Cinema Paradiso (1989)


Cinema Paradiso is a film that I’ve heard and read about for years. It often lands on Best Of lists and can be found in many film books. For whatever reason I never checked it out. I never really knew what the movie was about and the poster art left me cold. Something about the passionate kiss on the original poster made me thing the film was romantic drama and readers of this site can understand why I would pass on a film like that: it isn’t really my bag. I was sent Cinema Paradiso for review and I figured now was the time to finally sit down and see what all the buzz was about.

Cinema Paradiso is an Italian flick that begins in the late 40’s. The war has ended and life is hard for the people of the village in Sicily. Most folks don’t own a car and in those days before television the only entertainment in town is the Cinema Paradiso, a movie theater. Toto, the son of a soldier, is obsessed with cinema. Every chance he gets he sneaks into the theater to watch movies and watch Alfredo, the projectionist. This obsession grows into a beautiful relationship with Alfredo who teaches him about projection and about life. We see Toto grow from a young child into adulthood and always through the Cinema Paradiso.

Cinema Paradiso is about community, film, and growing up. It’s a slice of life at certain time in history, in a unique place. These are integral to the plot. The film feels very personal and indeed the director has said that elements of the film are very autobiographical. The film won the oscar for best foreign language film in 1989 and a boat load of other awards so i don’t think there’s really much i can add. It’s considered a film classic and the best film about the joy of the movie theater experience. For me, the film was touching, though for my American sensibilities there were elements that were frustrating for me. I kept expecting a storybook ending but this is a realistic Italian flick, not a schmaltzy American film. But dammit i wanted my unrealistic fairy tale moments. That said it is a very good film, I just wish that it had more magic, more joy, instead of the realism. But i suppose that’s also the appeal for the film, it doesn’t take the easy way out, the way that would be satisfying but cheap. I can certainly respect and admire the film for that, even if i wanted more cheese.

The film looks fantastic. Again, Arrow has lovingly restored the film, this time it’s a ground up restoration, unique to this release. I doubt the film has ever looked better. Included are the Theatrical cut (the version i watched) and the extended Director’s Cut as well as lengthy interviews with the director about the film and a commentary track. Again, Arrow has stacked the release not only with a great restoration but with worthwhile and interesting extra features.

If you’re a fan of the film, look no further than this release. This is the definitive release out there. If you haven’t seen it, this is a great set to pick up. If you love film, and if you’re on this site you do, it’s a nice film about the love of cinema. Arrow has put out a great product for a beloved film. As always.

Psychomania (1973)


I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a fan of biker movies. I’ve seen a very small number of them but i’m certainly not in the cult of motorcycles. I think motorcycles are neat and all but the exploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s usually leave me cold. The idea just doesn’t float my boat usually. However, I have heard of Psychomania and it’s reputation has always piqued my interest, though not enough to go out of my way to see it. Thanks to Arrow, I finally dug in to see what all the hub bub was about.

The Living Dead are a biker gang in England. They’re young, they drive triumphs, and they’ve got snazzy helmets that looks like skulls. They enjoy breaking the law and generally being nogoodniks. Their leader is Tom, the son of a medium that is firmly entrenched in the occult. Her butler is too. They have seances in their palatial home adorned with the most up do to date 70’s artwork and furniture. Tom learns a secret of occult knowledge: if you die, fully expecting to come back to life, you will! He kills himself in spectacular fashion. He comes back invulnerable, beautiful, and dangerous. Soon the rest of the gang follows suit and truly become the living dead. The trouble is they come back bad. Well, more bad I suppose, giving too much attention themselves and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Also they kill people. So what happens when you dabble in the occult and make the dark arts look bad? Well, watch the movie and find out because I’m not going to spoil it.

