Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701's Grudge Song (Japan 1973)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/3/20
Cast: Kaji Meiko

Kaji Meiko's final appearance as Sasori is a disjointed and often confusing affair. The film opens with the police raiding a wedding chapel, where they find Nami (Kaji Meiko) tending to a bride-to-be. She is briefly arrested by Detective Kodoma, who is obsessed with capturing her, but quickly manages to escape and is rescued by a man named Kudo who works at a strip club. We also learn that Kudo's penis was mutilated by Kodoma during a previous incident, which is an odd and seemingly random detail. Nami inexplicably falls for Kudo, and after making love she agrees to help him get revenge against Kodoma. But just like every other man in Nami's life, he eventually betrays her and she winds up in prison again. Driven mad by the death of his pregnant wife (which he wrongly blames Nami for), Kodoma has his men rape the prison warden in order to make her compliant in his own twisted revenge plot against Nami. The film ends on a confusing note, but vengeance ultimately belongs to Nami as she fades into legend.

The series was originally set to end with "Beast Stable" (1973), but Toei wanted to keep milking the franchise and convinced Kaji Meiko to stay on for one more film. While it's entertaining, it's by far the most pedestrian and mainstream entry in the series. It lacks the symbolism and surrealistic flair of the earlier entries, and although police brutality is a major theme, the sadistic violence has been toned down quite a bit. The film also attempts to humanize Nami, and she has considerably more dialog than the previous films. The narrative can be difficult to follow and the editing is visually confusing. While the final showdown with Kodoma is reminiscent of the previous films, the editing is so clumsy and bizarre that it's nearly impossible to tell what's happening.

Above all, Kaji Meiko continues to exude star power and dominates the film with her intense beauty, gorgeous hair, and fierce defiance. While her love affair with Kudo is awkward and unconvincing, it allows her character to soften a bit, rediscover her femininity, and even smile occasionally. Her consensual sex scene is artfully done and surprisingly effective, which is a testament to her acting ability. She alone makes the "Female Prisoner Scorpion" films bearable, which makes me want to track down more of her work.