Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)

Female Prisoner Scorpion PosterIt always seems like just when you’re about to get a commendation for running the toughest women’s prison in Japan, some crazy con decides to go over the wall and leave you looking like an overrated chump.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the worst day on the job for you. That would be that time when you got embroiled in a dust up between this same crazy con and some pig who was looking to put her in her place, but only managed to put a shard of glass in your eye. Clearly, running the toughest women’s prison in Japan isn’t the sweet gig it used to be.

They always say that you should never go into business with your family or loved ones, but in Nami’s case, she’s so bewitched by her dashing narc boyfriend Sugimi that she’s willing to play amateur DEA agent.

Sure, the plan seemed to hit the pisspot as soon as Nami showed up at the bad guys’ HQ and they immediately made her as a cop and assaulted her, but Sugimi did eventually make the collar, right? And wasn’t that the goal of the plan all along?

While Nami was unaware he would be paid off by the crime boss, Sugimi did throw some cash on her as she were lying on the floor after being raped. But was that really any reason to accost him in the street clutching a butcher knife and attempting to go Ginsu all over his butt? There’s bound to be some rough edges in any first undercover assignment!

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Such are the circumstances that lay the foundation for one of those prison movies where a person endures all sorts of tortures without breaking, solely so that she can someday escape and get revenge.

And if you’re thinking that only the evil warden suffers bad luck, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that Nami’s escape is hindered by her partner suddenly deciding to cramp up with her period as they make their way through the scenic wetlands that surround the prison.

Nami still gives a good account of herself though when the guards finally catch up with them, beating down a German Shepherd and a guard before finally being recaptured. Next stop: Solitary! The sweat box! The cooler! The hole! Aunt Flo! (Uh, wait a second, we’re already past that one, right?)

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Once the warden punishes everyone for Nami’s stunt by reducing food rations, her fellow inmates’ attitude towards her suffers a bit. There’s an old hag who delivers Nami’s food to her and delights in torturing the hog-tied Nami. She dumps her food on the floor and tells her to lap it up like a dog. She notices that Nami is shivering and helps her warm up by soaking a blanket in filthy water and then putting it on Nami. She even pours hot soup on Nami in an effort to get her to show a little weakness and scream. Nami only manages a polite smile. Oh, and she also manages to yank the blanket with her teeth causing the old hag to fall and dump all the hot soup on herself!

The warden is understandably outraged by this conduct and demands to know just how she accomplished it. If Nami isn’t going to talk while being burned with soup, a few billy clubs up the crotch ain’t going to get the job done either and so Nami is released back into general population.

The movie then enters its “hole digging” phase. Those of you who get hot and bothered watching gals dig holes will find the middle half hour of this movie pure ecstasy. The rest of us will no doubt be having unwelcome flashbacks of our parents forcing us to participate in their gardening hobby.

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Just when it seems as if the movie is going bury itself with this endless digging sequence, they bring out one of the big guns of these WIP (that’s Women in Prison for you normal folks) flicks: the prison riot! And it all started so innocently when one of Nami’s only friends came to her aid by whacking a guard in the head with a shovel! The ensuing riot allows a fiery escape and rendezvous with destiny! And revenge! And a stylish hat!

One of the better women in prison flicks, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, benefits from both the intensity that Nami (Meiko Kaji of Lady Snowblood fame) projects with her strong, unflamboyant character as well as director Shunya Ito’s stylish flourishes that owe more to an arthouse drama than to a movie about women fighting in the prison shower. Ito uses revolving sets to change scenes, exaggerated make up to show rage, crazy camera angles, and multi-colored lighting that will have you thinking of some of Mario Bava‘s films.

Though mostly a brutal straight ahead actioner, there are some moments that will no doubt cause a chuckle (most notably when the warden berates all the prisoners after being stabbed in the eye while the piece of glass is still protruding from his eye socket!) and you can’t help but root for Nami to obliterate everyone involved since she spends the whole movie getting hosed. Definitely one to check out. Then you can get to work on its six sequels.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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