As I said, I’m not a big fan of the genre of biker flicks and honestly occult stuff isn’t that high on my list either. Give me a creature feature any day. That said I enjoyed the vibe of this flick. Even at an average run time of 90 minutes, the film takes it’s time getting to where it’s going. Therein lies the vibe of the movie. A decidedly Euro horror vibe that is largely created through music and mood rather than action or graphic violence. I’ll be honest and admit I was bummed that the crew came back looking exactly the same. I was hoping they would look like some kind of bipedal creatures riding motorcycles (there’s that love of monsters rearing it’s head) but alas there is really no visual difference in them. We do get a bit of fun biker footage but even that isn’t the focus of the film really. It’s more about the power of evil and the true evil that lives in the hearts of those that have no compassion for others. Did I love it? No. But I didn’t really expect that I would. It’s outside of my wheelhouse.

The film itself looks fantastic and true to Arrow’s name, I doubt the film has ever looked better. The blacks are rich and dark, the colors solid. The print is in great condition and the audio is fantastic. The film got a ground up restoration, and it shows. The movie also features a bevy of special features including cast interviews, archive interviews, an interview with the guy that sings the folk song in the movie, and even a special feature on the company that supplied the leather jackets in the movie! Once again Arrow has put out a beautifully restored film that is stacked with features. They even ported over the Severin special features from their dvd so this is truly an upgrade.

If you’re a fan of the film, this is a buy for sure. The image quality is great as is the music. It’s a fresh restoration and the film has never looked this good. The disc is stacked with special features so you’ll get plenty of bonus too. If you enjoy cult Euro films from the 70’s, you’ll likely enjoy this, especially if you love British exploitation. If you like biker movies, you’ll dig it too.

The Survivor (1981)


I’m a sucker for exploitation cinema (or just cinema in general) from Australia. I used to watch The Road Warrior a lot as a kid (it was often on tv) and it gave me a taste for cinema from OZ.  I like to keep my peeper peeled for unique films from down under so when I read about Australian horror film The Survivor, I jumped on it.

The Survivor is about a 747 flight that crash lands near a city. The city was spared but none of the passengers were except the pilot. Somehow, he managed to escape the crash unscathed but has no memory of how that was possible. An investigation ensues and the pilot tries to put together the pieces of his memory to find out what really caused the crash and how he managed to survive.

The Survivor is based on a novel by British author James Herbert. Herbert was known for gory books early in his career but later wrote more respectable spooky books. The Survivor is a transitional book for Herbert. The book was gory (I learned this from the fantastic supplemental material on the disc, more about that later) but the film was not. It was a conscious decision to tone down the gore found in the book because the market was flooded with gory flicks at the time. For my money (and for the producers) this was a mistake. The Survivor has some wonderful cinematography and solid acting but it’s ethereal quality leaves much to be desired. The film moves in a dreamlike state, similar to the main character, the pilot. The score, composed by Brian May, zooms and trumpets but there isn’t much that happens onscreen to deserve such an active score. Most of the violence happens off camera, and of even that there is little. I had difficulty focusing on the film (though i didn’t second screen it) because there wasn’t enough to grab on to. The actors all put in a solid effort but the film feels like it lumbers through the paces, lurching to the conclusion. The conclusion, for me, was great though it didn’t quite make logical sense. I’m ok with that though because of the strange vibe the entire film elicits.

The special features are fantastic on the disc however. True to form, Severin delivers some fantastic goods. We get a 20+ minute interview with the producer and cinematographer of the film, interviews about James Herbert’s legacy (a great supplement), vintage interviews and features round out the stacked disc. Visually, the film looks fantastic. Severin always takes extra care with their releases and this one is no different. The image is crisp and clear. It hasn’t looked this good since it was theatrically released.

If you love Australian cinema, this would be a solid buy. If you are a fan of James Herbert, it would also be a solid buy. If you like rescued obscure cinema, this would be a solid buy. If you are looking for an A+ gem of a flick, look elsewhere. For me the film was worth a watch but wasn’t particularly memorable. It’s too slight of a film, it doesn’t have enough to say, it doesn’t have enough style, and it lacks moments of punctuating violence. It’s a Severin disc however, so you do get great features and a fantastic picture. The film might be slight, but Severin isn’t. They are always worth supporting, even if The Survivor is a weaker release.

