Today I watched Shunya Ito’s Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972)
Meiko Kaji returns as Matsu, incarcerated again at the end of her last film, she suffers increased punishment and abuse having previously escaped and killed a detective. The same warden is still overseeing her torture but he is soon to be promoted. During an inspection, Matsu attacks the warden, embarrassing him and setting off a small riot. As punishment, all women involved are sent to quarry stones, but as they are being trucked back to prison, Matsu and the six other women in the transport escape. They spend much of the rest of the film on the run with the police only a step behind them, all the while Matsu walks the path of vengeance, never forgiving the warden for his abuses.
This film leans into the surreal elements of it’s predecessor hard, there are hardly any scenes without some kind of dreamlike imagery or trick photography. This gives the film a rather fantastical tone, despite the actual events being fairly grounded. It sacrifices some of the narrative complexity of the original, but makes up for it by really getting into the heads of the characters with it’s crazy visuals. It is at once both cerebral and extremely wild and exciting because of this confrontational visual design.
With the added surrealism there is an even stronger sentiment against the western ideals of justice, painting them as purely abusive and impotent. Being a story of vengeance there is a nihilistic cyclicalism going on, Matsu was abused in prison, so she goes out to murder the warden. The world of this film is defined by vengeance and the cyclical nature of violence, a never ending and unbreakable chain of unconscionable reciprocation.
Meiko Kaji is as intense as ever here, perfectly matching the aggressive imagery with her stone faced and murderous intentions. The emotional brutality on display in this film is intense, it is not characteristic for pinky violence to ever pull punches. This all makes it a perfect sequel to a film that was already one of the most hardcore in the genre. If you want to see the absolute pinnacle of women in prison movies, then you cannot go wrong with the Female Convict Scorpion series, it is the peak. 5/5