Thursday, February 25, 2010

Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable [1973]

After watching the first Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion film – I wasn’t exactly impressed – I wanted a pinky violence film but got a women-in-prison film. Even though I was disappointed - I really wanted to give the second film - Jailhouse 41 - a try. The only problem with that is the second film is mysteriously out of print – yet the third and fourth films in the series come in a box set along with the first. In the mood for a kind of pinky violence film – I decided to give Beast Stable a shot.

Scorpion (played by Meiko Kaji) is still on the run from the law – ever since her boyfriend a crooked cop set her up in the first film. Beast Stable opens with Scorpion narrowly escaping capture by cutting off a detectives arm after he handcuffs her. Yuki, a prostitute, meets Scorpion as she’s trying to escape the handcuffs – and takes her in. Scorpion goes on to cross a local gangster – while the one armed detective is still searching for her – but little do they know - they don’t want to corner the Scorpion.

This film is fantastic in so many aspects – I’m really kicking myself for not watching it sooner. It’s visually stunning and surreal – but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have a pretty good dose of sleaze, violence and exploitation-like bizarreness. When I say a pretty good dose – I don’t mean over-the-top – it’s fairly low-key when compared to other pinky violence films released by Toei around the same time.

I really liked Meiko Kaji as the Scorpion – first off she’s gorgeous – secondly she’s the lead character but has so few lines - so she has to play the character more with body language and blank facial expressions that blossom when alone (or with Yuki - who I felt there was a developing quiet love story). You also have to take into account that she’s an escapee so she’s also got to blend in and be so subtle about all that she does in public – even though she’s an extremely dangerous person to the people who cross her.

Kaji has the direction of Shunya Ito to thank for really helping pull together a great performance with a great film. Ito uses surreal elements to help provide tension or to help express what the Scorpion has bottled up inside of her. He also uses the composition of the frame and the angle at which he shoots as a way of helping build up the audiences reaction to a particular scene.

I thought it was interesting – that the film dealt with a taboo politically charged topic at one point – that was handled and show in two different ways simultaneously – as to not preach to an audience. In some of the exploitation films I’ve seen – they usually take on a taboo topic head on – and tell you – this is how you should feel and we will be exploiting it as a motive.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its flaws – such as how the One Armed Detective connected both Yuki and the Scorpion – maybe I missed something but Yuki never tipped her hand to anyone from what I remember. I thought Yuki’s mentally handicapped brother was a bit over the top – but that’s what an exploitation film is supposed to be (not exploited in a ‘duh-duh’ way mind you).

My only other confusion was I kept expecting the lead gangster’s woman to turn out to be a dude – but I guess she just wasn’t an attractive lady… With biggish hands… And 5 o’clock shadow...

This is a great film – and I think it’s great as part of the series – and would even work as a stand alone film. I’m giving this one a perfect 5 out of 5.

1 comment:

  1. I quite liked the original Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion, but then I'll watch Meiko Kaji in anything.