Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable
(Joshuu sasori: Kemono-beya) (1973)
Directed by Shunya Ito

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Having escaped from prison, Nami Matsushima (Meiko Kaji), more often referred to as "Matsu," is nearly arrested on a subway by a pair of policemen. One of them manages to handcuff himself to the woman, but she chops off his arm and escapes. Later, while she is hiding in a cemetery and gnawing off the man's limb, which is still attached to her, Matsu is seen by Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe), a prostitute who lives with her brain damaged brother. Yuki pities Matsu and takes her home. There, after Yuki's brother attempts to sexually assault Matsu, Yuki confesses that she is having sex with him herself to take care of his needs. Although Matsu subsequently gets a job making clothing, her life is soon complicated again. The police are still looking for her - their efforts being spearheaded by the man she mutilated - and local gangsters, under the leadership of Katsu (Reisen Lee), a woman who had spent time in prison with Matsu, are bullying the local prostitutes and committing various crimes, activities which arouse the heroine's animosity.

While Shunya Ito's Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable, the third movie in the "Scorpion" series, is not nearly as good as are the two previous installments, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41, it is still an entertaining, often affecting, sometimes exciting, and occasionally beautiful work.


In fact, it is, perhaps, unfair to evaluate the movie solely by comparing it with those preceding it. The director does tell an engaging story and does bring out the sorrows of his characters' lives. Matsu's troubles, which are the focus of the film's narrative, are effectively exposed. The moviegoer cannot help but be aware of the pitiful conditions of her existence and the extremes to which she goes in order to survive, both of which make her a truly sympathetic figure. Even though she is rarely a helpless victim, but is, instead, active in fighting to defend herself, her heroic acts of self-defense are felt more deeply by the viewer as a result of his compassion for her. The protagonist is hardly the only person likely to arouse the moviegoer's sympathies, however. Ito also repeatedly shows him the miseries other women endure. There are two others whose agonies are particularly well delineated. The first of these is Yuki, who is victimized both by her mentally handicapped brother and by the gangsters who beat her for working as a prostitute in their territory without paying them. The second is another prostitute who, having become pregnant, is forced to have an abortion, and dies as a consequence of the procedure, which is preformed by an incompetent surgeon.

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In addition to such affecting elements, there are some genuinely exciting moments in Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable. From the initial confrontation between the heroine and the policemen who try to capture her to the woman's flight from the police through the sewers, the film includes a number of intense and often grisly thrills. These are hardly its only violent and exciting sequences. There several scenes of gruesome cruelty as well. At one point, Matsu instigates the girlfriend of a gangster - who had threatened to expose the protagonist to the police if she refused his sexual advances - to throw boiling water in that man's face. Later, the heroine is captured, drugged, and thrown into a cage filled with birds along with a dying prostitute, whose demise inspires Matsu to escape and get revenge upon the gang leaders who have caused such suffering, killing each of them in turn.

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Happily, most of the performances are effective and add to the movie's appeal. Kaji is impressive as the silent, intense heroine, although there are, admittedly, times when her character could have benefited from greater amounts of dialogue. Some of the supporting players actually outshine her. Yayoi Watanabe brings a sense of desperation to her portrayal of Yuki, and Reisen Lee, who plays the film's flamboyant and sadistic antagonist, is a campy delight.

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Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable, whatever its virtues, is told in a fairly conventional way. It is not complemented with the captivating images of the two earlier movies. There are some appealingly shot sequences, but there are never the strange, even surreal images Ito has shown himself capable of creating. What this means is that the film is never as captivating as those works are.


Although I cannot recommend Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable as highly as I can the films preceding it, it is still an engaging movie that is worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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