Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)


I’ve known about the Female Prisoner #701 for many years. Despite this knowledge I’ve never been able to get my hands on any of the films. More often than not the series would go out of print on DVD causing their prices to skyrocket and frankly I had given up. Thanks to the new set by Arrow on Blu however, I’ve finally gotten a chance to dip my toe into this well regarded series.

Matsu is the titular prisoner #701. She’s stuck in a brutal women’s prison where the inmates are subjected to humiliating searches, beaten, starved and in general abused by the all male prison guards. Her fellow inmates aren’t much better, it’s a snakes den of cheaters, abusers, and just good old fashioned no goodniks. Matsu’s crime? Trying to murder the man that set her up to be raped by a gang of yakuza. This man also happens to be a police detective who also deflowered her. He set her up so he could make a conviction of the men. What a sleaze. Now her only goal in life is to get her sweet revenge but she’ll have to defeat the guards, the inmates, and bust out of the klink before she’ll ever get a chance.

I loved this flick. Let me just get that out of the way. Personally, women in prison movies don’t interest me much. There usually just isn’t much to mine there as far as original content goes. They tend to follow a pattern and it’s a pattern that usually leaves me cold. I was concerned that would be the case here but Female Prisoner manages to bring out lots of style and creativity within a subgenre not known for it. There are several uniquely filmed scenes, like of her assault which is filmed with the camera looking straight up through a clear plastic floor. In fact the entire flashback sequence detailing how she came to be in prison is presented in a very theatrical fashion that I’ve never seen before. The violence in the movie is also very stylized and satisfyingly so. The plot moves quickly and never drags. It’s a lean 86 minutes and does what it sets out to do with economy which I can certainly appreciate. This is a film that knows what it is but decides to play with the visuals rather than trying to convince us that it isn’t an exploitation film. There is little attempt at elevating the material beyond it’s exploitative roots but the execution of the material is very unique and artful.

The blu comes with a great interview with Gareth Evans (The Raid, Raid 2) where he talks alot about this film and Japanese exploitation in general. The guy certainly knows his stuff and it’s a pleasure to listen to him. The picture and sound is great, despite initial hand wringing about the visual presentation of the film. I think it looks fantastic and likely won’t look better.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is a great Japanese exploitation flick tailor made for fans of Lone Wolf & Cub and Lady Snowblood. Arrow did a great job restoring it and as always it has worthy special features. I’m looking forward to digging into the rest of the series for sure!