The third of the four Female Convict Scorpion/Female Prisoner #701 movies to star the lovely and talented Meiko Kaji and the last to be directed by the original director of the series, Shunya Ito, Beast Stable turns up the sleaze without sacrificing story or style, resulting in one of the best entries in the series.
The movie starts off with a bang. Matsu, also called Sasori (Meiko Kaji), is on the run once more, and this time out she's trying to escape nonchalantly by way of the subway. A cop comes up to her, and handcuffs her to his arm. It looks like she's busted and that she'll be hauled back to jail, but no, she whips out a knife and hacks her captors arm off! Making a break for it with the handcuff still attached to her wrist and her captors arm dangling at her side, she runs from the subway and up into the busy streets above, destined to live her life on the run from a corrupt justice system.
She makes her way to a remote cemetery and uses her teeth to get the arm out of the cuffs to make her appearance a little less startling. It's here that a world weary prostitute named Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe) discovers her. While most women would probably be shocked by what she's just seen, Yuki has lived a hard life and has been the subject of non stop sexual abuse thanks to her brother, a mentally retarded behemoth with a taste for rough incestuous loving. Unfortunately for both of the ladies, the Yakuza are none too keen on Yuki's way of life and they want to take her out of the picture. To take her down they dispatch Katsu (Reisen Lee), a flamboyant assassin type who ends up capturing Sasori and locking her up in a giant birdcage after roughing her up pretty severely.
Of course, Sasori busts her way out as no cage can really hold her. Sufficiently pissed off and ready to get her revenge she once more heads into the streets of the big city where she gets chased by the mob and the cops who still want to bring her in, lead by the man whose very arm she removed in the opening scene (it should go without saying that he's not really happy about what she did to him). She heads into the sewers below the streets to rest and get her head together, and once she does, she puts her plan for revenge into motion…
This one truly has everything that a fan of Japanese exploitation films could ever want. Not only are we treated to the completely obsession inducing and unimaginably sexy Meiko Kaji in the lead for ninety-minutes, but we get sleaze, sex, and violence galore! From the opening scene where Sasori takes the cops arm to the finale where she's cornered by the cops and the Yakuza alike, Meiko Kaji is as intense as she is beautiful and her cold hearted stare and almost completely silent performance in this film is as tough as anything given to us by the likes of Reiko Ike (of Sexy & Fury) or Miki Sugimoto (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs), two very popular and excellent leading ladies of the genre. As fun as she is to look at, one glance into her dark eyes shows a whole world of hurt and hatred, she's perfect in the part and it's no wonder that the Female Convict Scorpion films are the ones that she is best remembered for, even more so than the two Lady Snowblood movies she made.
That being said, as trashy as the film is in spots, and it is trashy what with the forced abortion and rape scenes, the pacing is quite deliberate. Ito knows how to let the story unfold with enough drama that we're able to care about Sasori and her prostitute pals and we can understand and sympathize with their plight. This, contrasted with the nastiness that abounds, and further contrasted with the excellent set design and art direction, is what makes the movie so interesting. The sleaze of the story and the sex appeal of the leading lady definitely do their share of carrying the film but the technique behind it all is strong enough that even if some of those elements were toned down, we'd still have a very well made film.
This third film in the series manages to break some new ground in that it is definitely structured more like a drama than the women in prison/revenge film motifs used in the first two entries, without removing what makes the character tick. She's still abused by men and pushed to the point where she needs to fight back so the core of the character is there but there are moments in here where we see a softer side to her, and this growth and extension of Sasori's personality adds a lot to this entry.
This film is presented in it's original aspect ration of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer sports fairly rich and robust color with a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail save for a few scenes where the colors look just a little on the flat side. There is some very minor print damage here and there and some line shimmering in a few scenes but neither of these faults prove to be over powering at all. Sharpness and detail is pleasing and contrast levels look to be set properly as well. Film grain is present but it's never overpowering and there's really little to complain about here in terms of how the movie looks on DVD.
Female Prioner #701 - Scorpion – Beast Stable is presented in Dolby Digital Mono in its original Japanese language with nice, clear, easy to read English subtitles. The track is clean and free of any hiss or distortion and sounds about as good as mono is going to sound. Dialogue is clean and clear and the scores sound quite lively. In terms of the subtitles the phrasing is fine and there aren't any noticeable typographical errors to complain about. The film's score sounds nice, particularly the opening theme song sung by Meiko Kaji herself.
Extra features on this release are pretty slim but we do get a pair of trailers for the feature, trailers for four other Tokyo Shock releases (including Female Convict Scorpion – Prisoner #701, the first film in the series) and a modest still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also included.
While more extras would have certainly been welcome, at least the audio and video on this release is up to par and the film itself is a treat for exploitation buffs with a taste for international fare. Female Prisoner #701 - Scorpion – Beast Stable is a deliriously trashy and well paced movie with some great action, sleaze galore and a female lead to die for. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.