal new surroundings, certain scenes are shot through a glass floor so we can see Matsu's face as she lies face down on the ground following her abuse, and all the while there is the expressive use of lighting with bright greens and reds dictating the tone of the scene. In one sequence another inmate attempts to stab Matsu whilst in the showers. As the fight progresses and the assailant becomes more enraged suddenly her hair begins to stand on end, the lighting turns blue and her makeup turns to one of the face masks seen in traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre. Jump cuts are also evident throughout, a technique the Nouvelle Vague had only unveiled in the previous decade, and directors such as Scorsese were beginning to make their trademark at the same time. With all this experimentation the film works well as an art house alternative to the women in prison films people such as Roger Corman were producing in America, with Kaji proving herself to be every bit the equal of Pam Grier.

Indeed it is Kaji's performance that carries the film. Despite her literary counterpart being extremely vocal and foul mouthed, Kanji convinced Ito to break away from this and allow her to give a primarily silent performance at Matsu, with the her cold stare conveying more hatred for her enemies than the shouting of obscenities ever could. The most play Kaji's vocals get for the films duration is in the film's title song 'Urami Bushi' also known as 'My Grudge Blues' a haunting number sang by Kaji herself. Ever desperate to shoehorn in as many references and allusions as possible, Tarantino would later feature the song on the soundtrack to Kill Bill(during the Lady Snowblood styled fight scene no less).

Ito and Kaji would work together on a further two films in this series, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972) and Female Prisoner 701: Beast Stable (1973) both of which maintain the original's acute sense of style whilst remarkably managing to increase the amount of violence and nudity, every bit the equal to the original they never feel forced as many sequels do and are a worthy continuation of Matsu's search for vengeance. As evidenced in many of the other great films of the decade such as Taxi Driver and Suspiria- when art house aesthetics are combined with exploitation narratives, the result is something extraordinary in its own right. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is one such film, far greater than the slew of comic adaptations around today and definitely worthy of greater attention that it receives.

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Female Prisoner # 701:Scorpion
Scarecrow-8814 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When a female convict named Yuki has her period while escaping prison(with the prison guards in hot pursuit)you ought to know what you're getting yourself into. What makes the escape so funny is that the Warden(Fumio Watanabe)and his men are having a commendation ceremony for their success at rehabilitating the prisoners. But, Yuki isn't the female character whose dogged determination and stamina is questioned in this marvelously crafted exploitationer from the very talented director Shunya Ito. It's a Women in Prison film, through and through(women are often nude, prison apparel is often ripped off, there's a lesbian scene with a little ironic twist, the guards are sadistic, and the lead character does suffer greatly throughout), but make no bones about it, Ito is a real artist who establishes a style for camera theatrics that match the outrageousness of the material present in this ultra-violent feature.

Meiko Kaji portrays Matsu, the other female trying to escape who will not bend to the Warden and apologize for trying to flee. He will try various ways to snap her impressive will. Something deep within, a quiet rage and longing hatred that fuels her unprecedented survival that would break the common person.

The one providing that fuel is a former flame, Sugimi(Isao Natsuyagi)who is a corrupt narcotics officer in bed with a Yakuza crime family(dealing in marijuana). Sugimi used Matsu, who loved him wholeheartedly, to "infiltrate" the Yakuza family's den by way of a sting operation. She suffers a brutal rape, but that doesn't even match the betrayal of her love by Sugimi. She tries to gain retribution with an attack(using a butcher knife)on Sugimi, but is arrested and sent to prison where Matsu wiles away the time brimming with this unnerving will to make it through any turmoil that comes her way just for that moment when Sugimi's blood will be soaking in her hands.

