Tarantino will readily admit Kill Bill was
transparently inspired by/ripped off from Meiko Kaji’s Lady Snowblood released thirty years early. However, Kaji’s
signature series came right when all the women’s prison films starring Pam
Grier just started to take off. By the time of the third film, Nami “the Scorpion”
Matsushima has escaped from prison and she will not be recaptured cheaply, as
Det. Kondo learns the hard way in the first five minutes (worth the price of
admission right there) of Shunya Itō’s Female
Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (trailer here), which screens
as part of the Japan Society’s weekend retrospective, Cruel Beauty: A Romantic Weekend with Meiko Kaji.
you plan to corner “Sasori,” the Scorpion on a subway car, you’d better bring
back-up, plenty of ammunition, and maybe an extra arm. Needless to say, when
Matsushima hacks her way free, it is a painful failure for Kondo, leaving him
more embittered and obsessed than Inspector Javert. Matsushima heads underground,
but she is hardly living a carefree life. Instead, she works in a backroom
garment sweatshop and befriends Yuki, a freelance prostitute who must tend to
her brain-damaged brother’s every need (including sexual).
Matsushima draws the attention of the lecherous yakuza in the flat beneath her.
However, when she takes care of him, his gang comes calling for reparations. It
turns out the boss’s lover is Katsu, an old prison rival of Matsushima, who has
plenty of ideas how the Scorpion can work off her “debt.”
you want lurid, Beast Stable is definitely
your huckleberry. Even the Roger Corman chicks-behind-bars movies wouldn’t go
where it goes. It also delivers the stone-cold payback in spades. The morale
could not be more clear: do not screw with the Scorpion. However, one wonders
how many so-called feminists could really handle this kind of empowerment.
Forget “equal pay for equal work,” this is kill or be doped into sexual slavery
(by a sister, no less).
Matsushima, Kaji is all kinds of fierce. Yet, there is still something
tragically human about her as she jealousy guards the freedoms she still has. Mikio
Narita nearly matches her ferocity step-for-step as the driven Kondom which is
saying something. Yayoi Watanabe is arrestingly open and vulnerable as the
much-abused Yuki, while Reisen Lee is just eerily creepy as the Lady
This would be it for Kaji playing Sasori, but
the franchise would continue and spawn multiple reboots. Frankly, it was a good
way to hang up her wide-brimmed hat and scalpel, because it actually ends on a note
that suggests closure, albeit after a deceptively surreal fever dream of an
epilogue. All things considered, this one pretty much has it all, but it is
most definitely for mature audiences. Keep in mind it is all based on a hit
manga series, which shows how far ahead of the curve Japan was in treating
comic art as a viable medium for grown-ups. Highly recommended for appreciative
cult audiences, Female Prisoner Scorpion:
Beast Stable screens tonight (2/12) at the Japan Society, as part of their
Meiko Kaji celebration.
Labels: Female Prisoner Scorpion, Japan Society, Japanese Cinema, Meiko Kaji