C.H.U.D. (1984)


Back during the dvd boom of the early 2000’s when Anchor Bay was king, I picked up C.H.U.D. dirt cheap. I love horror movies (obviously) but my favorite kind of horror movie is the monster flick. Gimmie a monster and i’m a happy fan. I watched it and liked it, but didn’t love it. The print was in poor shape and was really grainy. Thanks to Arrow Video, I had the chance to revisit the film in a much more pristine format: Blu-ray.

C.H.U.D. takes place in New York. It stars John Heard as George Cooper, a photographer. His most recent project is taking pictures of homeless people that live underground. He’s invited into the subterranean home of one of the homeless people he knows and finds that one of them has been bitten by…something. Elsewhere, A.J. (played by Daniel Stern) runs a soup kitchen. He’s noticed that nearly all of the homeless people he feeds that live underground in the ancient sewer system have disappeared. He notifies the police and they send Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) to investigate. Together they discover that there is a cover up going on and that there are…things…living in the sewers that pose a threat to the populace: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers (C.H.U.D.)

The film itself is solid. It features good performances from well known actors and features some fantastic underground locations. This version of the film is a bit longer than the version I had on dvd (i think). There are scenes that i have no recollection of that helped boost the movie in my opinion. There was more gore than i remembered though this certainly isn’t a gore film. We get to see the C.H.U.D.s more than i remembered but i still would have liked even more. As a film, it’s good, not great. If you like 80’s monster flicks, you’ll enjoy it. Will it be your new favorite movie? Maybe not, but you’ll get your money’s worth. Speaking of value, the Blu looks fantastic. The image is sharp and clear and much of the poor image quality is gone. It’s likely the film was shot on 16mm and there’s really only so much that can be done to improve the image but it looks like Arrow did it. The blu also comes with a commentary track, interviews with the crew, an extended shower scene, and a second disc that has the theatrical cut of the film which is a bit shorter.

Once again Arrow has done a great job on a genre film. This flick has lots of fans and for them this blu is a no-brainer: it’s great. If you haven’t seen it, this is the way to go. It looks great, better than I’ve ever seen the film look and it’s got some good special features to boot.

This flick was followed up by C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud which also made it’s debut on Blu recently. It’s a horror comedy and very silly. It isn’t anything like this film at all.

Wax Mask (1997)


At one time the Italian film industry could go toe to toe with any other country producing cinema. Some of the greatest films in cinema history were made there. Later, Italy began churning out stylish, shocking, and unique films that cult movie fans devoured by the bushel. Dario Argento is one such creator of stylish cinema that horror fans especially, couldn’t get enough of. Then the industry took a nose dive in the late 80s and hasn’t recovered since. No more schlocky gore fests, no more stylish crime and gialli, no more world beating art cinema. Of course there are exceptions to this rule so I figured that Wax Mask, produced by Dario Argento, would be one.

Wax Mask was originally to be directed by the godfather of gore Lucio Fulci (of course he did all types of films but is most remembered for his horror offerings), but he passed away before he got the chance. Instead Sergio Stivaletti took the director’s chair after doing special effects on movies like Demons, Hands of Steel, Opera, and The Church. The film takes place at the turn of the last century. A new waxwork has opened in town and suddenly residents start dying in mysterious ways. So it’s up to a local news man to find out exactly what is going on and who the killer is.

Sounds like a decent setup, if cliche right? It’s got Argento’s name on it and the director did special effects so one would expect the film to be 1) stylish 2) gory. Though the movie has it’s moments for the most part I felt it was lacking in both departments. There are great flourishes of style and few very graphic scenes but neither were enough to satisfy me. Full disclosure: films that take place during the early 1900s do nothing for me. I don’t care about top hats, horses, or lady’s in hoop skirts. So the setting of the film is one that was tailor made to have little appeal to me to begin with. But for you, dear reader, you may be fascinated by this time and so might find more to enjoy about the film. The movie features a modest amount of nudity in it but not enough to interest sleaze hounds. In fact there is one bit of nudity in the film that i felt was totally not ok. We see the corpse of a 13 year old girl topless on a slab in a coroners office. It seems like that wouldn’t be legal and i really could have done without it.

