“Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion” (Quickie)

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Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

(A Quick Discussion)

Directed by Shunya Ito, this 1972 cult classic from Japan focuses on Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji), a woman betrayed by the man she loves and wrongly sentenced to time in a horrific, batshit prison for women run by sadistic, sleazy men. The film follows her escape, radicalization, and revenge. “Stylized” is definitely the word here. Can’t express enough how off-the-wall this is.

That visual style shifts so, so much. The sets – how expressionistic! The movement, the angles…. baffling in how the color will be muted then explode. The things’ a carnival laced into a rad, 70’s-as-hell prison exploitation film (complete with some insidious post-war angst).

*****TW: Sexual Assault *****

The film engages with and subverts that “gaze” that’s inherent in exploitation flicks. As we know, that lens is often objectifying, male, and warped – and here, thankfully, it moves largely away from this and flips it onto its audience.

artwork by senior artist, Natasha O. Kappler.Objects in the hands of her long list of oppressors are arranged in-frame to be phallic. In times of stress, lights are bright, movement is disorienting. Anytime the camera looks like it’s getting skeevy and voyeuristic, the next shot is focused on #701’s eyes, glaring critically toward her enemies and through the screen. There’s an acknowledgement not just of the evil,  but its storied portrayal and existence. All with surreal visuals and tactful framing.

The genre normally puts women through hell and sexes it up for no reason other than to appeal to a gross quo.  This movie throws that absurd violence onto both the perpetrators and those who are complicit, refusing to take power from its protagonist. It’s tangible, even when its fantastical.

It’s barbed, all of it, and of course, its influence on Kill-Bill is *readily* seen.


So? Worth a watch?


Yes. Yes absolutely.



For more on its influence, here’s an article written by James Balmont on the film’s impact on badass blockbuster women in American Cinema. Click the link below:

The Japanese cult classic that paved the way for the modern female action hero


Devon Canal
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