FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION JAILHOUSE 41 (1972) – The Dungeon Review!
Female Prisoner Scorpion is a series of Japanese pinky violence films that are based on a comic by Tōru Shinohara. Today’s subject film Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 was directed by Shunya Ito who directed three films in the series beginning with Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972) and ending with Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973). All three films star the beautiful and intense Meiko Kaji. Kaji also stars in one of my long time favourites The Tattooed Swordswoman as well as Lady Snowblood which has gained some notoriety thanks to Quentin Tarantino. I loved Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 so much that I immediately marched my ass to Black Dog Video to rent the first film in the series Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion. I recognized instantly having seen the film; but I was obviously past due for a revisit. I enjoyed the hell out of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, so much so I actually considered reviewing it instead of Jailhouse 41; it is after all the first in the series. What tipped the scales in Jailhouse 41’s favor was the visuals. Don’t misunderstand 701 is a slick-looking film and comes highly recommended but Ito adds so many interesting and imaginative details to Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 I could not help but feel just slightly more admiration for it. For those new to this genre and interested in checking it out just be warned pinky violence is not for squeamish. Simply put, pink is a term for sex, and that is what you get in a pinky violence film; sex and violence. Every pinky violence film includes rape and usually multiple scenes of rape but it also offers up some ass-kicking bad-ass ladies who get some sweet, sweet revenge. For fans of seventies exploitation the Female Prisoner Scorpion series is mandatory viewing.
Don’t forget…you can click on the pictures for a larger view.
“There’s been no trouble since we put you here a year ago.”
In the opening scene of Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 we meet Matsu who has been kept chained up in “the hole” and is in some seriously rough shape. Warden Goda put her in the hole after she took his eye. As far as he is concerned she can rot down in the prison basement. Unfortunately the prison is having an inspection and Goda is forced to allow her to join the other prisoners for the day.
“Goda, I’m impressed with your perfect management.” The inspector has spoken too soon and a scare from a suddenly lively Matsu literally makes him shit his pants. This initiates a storm of laughter and incites the other prisoners to start a riot.
The women are forced to work in a nearby quarry as punishment. “Severe punishment will only make Matsu the girl’s idol.” Goda intends to humiliate Matsu and sends four guards to rape her as the other prisoners looks on.
“Acting like a dog in front of the girls! Shameless!” On the way back from the day’s punishment the small group in the vehicle with Matsu harass her and kick her repeatedly until her body flops lifelessly.
Prisoner Rose screams over and over that Scorpion is dead which provokes the guards to stop the truck and investigate. The guard kicks Matsu a couple of times and discerns she is dead. Of course the indestructible Scorpion jumps up and uses her handcuffs to throttle the guard. The other prisoners use the opportunity to take out the second guard. Freedom sweet freedom!
The prisoners leave a love letter for Goda and his monkey sidekick Oki.
Matsu stares intently at Oba who does not like to be stared at. Oba is one of the freakiest, baddest bitches to grace celluloid! Oba has a chilling icy stare, gravelly voice, unapologetic lack of empathy, brutally violent behavior and one hell of a barbaric back story! Oba killed her two young children just to spite her cheating husband. The older child she drowned and the second she stabbed to death while it was still in the womb!
The women are visited by a spirit under the guise of an old woman.
“Women commit crimes because of men. Driven by love, hatred and jealousy. Listen to my story of these seven sinful girls.” We get a brief summary of each of the women’s crimes with the exception of Matsu. Matsu was framed in the first film by her piece of shit boyfriend and is not guilty of the crimes for which she was charged. Frankly I didn’t think the woman who killed her lover because he beat up her son or the woman who killed her father because he was trying to violate her were entirely in the wrong either.
“I’ll curse them.” I wasn’t really sure if the old spirit woman meant the men chasing them or the sinful women.
One of the women can not resist going to see her son who lives near to the place the group have found shelter. Unfortunately, two prison guards are waiting for her. They send her back and follow behind. The suspicious Matsu is waiting for them.
“Escaped female prisoners seem to be hiding around here.” A group of male tourists on the bus suggest they go look for the prisoners who they figured would be hungry for men.
Rose stumbles upon a trio of the aforementioned male tourists who rape her and kill her.
The women take the trio by force and hold the entire bus as hostages. “You killers!” “They killed our friend for fun!”
They drink the tourists booze, tie up the trio of men and stomp on them a bit before harassing the other passengers.
“Say hurrah!” Oba insists one of the older men shout Banzai with enthusiasm whilst putting his hands in the air. She has the other passengers join in.
A blockade is set up. The police and prison officials are closing in on the women.
This is where I shall leave you hanging and add that the satisfying finale concludes with more than one twist.
There is so much to appreciate about Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41. One of those things however is not its literal title. The titles of these films make me nuts; mainly because when I am discussing them with people I screw them up. The “Jailhouse 41” is completely unnecessary! We already know she is a convict, the jailhouse shit is redundant. And furthermore why is the first film Female “Prisoner” instead of “Convict” or vice versa? Why are they different? Why? Bloody hell! The visuals in the film really are brilliant. There are loads of beautiful point of view shots; looking up, looking down. When Goda first visits Matsu in the hole we get a series of perspectives from her lower vantage point. She looks tiny compared to her aggressor. When Matsu is being raped by the prison guards we first see the horrifying shots of men’s distorted stocking-covered faces followed by a shot of the women prisoners looking down at her as she is being violated. There are so many of these shots throughout the film I could not possibly note them all but each one is perfectly executed and mutually effective. The supernatural spin in the film worked extremely well and added nicely to the bad mojo vibe these women had hovering above them. It was such an interesting and visually creative way to tell each woman’s story if a few sentences. The prisoners are eliminated over the course of the film in various tragic ways. I especially felt bad about Rose who along with Matsu were the two empathetic characters of the group. There are also very sleek special effects used; the tree impalement imagery I included was one of the best. Female Convict Scorpion wastes no time getting into its story and keeps things lively and continually moving and changing from beginning to end. Finally the performances, which were enjoyable across the board from the most minor to the feature roles. Kayoko Shiraishi who plays Oba was an unfamiliar face but it is her character that stuck with me the most; more so than the film’s lovely bad-ass heroine. Shiraishi’s look and delivery were very unique and I thought she was extremely convincing as the brutal Oba. Her resume is pretty thin and includes some voice work; no surprise there, the woman has a compelling and unusual voice. Since I already spoke on Meiko Kaji who plays Matsu/Scorpion in my opening paragraph I will only add that Kaji is a woman who carries herself with assured confidence that makes her so very convincing in these types of roles. Kaji speaks only one line in the entire film. Fumio Watanabe who plays Goda will be a familiar face to fans of sixties and seventies Japanese cinema. Watanabe appeared in Yasujirô Ozu’s Late Autumn, Nagisa Ôshima’s Naked Youth, Pleasures of the Flesh and Violence at Noon as well as several exploitation gems like Teruo Ishii’s The Joy of Torture, Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Shigehiro Ozawa’s The Streetfighter, and one of my very favourite nunsploitation film’s Noribumi Suzuki’s School of the Holy Beast. That is a just a small sampling from the man’s resume! Watanabe has an intimidating and authoritative presence that always leaves an impression. Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 along with its predecessor Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion are two of the most wildly entertaining Japanese exploitation films I have ever seen! Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 gets my highest of recommendations a perfect score! Furthermore these two films have been added to my personal collection! Say Banzai!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Shunya Ito
Starring: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi, Yuki Arasa, Hiroko Isayama, Yukie Kagawa, Hôsei Komatsu, Gôzô Sôma
Meiko Kaji as Scorpion