For me Wax Mask is predictable, cliche, and not terribly interesting. The Blu looks pretty good but again this was filmed in ’97 in Italy so even on Blu it isn’t going to look spectacular, budgets as they were back then. In fact the film has a very made-for-TV vibe to it, albeit a television station that was ok with nudity and gore. The dvd comes with both English and Italian audio but for some reason there are no English subtitles for the Italian track. So if you aren’t fluent, you’re stuck with the English dub which isn’t great.

I appreciate the fact that this film has been released on Blu. For Eurohorr fans and Argento completists, it’s probably fantastic to finally have it readily available. For casual fans, there are many other films worth checking out before you get to this one. For me, Wax Mask is a very minor film in the Eurohorror filmography.

The Devil Lives Here (2016)


Artsploitation Films have billed themselves as a company that releases films from new voices from around the world that play with genre conventions in unique ways. To me, they are a company worth watching because they dig deep to find unique genre films from places we might not expect. In this case, the film is The Devil Live Here and the country of origin is Brazil. Brazil isn’t well known globally as a producer of genre film. The country does have some genre cult classics to their name (the Coffin Joe films come to mind), but by and large they are more known for their Jiu Jitsu than for their cult flicks. The Devil Lives Here gives us a reason to pay closer attention.

The Devil Lives Here is about a group of young people on their way to visit a childhood friend. The arrive at the house and begin to re-connect and have a great time. The friend however has an ulterior motive for inviting his hold friends. His child hood home is haunted. Caretakers on the house have told him his whole life that the house has a wicked past and that once every 9 months he has to clear out for a night. The house was once run by a savage slave owner who was into black magic. The story goes that the spirit of a child remains in the home and that every 9 months the spirit roams free. The caretakers know what to do and in order to practice their ancient rite the house must be empty. This time however the house will be occupied by the owner and his friends in order to set the spirit free. What he doesn’t know is that truly dark forces are at work and his sympathy is misplaced. The group is in grave danger of the creepy evil kind.

Filmed well using a high quality video camera, The Devil Lives Here is visually satisfying.  The whole back end of the film is darkly lit and the scenes play out in evocative sepia tones giving the film a unique visual flair. The run time is short, only 80 minutes long, so the film doesn’t over stay it’s welcome either. The characters are your typical horror movie archetypes for the most part but I’m okay with that. Thankfully the characters do seem to like each other and their friendships seem realistic. Nothing kills a horror movie faster for me then “friends” who spend the entire run time bickering and belittling each other. Thankfully that common problem is avoided by having charismatic characters that seem to enjoy each others company. The back of the box suggests that the film is “Brazil’s answer to Candyman.” I can see that comparison as the slave holder was a bee keeper and we are talking about vengeful spirits but I would liken the film more to Fulci’s films like The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. There’s a strange vibe in the film and the goings on are not fully explained. The main characters don’t fully realize what’s going on and so neither do we. That confused vibe along with the shadowy cinematography seems to be heavily influenced by Fulci. For my money, Fulci is a great film maker to riff off of so for me, it really worked. In fact the more strange the film got, the more engaged I became so that by the end of the film, I was 100% on board. The film is viceral without being overly graphic which I can appreciate. We didn’t need to “see” everything that happens to the characters to “feel” it.

Sure, The Devil Lives Here isn’t 100% original but it has it’s own vibe and visual language and I can see some hints at real talent behind the camera. I’d love to see what directors  Rodrigo Gasparini and  , do next with more confidence, money, and experimentation. Hopefully Artsploitation will pick up their next film so I can review it here!

Murderlust (1986)


Intervision Picture Corp. is an interesting company. Somehow tagentially related to the well regarded Severin Films, Intervision picks up all the obscure detritus hiding under rocks. They’ve released such films as the low-fi Canadian head scratcher Things, the equally lo-fi Canadian gem Phobe,  the early German gorefest Burning Moon, final film from Bruno Mattel Zombies: The Beginning, as well as a handful of sexploitation flicks. They tend to pick up strange and low budget flicks that no one else is going to release and I applaud them for that. Murderlust is one such flick that I highly doubt anyone else would want to release (except maybe Vinegar Syndrome).

