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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #555  (Vol. 11, No. 46)  This edition is for the week of November 8--14, 2010.

"Unstoppable"  by Mike Smith
Forgotten Films: Bless the Beasts & Children  by ED Tucker
Midnight Video: The Gateway to Horror Movie Imports  by Chris Woods
Female Prisoner: #701: Scorpion  by Jason Fetters
Remembering .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Female Prisoner: #701: Scorpion

How far will one woman go to get revenge on the man she once loved? That is the question, which Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji) must answer for herself in this brutal Women in Prison movie from 1972 by director Shunya Ito. Everything bad that could possible happen to one woman gets done to Nami. She only wanted a normal life with her boyfriend Detective Sugimi (Isao Natsuyagi.) Her lecherous boyfriend had other plans as he sets her up to be raped by the mob. Naturally, Nami is bitter and enraged by such deception so she takes matters into her own hands and attempts to slice up Sugimi with a knife in front of Tokyo Metro Police HQ.

Sugimi manages to get away and Nami gets incarcerated for all her troubles. She become Prisoner #701 at an all-female prisoner that has 700 inmates.

Besides the humiliation of rape, Nami is tortured, beaten, hog tied, and forced to dig a hole for two days without rest. Still, she has an inner strength as her rage burns constantly for Sugimi. For the most part Nami quietly endures all her suffering until opportunities are presented and she unleashes her wrath on whomever is unfortunate to cross her.

This is a great prison movie with a strong feminist overtone. It even has something for Otaku everywhere because it is based on a manga by Toru Shinohara, famous in Japan for his manga called Nippon Keibaden, which is a history of horse racing. Shinohara wrote one manga, Sasori (Scorpion) that depicted a female prisoner who was the heroine of the series. Ito made 3 Sasori films with Meiko Kaji. The Sasori series continued with other directors well into the 2000's with a reboot starring Miki Mizuno in 2009.

However, Female Prisoner: #701 is the one that started in all. This movie has sadistic guards that watch naked women walk up and down a see-through staircase, allow Nami to be tortured as one inmate pours hot scalding miso soup on her face, and repeatedly beat Nami for one botched escape attempt. What I like about Nami's character is how she endures so much, including being tied up and hoisted in the air while one inmate tortures her by burning her face with a hot steaming lamp, and never loses her goal of revenge against Sugimi. Most would give up after beatings and torture because few have what it takes to keep going after all that. Nami has this quiet scary inner strength that is always just under the surface and comes screaming out of her when needed.

There are a couple of interesting feminist scene, beginning with an undercover cop trying to get information from Nami. Nami is in solitary and a female cop pretending to be an inmate tries to get Nami to open up by offering kind words and bad-mouthing the police. Nami responds by initiating lesbian love by pushing the cop on her back and then climbing on top of her. She proceeds to make the cop all hot and bothered and just when she cries out "More love, more love," Nami stands above her and denies.

The other scene is at the end where the female prisoners have stolen guns and are hiding out in a warehouse with four police as hostages. The women knock these cops down on the ground. Next, the women tear off their own clothes and pour the pants off the police for a strange rape scene. All these women have been locked up for a very long time and this is their one chance just to have sex again. Once the male cops are used and abused, they are quarantined inside a cell and told to shut up or their balls will be cut off. Even as a male viewer it feels good to watch strong female characters being in charge and flipping off authority. I can't remember another movie that showed a female initiating a rape on film and not just one female but a whole gang.

Despite the movie's grindhouse subject matter, the rape scene, the torture, and even the violence is all done artfully. When Nami first has sex with Sugimi, Sugimi stands with a white sheet over him. The white sheet flutters through the air and lands on Nami covering her breasts and showing the viewer no nudity. The camera angles are interesting with odd angles to recall a young Dario Argento back when Argento played with the angles to capture inspiring shots. The soundtrack is of high quality, offering a jazzy soundtrack that works so well with prison and crime movies.

In spite of the couple of T & A shots, there is nothing in Female Prisoner: #701 that movie watchers haven't seen in the Friday the 13th series and certainly nothing a lewd as the American Pie movies. The nudity is tame by today's standards. Sex is not the motive because this movie is all about revenge.

When watching this movie, you want to see Nami get revenge just to offer some cartharsis to all the mental and physical pain she has to endure. In fact, Nami suffers so greatly that the ending knife fight is over and done with quickly. It took a lot for her to get to the point where she could get back at Sugjmi and then once it's done, the final shot is depressing. Nami walking alone back inside a prison.

Overall, if you have any interest in Grindhouse, pulp, or Women in Prison movies, then check out Japan's take on the genres with Female Prisoner: #701: Scorpion. Also remember to be nice to your current girlfriend or wife, you never know what is brewing just underneath the surface.

Recommended. 5 Stars out of 5.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.