Blu-ray Movie Set Review – Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection

Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972)
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)
Directed by Shun’ya Ito
Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song (1973)
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Years of Release: 1972 & 1973
Blu-ray Set Release Date: August 9, 2016

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I continue to be impressed with the titles Arrow and MVD are releasing in these Blu-ray sets. Although I consider myself somewhat well-versed in film, I have to admit I had never heard of the FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION series prior to receiving the release notice. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Revenge flicks usually rate pretty high with me, so I was eager to see how good these vintage gems might be.

I’m very happy to report Arrow and MVD have scored yet another major hit with this collection. If you are any kind of fan of grindhouse films or if you simply like female-revenge-flicks, then this is the collection for you. Crammed full of special features and clad in beautifully rendered packaging, this Limited Edition set is a must-have for film fans and collectors alike.

If you are not familiar with FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Starring the iconic and beautiful Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood, Stray Cat Rock) in a role that came to define her career, the four-film Female Prisoner Scorpion series charts the vengeance of Nami Matsushima, who assumes the mantle of “Scorpion,” becoming an avatar of vengeance and survival, and an unlikely symbol of female resistance in a male-dominated world.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion introduces Nami, a gullible young woman unjustly imprisoned, who must find a way to escape in order to exact revenge upon the man who betrayed her. The visually avant-garde Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 sees director Shunya Ito and star Meiko Kaji re-unite as Nami and six other female convicts escape prison once more. The Gothic horror-inspired Beast Stable finds Nami branded public enemy #1 and on the run. She soon finds refuge with a sympathetic prostitute, but runs afoul of a local gang. The final film in the series, #701’s Grudge Song (from director Yasuharu Hasebe, Retaliation, Massacre Gun), shows a gentler side of Nami as she falls in with Kudo, an ex-radical suffering from physical and psychological trauma caused by police torture.

Spiritual kin to Ms. 45, Coffy and The Bride Wore Black, the Female Prisoner Scorpion is the pinnacle of early 1970s exploitation cinema from Japanese grindhouse studio Toei, and one of the greatest female revenge sagas ever told.

This collection has an astounding number of Special Features, which are listed at the end of my review, and they are a real treat for those who enjoy such things. There is an obvious absence of behind-the-scenes footage, but that is probably due to the fact that none exists; these films are so old I’m sure none of it was preserved. But the SF we do get are cool nonetheless.

Each film in the FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION collection is shot well and looks good overall onscreen. I’ve read critiques online that claim the HD transfers are subpar for the Blu-rays, however I have never seen previous versions of any of these films and cannot, therefore, attest to any other quality. I personally think the transfers look pretty good; there are several grainy scenes interspersed throughout the series, however I’m sure this is due to the quality of the original film negatives.

The acting is excellent, with Meiko Kaji portraying the titular role in each movie. I find Kaji to be a stellar actress, and I regret I have not seen her in anything else that I can recall. The supporting cast in each film does a good job as well, however I cannot single out a particular performance that shines.

The special effects in the films are well done and look good. In addition to the blood, we get some decent carnage as well. One particular gruesome scene that threatened to haunt me shows a naked man with a bloody tree stump rammed into where his genitals should be. I cringed when I saw this, and I doubt the image will leave my mind anytime soon.

The stories are all separate, however they relate to each other as a continuation of the plotline. Surprisingly, they do not get old, and they really don’t repeat each other. I was expecting to see a rehash of the previous film as I continued to watch the series, however that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself continuously engaged as the storyline unfolded.

The FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION complete set is a big win for me, and it’s another tally-mark on a big list of excellent releases from Arrow Video and MVD Distribution. I highly recommend this collection, and I can’t wait to see what obscure classics they come up with next. The FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION is available now.

The Special Features include:

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
• Brand new 2K restorations of all four films in the series presented on High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD
• Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays) for all films
• Optional English subtitles for all films
• Double-sided fold out poster of two original artworks
• Reversible sleeves for all films featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
• Booklet featuring an extract from Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji, an upcoming book on the star by critic and author Tom Mes, an archive interview with Meiko Kaji, and a brand new interview with Toru Shinohara, creator of the original Female Prisoner Scorpion manga

FEMALE PRISONER #701: SCORPION
• Newly filmed appreciation by filmmaker Gareth Evans (The Raid)
• Archive interview with director Shunya Ito
• New interview with assistant director Yutaka Kohira
• Theatrical Trailers for all films in the series

FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41
• Newly filmed appreciation by critic Kier-La Janisse
• Japanese cinema critic Jasper Sharp looks over the career of Shunya Ito
• New interview with production designer Tadayuki Kuwana
• Original Theatrical Trailer

FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION: BEAST STABLE
• Newly filmed appreciation by critic Kat Ellinger
• Archive interview with director Shunya Ito
• New visual essay on the career of star and icon Meiko Kaji by critic Tom Mes
• Original Theatrical Trailer

FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION: #701’s GRUDGE SONG
• Newly filmed appreciation by filmmaker Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts)
• Archive interview with director Yasuharu Hasebe
• Japanese cinema critic Jasper Sharp looks over the career of Yasuharu Hasebe
• Visual essay on the Scorpion series by critic Tom Mes
• Original Theatrical Trailer

MSB

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