Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)

“You’re a beautiful flower” – his words flatter you today

But once you’re in full bloom, he’ll just toss you away.

Foolish, foolish, foolish woman’s song.

Her song of vengeance.

“Sorrow is my fate.”

So you’ve given up on men.

Show him your tears and he’ll bring you grief again.

Tearful, tearful, tearful woman’s song.

Her song of vengeance.

A bright red rose has thorns that you might not see.

I don’t want to pierce you, but how else will I get free?

Burning, burning, burning woman’s song.

Her song of vengeance. 

With these words, we have returned to the world of Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion. When we first see our heroine, Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji, truly the queen of all revenge movies), she is bound and stuck in solitary confinement, but her eye stares directly at us, the viewer. It is not a look of sadness or fear. It is a look that this jail is temporary, as are all things, and as we hear the scraping of metal against concrete, we notice the spoon between her teeth being turned into a shiv.

Inspector Goda, the warden of the prison that Matsushima, or Matsu the Scorpion, walked back into in the last film is due to be promoted to a higher position. As another inspector comes to the jail, he brings Matsu out of confinement so that she may be inspected. Of course, this is when our heroine attacks, scratching his face and inciting a riot.

The punishment? Four guards are sent to brutally assault Matsu and then she and six other inmates are sent to a labor camp. On the way, the six women beat Matsu mercilessly. The guards are told that she may be dead, so when they stop the van, they’re shocked. She’s still alive and the women murder the guards and blow the van up.

As the women escape, they reveal their crimes to one another. Oba discovered that her husband was unfaithful, so she drowned their son and stabbed herself, which led to her killing their unborn child.

Then, an old woman with a dagger shows up and the further crimes of the gang are shown as the old woman gives Scorpion her blade before dying and turning into leaves that blow away in the wind! I love that the Scorpion films can seemingly be based in reality in one moment and then become strange art films with no warning at all.

After stealing clothes and hiding in an abandoned home, the prisoners wait for nightfall. One of them, Haru, finds her own home and son, but is found by two of the jailers. They offer her freedom if she reveals where the others are. Matsu kills one of the guards, but one of the convicts is also killed and the other guard makes his way back to Inspector Goda.

A tour bus passes through the same area and everyone is warned that the convicts are on the loose. That doesn’t make three of the men on the bus any less leering and lecherous. They end up finding one of the convicts, who they assault and throw into the river for dead. The other girls find her body and attack the bus, holding everyone hostage while taking their revenge on the three men.

As they approach a police checkpoint, the de facto gang leader Oba throws Scorpion out of the bus. The roadblock also has Haru’s son on it, so she runs toward him and is killed by a sniper. Oba and the convicts kill the bus driver and plow through the roadblock. However, the police soon corner them and Goda sends Scorpion to learn of the hostages’ status.

She lies and states that everyone is dead, so the police attack. The women throw the three evil men outside, who are all killed by police bullets. Everyone except Oba is killed. As the police capture both her and Scorpion, they plan to kill our heroine on the way back to the prison. Oba saves her and gives up her life, finally freeing Scorpion.

Inspector Goda has been promoted and is now in the city, where Scorpion finally tracks him down. She repeatedly stabs him and her dagger is passed to the ghosts of all the convicts, who pass it back and forth as they run wild through the streets.

Made just months after the original, this film posits that Scorpion spent an entire year in solitary confinement, just waiting for her revenge. Well, she gets it. She might have to go through hell, but she gets it.

Meiko Kaji is, of course, beyond amazing in this film. She made 26 movies between 1970 and 1972, which is some feat of endurance that I don’t see many capable of doing these days. In each of these, she often faced excruciating scenes of torture and emotional pain, yet she never loses her dignity nor willingness to come back and decimate all in her path. In 1973, she’d make two more Scorpion films and Lady Snowblood, so it wasn’t like she was about to slow down any time soon.

I love that despite the antics of the gang of women, Scorpion remains separate from them. Her goal throughout is her own solitary revenge and whatever it takes to get it.

The final scenes, where we go from Scorpion staying with Oba as she dies in a garbage dump to her finally tracking down Doga in the city are beyond amazing. Her vengeance is such that even the screen can’t contain it, as she slices through the fourth wall and splits it asunder. The once powerful man has become weakness in Scorpion’s arms, as she has assumed her true form, the black-clad destroyer of worlds, as she repeatedly stabs him without expression. Only when his false eye falls out and we see inside it do we get to watch her laugh and smile as she leads the women’s spirits out of death and through the streets. It brought tears of joy to my eyes. Such a pure moment of cinema!

You can watch this on Shudder or order the beyond impeccable Arrow Video box set at Diabolik DVD.

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