2018 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 15: Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion (1972)

Day 15 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is 15. Easterns. The Asian continent has produced so many exotic cinema treasures. Watch one. I’ve been dying to dig into this movie, which was inspired by the Tōru Shinohara manga.

Nami “Scorpion” Matsushima has been dealt the absolute worst of hands. Her boyfriend, the crooked cop Sugimi, has used her body to curry favor with the Yakuza. When she tries to murder him on the steps of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters, she is sentenced to hard time and given the number 701.

The films opens with a failed escape attempt between Scorpion and Yuki. However, one knows that Scorpion’s revenge is inevitable. It’s been said that Meiko Kaji decided to play this role using only her face, without speaking a word, and that choice would create an iconic role for her.

This is the kind of jail Roger Corman movies dream of being. Nude female prisoners are forced to walk up and down stairs while hooting guards watch from below and threaten them. And while Matsushima deals with dehumanization behind bars, a Yakuza and police plan to murder her is underway, blackmailing fellow convict Katagiri into making an attempt on her life.

But Matsushima won’t be broken. After being attacked and defending herself in the shower, she spends days tied down in solitary confinement, with hot miso soup being poured all over her and she’s still managed to injure her captors. Then, she is forced to dig holes for two days and nights, yet never tires, even digging against the entire combined mass of the prison.

There’s an insane moment of magical realism here where another convict finally makes an attempt on Matsushima’s life and her face transforms into a Kabuki-like as our heroine deftly steps aside and the warden’s eye pays the price. Soon, the female prisoners have taken over, raping the men and setting the entire building ablaze. Only one body can’t be found at the end. If you guessed Scorpion, you’d be correct.

Soon, she’s an angel of death, gliding into and out of the real lives of the men who thought they could destroy her, effortlessly and wordlessly dispatching them with neon red arcs of blood before calmly walking back into the prison.

This is a film of zooms, of neon, of horrible men and a woman who is willing to endure anything it takes to return their violence a thousand times. It’s also an incredibly stylish film and inspired Kill Bill. It’s director, Shunya Ito, has Scorpion character as “the ultimate rebel.” I’d describe this film as the art house and the grindhouse making violent, bloody, ultra technicolor love in slow motion.

With three direct sequels and several remakes, this is a film series you can really get plenty out of. Luckily, it’s now easy to find, as it’s streaming on Shudder.

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