Shot on 16mm and released in 1986 originally, Murderlust is about a middle aged guy with a crappy job, a small apartment, and a desire to kill women. We don’t know how he got started, why he’s compelled to kill, or if the first woman slain in the movie was his first. All we know is that he has a dad mustache, a sweet van, and a lust to kill. He’s portrayed as an arrogant, self-centered jerk who pisses everyone he knows off. Somehow despite this, he’s in charge of teenagers at a local church and has ambitions to gain a paid position at the church as a counselor. Obviously his desires have little to do with helping anyone but himself but his transformation in church is startling. While at work he does as little as possible and fights with his co-workers. At home, his neighbor his also his cousin whom he constantly bickers with. But at church he’s the model of piety and respectability. This shows that although he has the capacity to be responsible, he chooses to be a lazy slob elsewhere. We follow him throughout the whole film as he continually abuses those that know him and kill women who dare to share a ride with him. There are no police looking for him, he is free to do as he wants to.

In short, Murderlust is a nasty flick about a creep who enjoys strangling women. Obviously a riff on Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but without the depth, and thankfully without the graphic content, Murderlust is a surprisingly well written (if simply written) film, that has higher production values than I suspected. It’s certainly a very small independent film but it was shot on film and even features some aerial shots, likely filmed from a small helicopter. It’s a simple story that is unsettling and grim. For those that like their slasher flicks realistic and morbid, this one is for you. If the idea of spending 90 minutes with an unrepentant serial killer doesn’t float your boat (like me), then this one probably isn’t your thing. I can appreciate the film for being a solid independently produced horror flick but beyond that I doubt i’ll watch it again. It’s just not my bag. I did, however, really like the second feature film included on the dvd.

Added on as a bonus feature, Project Nightmare (1979), is the director’s first feature and of the two is far more interesting. Two guys out on a camping trip start to experience strange vibes and odd occurrences. They decide to seek refuge at a nearby home where the weirdness doesn’t stop. Bizarre lights and fantasies become reality and the three (including the woman who lived in the house) decide to get out of dodge. On their way more strange things happen that prohibit them from leaving the immediate area. They begin to suspect they are stuck in some sort of nightmare as their efforts to escape are thwarted by some unknown source. Things get more interesting from there and i’d rather not spoil it but I will tell you that the film has a unique third act involving strange technology, an animated face, and more dream logic sequences.

For my money, I think Intervision should have marketed Project Nightmare as the main release and Murderlust as the bonus. It’s a far more compelling story and much more unique then the ugly Murderlust. I understand that Murderlust will likely sell because of the sensationalist title and subject matter but Project Nightmare is a much more interesting film. It feels like a blend of Equinox (sans monsters) and Italian cinema like Suspiria (because of the strange logic of the film). It’s a great hybrid of science fiction and horror and despite it’s small budget, stays interesting with a sprinkling of interesting effects, lighting, and makeup work. It also sports a short run time at about 75 minutes so it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome either. The dvd is worth picking up for this film alone and shouldn’t be disregarded by anyone that buys the set. It’s worth more than a tack on bonus feature.

Both movies were shot on film and were transferred from the prints, not vhs rips, so the quality of the image on both films is great. The prints used were in good condition and it’s likely that these films have never looked so good. I would have loved an interview with the director about both films but we do get commentary which is a nice bonus. Otherwise the disc is bare bones. Given the obscurity of each film, I’m fine with that. Intervision saved both of these films from absolute obscurity and can be proud of preserving them.

Counter Clockwise (2016)


Artsploitation is a unique label. They deal exclusively with unknown or little known directors. They scour the globe looking for unique cinema that is equal parts art house and exploitation (hence the title). Their most recent release, Counter Clockwise fits the bill nicely and works with their previous releases.