Matsu's trials at surviving the prison is well documented in this film as the Warden will continue time and again to try and break her stronghold of silence. He has a cook torment her in a dingy solitary, but Matsu, through uncanny cunning, causes the winch to trip and fall with a big pot of steaming rice splashing her in the face. The Warden sends his guards in to bury her with stick beatings(not to mention shots to her body with thrusting kicks). The Warden even tries a female spy who becomes her lesbian slave in a hilarious scenario. But, his final solution is to have Matsu(and the other female convicts)dig a massive hole and then fill it..night and day just for his hated rival to break. When tragedy strikes, a revolt ensues with guards being kidnapped and held hostage. Another element in the film is Sugimi's fear because as long as Matsu's alive, his partnership with the Yakuza stands in jeopardy. He coerces a convict, Katagiri(Rie Yokoyama)to assassinate her on the inside making it appear like an accident. The revolt that ensues gives her opportunity to possibly do just that.

Will Matsu survive the prison torture and get her revenge? That question will get it's answer. Ito frames this film with lots of style and imaginative camera set-ups. He never lets the film drag and it is always exciting with excellent pacing. Ito really doesn't let the film ever ground itself realistically and plays with wild ideas such as the marvelously deranged sequence where the Warden gets his eye stabbed by a female convict trying to hurt Matsu(her face is in full Kabuki regalia with the bright light pointing out her unhinged desire to kill Matsu whatever the cost).
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W.I.P without dull clichés and stereotypes
Coventry10 March 2008
"Women in Prison" movies, commonly known under their abbreviation WIP, formed an insignificant but hugely popular sub genre of exploitation cinema, particularly from the 70's up until the mid 80's. Especially Euro-smut directors like, say, Jess Franco, Bruno Mattei and Joe D'Amato were enthusiastic and always ready to shoot this type of film because substantial depth and coherence weren't necessary requirements. WIP movies provide the easiest excuse to depict copious amounts of lesbian experimenting, shower-catfights, brutal whippings, rape & abuse and sadistic battle-ax guards. These films are merely guilty pleasures, amusing to watch once or maybe twice, but none of them were actually good films. I'm writing all this background info only to state that "Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion" isn't anything like that at all! Although I have yet to see the other five installments in this acclaimed Japanese WIP-series, I can safely say already the first entry is a genuine (and so far the only) highlight in this exploitation sub genre. "Female Prisoner" works effectively because everything, even the slightest detail, is 100% opposite to the usual characteristics of WIP movies. It has an absorbing story, amiable heroine characters, spectacular action sequences, gloomy set pieces and classy photography. Sure there's also quite a bit of nudity – though never full frontal - and sleazy insinuations, but the film never reverts to pure vulgarity and director Shunya Ito continuously keeps the emphasis on story building. There's even room for subtle witty humor in script, notably in the opening sequences when the titular heroine escapes during a ceremony to reward the prison's impeccable management skills. The escape and subsequent chase through the reeds promptly set the tone and pace for the rest of the film, namely pure excitement and ingenuity. Particularly Nami's background story is a compelling and involving one. Out of love for her police detective boyfriend she agreed to infiltrate into the Japanese mafia network, but he himself double-crossed her and the poor girl got gang-raped and abused. When her initial attempt at vengeance failed, Nami ended up in prison where she constantly tries to escape in order to extract her revenge properly. The once cherubic woman now causes riots, evokes fights with fellow inmates and builds up a notorious reputation that goes far beyond the prison walls. Her former boyfriend grows increasingly nervous and even hires one of her fellow inmates to eliminate her. "Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion" is a fantastic WIP thriller, and for once it doesn't rely on all the known clichés and dreadful stereotypes. The guards are sadists, but not just empty-headed perverts and even the obligatory influential dyke-prisoner is missing this time. You wouldn't think it's possible, but the film actually gets better and better as the climax approaches. The last half hour contains marvelous scenes where the inmates take control of the prison (and gang-rape the male guards!!) and Nami is finally able to get her well-deserved vengeance. Meiko Kaji, who also played the titular role in my absolute favorite Japanese film of all-time "Lady Snowblood", gives away a stellar performance and the soundtrack is simply mesmerizing… Just ask Quentin Tarantino about that, since he used the scores of both films ("Female Prisoner" and "Lady Snowblood") for his ultimate strong women/martial arts homage "Kill Bill: Volume 1". This is an awesome cinematic accomplishment from director Ito, and I can't wait to unwrap the other five installments in the series.
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Women in Prison, Eastern style.
BA_Harrison20 June 2008
Not quite as hallucinogenic and surreal as Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41, (the sequel, which I mistakenly watched first), but still more art-house than your average 'Women In Prison' flick, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is a cool exploitation classic that is a must for anyone who digs cult Japanese cinema, violence, and busty nekkid oriental chicks.

