Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (Shunya Ito, 1972)

If I had to name one genre to be my favorite, it would have to be Japanese exploitation films of the 1970s. I haven't met one of those films I didn't love, and Meiko Kaji is the superstar of the genre. In this film, and the other films of the Female Convict Scorpion series, Kaji plays Matsu, also known as Scorpion because of how, well, badass she is. The film before Jailhouse 41, I believe, was simply called Female Prisoner Scorpion. In that film, Matsu again was being punished for not bending to the prison guards' will, and, in a fight with another inmate, was responsible (in a roundabout way) for the warden's eye being put out. Jailhouse 41 begins with that warden attempting to get revenge on Matsu for his lost eye, but locking her in the jail's basement for a year. Matsu refuses to go insane, or give the warden any satisfaction by screaming or complaining about her fate. Further punishment, which, like most films of its kind, is based on cruelty and off the wall plot devices, allows Matsu and six other convicts to escape, and the rest of the film is based on those women avoiding capture.

Meiko Kaji as Matsu has exactly two lines in the film; the rest of the film is spent giving harsh stares to everyone in her way. Matsu is terrifying and intimidating, and Kaji is perfect in the role. Director Shunya Ito takes what might have been a run of the mill exploitation film and fills it with hallucinatory and psychedelic imagery, bringing in elements of kabuki and other influences in the scenes of the seven sinful women, as the escapees are called. Much more than the average exploitation film, Jailhouse 41 uses color and imagery to present the tortured insides of these convicted women. Truly wonderful!


RIYL: Kill Bill (ever wonder where QT got his ideas? from Meiko Kaji films, mostly)

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