Counter Clockwise is about a man with a ferocious red beard and a passion for biological transportation. We’re talking of the Fly variety or Star Trek if that’s your thang. He’s a super smart scientist who has left the megacorporation he worked for to pursue his experiments on his own. He tries the device and it works! He decides to transport himself and accidentally time travels into the future. Something went wrong with his machine and something terrible happened to his life. His equipment is now the property of the mega evil corporation he worked for, his house is no longer his, and he’s wanted by the police for murder. Bummer. Now he’s got to put together the pieces and find a way to change his future.

Counter Clockwise is a good addition to the low budget time travel genre, one filled with classics like Time Crimes and Primer. The audience is left in the dark as is the main character so while he’s trying to figure out what the hell is going on, so are we. The movie is rough around the edges but it has a vitality to it that i really appreciated. It’s the rough homegrown quality that i liked. It has the true spirit of independent cinema rather than the overly slick vibe I get from so many “independent” flicks nowadays. I like slick too, but it’s nice to see something obviously made by folks with a passion, little budget, but a whole lot of guts. It’s very hard to make a film, especially a high concept flick on a budget. My hat is off to them. But is it any good? Well the acting is pretty solid from everyone and the plot moves briskly. Thankfully there is no fat to trim on this one, it’s lean and it works. There are some issues in the film for nit pickers but for my money they were minor (and spoilery so i can’t go into it here).

While not a perfect film, Counter Clockwise is an enjoyable indie effort from some new voices in film. Nothing here feels fake or contrived. It’s an honest film with the singular goal of playing around with time travel logic. It’s a debut film from director George Moise. I’d be interested to see what he does with a bit more money and bit more experience, especially if he stays with genre film making.

The Search for Weng Weng (2016)


The world of exploitation cinema is a wild and weird on as we all know. The history of the strange side of cinema from the around the world is filled with unique individuals but one of the most unique is Weng Weng. Star of several films made in the Philippines in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Weng Weng is just 2’9″ tall, the shortest lead actor ever according to the Guinness Book of World Records. I would believe it. Not only is he the lead actor in the films he starred in, but they were all action films with outrageous (read: dangerous) stunts, all of which he did himself.As the documentary points out, where could the possibly find a double for him anyway?

Not much was known about the actor despite his cult appeal and broad fanbase around the globe. Enter Andrew Leavold, an Australian bloke obsessed with Weng Weng. The diminutive star stole his heart and over many years of extolling Weng Weng’s films to the masses of Australia, he wanted to know more. He set out on his quest to find out everything he could about the curious star.

The Search for Weng Weng is a documentary of that quest for knowledge. It’s a quest that takes him to many different parts of the Philippines and one that puts him into contact with a wide range of Philippine film stars, stunt men, directors, financiers, history buffs, and even a few surprises that i won’t spoil here. It’s a quest that went in ways i’m sure Andrew Leavold never would have guessed, i sure didn’t. His interview subjects were all very open about the industry and about Weng Weng himself and we get a rare look into a world that no longer exists. Some of these folks are getting up there in age so this may have been the last time for them to tell their tale of Weng Weng. This documentary is truly a preservation of unique information that could have only been unearthed by going to the source. It’s a bold move for director Andrew Leavold and we’re all the better for it.

The documentary if fascinating and chock full of unique knowledge and candid interviews. We go along on the journey with him and it was an exciting one. The film isn’t without faults however but thankfully they are all technical (interviews filmed far too close the subject, mixed aspect ratios) but the storytelling is strong and the content is there. It’s a very well done documentary once I got past some of the minor technical issues. And they are minor. Every interview is subtitled and the audio is good throughout which for me can be a real killer if the audio stinks. Thankfully here, it’s crystal clear.

Andrew Leavold obviously truly knows his stuff as well. He’s got Tarantino levels of film knowledge and i would love to see him make another film, perhaps specifically about the Filipino film industry. Yes, i know there is already a doc about the subject, but there’s more than enough film history there for multiple docs on the subject. I truly hope that this is a debut film and not the end of his documentary legacy. He knows his stuff and gained some really great interviews for this doc. He’s got the knack for sure and the guts to go out there and knock on every door until all answers are found. I highly recommend this doc, its a great love letter to Weng Weng and to funky exploitation cinema. Go out and get it.

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!