Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion ★★★★½

This is the third year that I’ve participated in an online White Elephant game, and maybe I’m just lucky, but I’ve gotten three total winners in a row.

The first year I received CONFESSIONS OF A CHINESE COURTESAN, which I had never heard of and wasn’t looking that much forward to (it looked like soft-core porn), but in actuality turned out to be an awesome and super-gory martial-arts revenge film.

The second year I got the equally awesome Australian exploitation flick TURKEY SHOOT (a.k.a. ESCAPE 2000). Having seen the great documentary about Ozploitation, NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, I was psyched to watch this and it did not let me down.

This year I received FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION, another movie I’d never heard of, and…it was the best one yet. (I also realized that every one of these involves protagonists who have been wrongly imprisoned. Weird.)

FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION is the story of Matsu (Meiko Kaji), a young woman who has been put behind bars after being duped by the cop she thought was in love with her. She is violently abused in prison by both the guards, and a gang of tough female prisoners who think they run the population. Some of the abuse is legitimately unsettling and ugly (especially when leering guards threaten to sexually violate her with a baton), but what makes it ok is that we know the film will eventually involve Matsu giving all these jerks their much-deserved comeuppance.

This film is a total blast, plain and simple. I felt its influence on Quentin Tarantino right from the beginning, even before I heard Meiko Kaji’s haunting “Urami Bushi” on the soundtrack (which he later used to great effect at the climax of KILL BILL: VOL. 1) It’s gritty, violent, fast-paced, darkly funny, and surprisingly cinematic as well. There are things the filmmakers do with lighting, set design, backdrops, slow-motion photography, and even some miniatures that are flat-out amazing. It’s also just freaking crazy. The first scene in the movie to make me sit up and go “Whoa, what the hell IS THIS?” involves a door, a shard of glass, the color blue, and some very dramatic makeup. That’s all I’ll say, except that Dario Argento would have been proud.

Do yourself a favor and check this out, especially if you consider yourself a fan of revenge flicks, Tarantino’s in particular.