7 September 2016



Watching this fantastic four-film series of Japanese 'women in prison' films from the early 'Seventies was an absolute pleasure. They tell the story of a young woman called Nami Matsushima, who's played by possibly the most beautiful female to ever come out of Japan, the actress and singer Meiko Kaji.

She only speaks a handful of sentences throughout the whole series, but her glossy raven's wing hair, huge lustrous eyes and sexy kissable mouth say more than mere words ever could. Her eyes in particular are especially expressive. She's sex and sensuality personified, but definitely not in a trashy way. This lady is pure class, even though she's playing a convict in all four films. A convict you don't want to get on the wrong side of...

Poor, poor Matsu, as she's called in the films. In the first film, FEMALE PRISONER #701 SCORPION (1972), she puts her trust in the wrong man and where does it get her? Gang-raped and with a broken heart and a murder rap sheet as long as your arm. Her lover uses her and betrays her cruelly, and Matsu is left devastated.

Thrown in prison for the murder of her duplicitous lover, she has to deal with sadistic, sex-mad male prison wardens and her jealous fellow prisoners, who take every opportunity to get the beautiful Matsu into trouble, and Matsu gets into a lot of trouble...

The guards do everything they can to break the rebellious, gutsy young woman's spirit. But no amount of hard labour, sexual and psychological abuse, physical privations and beatings can quell the indomitable Matsu's psyche. She's only a little scrap of a thing, but her endurance is admirable.

She escapes from prison every chance she gets, going on the run alone or with fellow prisoners and, make no mistake about it, life is hard for women on the run in Japan in that era...

The second film, FEMALE PRISONER #701 SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41 (1972), sees Scorpion, as she's nicknamed by the other prisoners for her toughness and courage, on the run with a woman who would just as soon cut her throat as look at her.

Oba has committed the terrible crime of murdering her two children to punish her lover for his infidelity, but a strange bond develops between the two women nonetheless. Maybe it's not really so strange, as the prisoners (and women in general) are all treated like dirt by Japanese society in general and men in particular. Who can they rely on except, maybe, each other?

The series, directed by two men (Shunya Ito directed the first three films and Yasuharu Hasebe did the last one) is full of brutal rapes, gang-rapes, beatings, sexual abuse and physical torture inflicted on women by men and sometimes by other women.

It's terribly sexy and exciting to look at, with lashings of female nudity and lesbian sex, but it wouldn't make you want to be a Japanese woman in the early 'Seventies. Just look at what the crooked nasty police do to the poor prisoner with the small son, or what the three male tourists do to the escaped prisoner they find near the waterfall, which afterwards runs red with someone's blood...

The third film, FEMALE PRISONER #701 SCORPION: BEAST STABLE (1973), was the saddest and probably the most exciting. Scorpion is on the run again and befriends a lonely young prostitute. The prostitute is on the game so that she can support her mentally disabled older brother, with whom she's forced to have incestuous sex because he needs it to stay calm and stable. It's sooooo sad, that bit.

In a truly shocking scene, we see the prostitute being raped with a golf club being wielded by a nasty brothel madam who used to be Scorpion's fellow prisoner. This woman is still gunning for Scorpion, who might have a trick or two up her sleeve to use against this utter lowlife.

The madam, whose collection of ravens is her pride and joy, forces one of her 'girls' to get an illegal abortion when she's two-thirds of the way into her pregnancy. The resulting tragedy only makes Scorpion's terrible lust for revenge all the stronger. Scorpion may not express her feelings in words,
but she has a strong sense of justice and she won't allow this heinous deed to go unpunished.

The final film in this superb series, FEMALE PRISONER #701 SCORPION: GRUDGE SONG (1973), sees Matsu on the run from the prison once more and putting her trust in Kudo, a man who's suffered extensive brutality in the past at the hands of the police.

Their common hatred of the cops draws them together but the accidental death of a detective's pregnant wife sees Matsu back behind bars, betrayed by Kudo and sentenced to death on the gallows, believe it or not. The gallows features quite heavily in this film. We see a prisoner being executed horribly in this film and it's enough to give you nightmares.

This film also features an explicit gang-rape of a female prison guard by the police, who come across as brutal thugs and corrupt savages in all four movies in the series. I wonder what the real-life Japanese cops thought of this series...?

Men in general are portrayed as bad people, who just want to hurt, use, punish and enslave women, and women are shown as men's victims and the victims of an uncaring, horribly sexist and male-dominated society. If it wasn't such an outstandingly good series of films, you might find it kind of depressing, haha. But it is outstandingly good, and Matsu fights against this male oppression every step of the way, proving that sometimes the woman can come out on top.

She's sooooo beautiful that no verbal description could really do her justice. She's equally gorgeous when she's wearing her prison dress, down on her hands and knees scrubbing floors or digging in the pit, as when she's clad in what I laughingly dubbed 'the black hat and fur coat of revenge,' because she wears it to carry out vengeance against naughty men, heh-heh-heh.

The series is kind of like a guy's wet dream, really. Every guy's wet dream. Naked vulnerable women prisoners, all slippery and wet in the prison showers, in the care of sadistic, sex-crazed men armed with whips and guns...? Do me a favour, haha. By guys, for guys, and make no mistake about it.

But women can watch it and enjoy it too, as the prisoners' human interest stories are exciting enough to keep you glued to the edge of your seat the whole way through each film. When Scorpion escapes, she gets everywhere from the sewers underneath a city to a landfill where she watches a friend die to a cemetery where, half-starved, she chews on the arm of an investigator who tried to capture her. It's a thrill a minute and there's some gorgeous artistic cinematography to admire besides.

This four-film series, complete with some fantastic extra features, is out now on Blu-Ray from UK home video company ARROW FILMS, your favourite movie people. There are interviews with both directors in the special features, and these are accompanied by some great stills from the four films as well as from other movies that came out of Japan during this period.

I especially enjoyed the interview with the affable Yasuharu Hasebe. Some of the movies you'll see on-screen while he's chatting away about his film career have the most fabulous titles which, when they get translated into English, may lose a little in the translation. I particular enjoyed seeing the film poster for RAPING!, otherwise known as THE OUTRAGE. Kudos to the guy who translated this into English. You, Sir, are a veritable prince among men...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page

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