The fourth and final film in the original Female Convict Scorpion series finds Meiko Kaji reprising her most famous role for the final time and a new director in the driver's seat. The results are a little uneven compared to the three films that came before it, but Grudge Song still manages to get enough right that it's certainly worth a look for fans of the series.
When the movie begins, Sasori is once again on the run from the law. She tries to hide out at a wedding but the cops bust her a scuffle ensues. She makes it away from the fuzz alive but injured and is soon found by Kudo (Masakazu Tamura of Kinji Fukasaku's excellent gender bending soap opera, Black Rose Mansion), a strange man who makes his living as a lighting technician at a seedy gentleman's club who finds her hiding out in the bathroom at the club.
Kudo, curious about this woman he's found, takes her back to his place to help her rest and hide out from the law and things look like they might cool down for our heroine until one of the ladies at Kudo's club rats them out to the cops. Kudo gets arrested by Sasori escapes and when they come down hard on Kudo to make him talk, he says nothing. Unfortunately, he's not smart enough to realize that once the cops let him go, they'll tail him, and so he inadvertently leads them right to their prize. Another chase is underway and the two fugitives put together a plan to turn things around on the cops by kidnapping the pregnant wife of the man leading the investigation. Unfortunately, things get out of hand and she falls to her death, which only serves to turn up the heat and finally they decide to split up. The cops get closer and closer as the movie comes to a close, and once more Sasori's faith in mankind is shattered to pieces.
The big difference between this film and the three that came before it is that we finally see the typically man hating Sasori let her guard down around a member of the opposite sex. She lets herself trust Kudo fairly early on in their relationship, and it's an interesting and logical way of expanding some of the character development we see in the three movies that precede this one, Beast Stable specifically. Though the police are shown to be as despicable as ever, it is interesting to see how the character reacts around a man who isn't nearly as despicable as those she has dealt with in the past and it makes for an interesting change.
Meiko Kaji is as sexy and as dangerous as she's ever been in this film, though her screen time isn't nearly as generous as it has been in the movies prior and there's as much emphasis given to Kudo's side story as there is to that of Sasori, as well as a whole lot of police related subplots as well. While this doesn't make for a bad movie at all, it does make this the weakest of the four movies as Kaji is really what this series is all about and as such it suffers in the same way that Return Of The Streetfighter did - the lead we want to see (the mighty Sonny Chiba in the case of the other film) just isn't given enough time in the film.
Director Yasuharu Hasabe, who also worked with Meiko Kaji on the mediocre Stray Cat Rock – Sex Hunter, directs the film with style. The like earlier movies in the series Grudge Song is an interesting mix of arthouse asthetics and exploitation raunch, and it works well. The color schemes used throughout the film in various stand out scenes, most of which involve naked ladies, is pretty trippy and complimented nicely by the score and on a technical level the movie is quite good – it's just a shame that Sasori herself isn't in the movie more.
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 and there are a few spots where the contrast looks to be set too high. 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 Prisoner #701 - Scorpion – Grudge Song 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, once again sung by Meiko Kaji herself.
Extra features on this release are pretty slim but we do get a trailer for the feature, trailers for four other Tokyo Shock releases (including Female Prisoner #701 - Scorpion – Beast Stable and Female Convict Scorpion – Prisoner #701, the first film in the series) and a modest still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also included.
The fourth and final film in the series is unfortunately also the weakest entry but it's still got plenty of style and charm. Media Blasters' disc is once again slim on extra features but the movie looks and sounds decent enough to earn a recommendation.
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.