Meiko Kaji plays Nami Matsushima, a beautiful woman who is viciously gang-raped after her lover, Sugimi, a corrupt cop, convinces her to go undercover to help him bust a gang of drug dealers. When it becomes clear to Nami that she was merely a pawn in Sugumi's plan to help the Yakuza (by ridding them of their competition), she seeks revenge and unsuccessfully attacks her loathsome lover—an act that ends her up in prison, where she becomes the target of both a sadistic warden and a female prisoner turned assassin.

Just like any self-respecting Western W.I.P. flick, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion contains plenty of nudity, sadistic guards, equally sadistic inmates, and the obligatory lesbian sex scene (when Matsushima seduces a policewoman posing as a fellow prisoner). This being a Japanese movie from the 70s, however, the result is far more pleasing aesthetically, catering not only for drooling sleaze-hounds, but also for those with an eye for a well framed image. The film's cinematography is superb, with several moments being quite beautiful to behold—in particular, a post-riot sunset which turns the whole screen blood red (quite apt, seeing as the scene immediately prior to this features the film's bloodiest moment: a guard gets his head split open with a spade resulting in a geyser of blood spraying into the air).

Towards the end, when an escaped Matsushima eventually hunts down the men who raped her and once again tries to kill Sugimi, the film does tend to drag a little (I wanted revenge to come a little swifter than it actually did), but this is a minor quibble with what is a very well crafted piece of exploitation.

7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for IMDb.
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Female Prisoner #701 - Scorpion (1972) ***
JoeKarlosi2 March 2006
I'm still a novice when it comes to Asian cinema like this, but here is a solid Japanese "women in prison" film which, I'm told, was the first in a long-running series. What immediately struck me as a bonus was how well-directed this was by Shunya Ito, in his first feature film. It really felt ahead of its time and I would have believed it was a brand new movie. Slow motion effects are not always my cup of tea but they were strategically strong here and many other sequences were rendered with a flair for the surreal. It's a violent and sometimes bloody affair which I've encountered before as another wronged, disgruntled, and tough-to-crack pretty heroine (Meiko Kaji) is put into an all-woman prison and abused by its sadistic staff, who try everything they can think of to break her. It's easy to see, especially at the climax, that this movie was probably the 'inspiration' for THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (1974). Its theme song was also borrowed by Quentin Tarantino thirty years later for inclusion in his KILL BILL epic. *** out of ****
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A surreal, wild ride
fertilecelluloid13 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
What's fascinating about the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji) character is her strength and resilience. She is not a traditional superhero with supernatural powers. She is a patient woman who doesn't forget. Her enemies are driven crazy by her incredible resilience. They can only wait in a state of misery for her inevitable revenge. This is the first "Female Prisoner 701" film and it's an exploitation classic. It provides standard WIP staples such as lesbianism, female nudity, cold brutality and escape sequences, but it rises to peaks way above its ilk because of its dazzling, theatrical surrealism and stunning lead performance. There is an extended torture sequence in which Scorpion is scalded by a hot light bulb while suspended; director Shunya Ito's staging of this is a testament to his rich, visual imagination and pitch black sense of humor. The reasons for Scorpion's imprisonment are detailed here, as are the origins of her personal conflict with prison authorities. A surreal, wild ride.
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