Reviewed Jul 17, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
The exploitation cinema of Japan often seemed more interesting than the genre films we received from America and the rest of Europe, partly this will be down to only the best (or at least most internationally marketable) getting distribution in the UK but also they always seemed to blend exploitation genres more successfully. At its heart Female Prisoner #701 - Scorpion is a Woman In Prison film with all the standard genre clichés one would expect from such a film (sadistic prison guards, humiliating and often sexual punishments, irrelevant lesbian scenes), but the film also throws in gangster, revenge and even hinted at supernatural elements. The fact the film still hangs together so well is testament to all those involved and this blending of genres creates a unique and beguiling mix with strong set pieces and a well paced story.
Visually the film is a joy with strong compositions, a wonderful use of colour and some novel staging (particularly in the early flashbacks) and the musical score is equally strong. As with most exploitation films, particularly from Japan, the acting is ropey at best. Meiko Keji, who plays the titular prisoner 701, is the only one genuinely convincing in her role but that isn't too surprising seeing as she had a track record of delivering strong and memorable performances throughout her career (perhaps most notably as Lady Snowblood). Female Prisoner #701 is a unique (as unique as a film that spawned four sequels could be) and excellently produced slice of Japanese exploitation cinema.