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Female Prisoner No.701 Scorpion - Beast Stable

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Posted 20th April 2009 at 05:41 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

Female Prisoner No.701 Scorpion - Beast Stable

That's the great thing about Japsploitation... Even the Trailer are a work of art!

The third installment of the Prisoner Scorpion saga sees Sasori, the borderline psychotic heroine of the series, on the run from the authorities in a film that reverses the previous format by having The Scorpion fleeing from the law, only returning to jail for the final act.

This change of pace is in keeping with the films shift in tone, which takes the series into even darker, increasingly maudlin territory than before, whilst toning down the psychedelic weirdness of the first two films. Fans of the series will still be treated to many weird camera tricks and bizarre, stagey, abstract flights of dark fancy, it's just that the even more sombre notes of the work and extremely downbeat subject matter, which this time mixes in incest and abortion with the usual floggings, tortures and caged women action, is played out more as a well orchestrated combination of arthouse and exploitation, almost like Bergman with more nudity and dismemberment.

The plot picks up at an undisclosed time after her escape in the previous installment. Beast Stable starts as it means to go on with a dramatic chase on an underground train which culminates in a graphic scene in which a cop handcuffs her, gets trapped in the train doors, then loses his lower arm when Sasori produces a knife and cuts through the unfortunate limb. She flees on foot with a severed apendage swinging from her wrist while the titles role.

After this mind blowing intro, the film takes on a less frantic pace, with the plot unfolding at a slower trot than in the earlier movies. Sasori flees to the local red light district, where she is befriended by a hooker with a subnormal brother, who she services sexually in order to prevent him from taking out his uncontrollable urges on innocent women. Sasori almost kills the brother when he tries to molest her, but the prostitute, Yuki, begs his forgiveness.

The two develop an uneasy friendship brimming with sexual undercurrent and Sasori tries to create a normal life for herself, getting menial work and finding a place to live. She is soon dragged back into the seamy underworld when a former prison associate starts harassing Yuki for not working in her prostitution ring. Sasori seeks revenge, but with pimps, the Yakuza and that one armed policemen after her, a retreat into the sewers seems her only option. Sasori needs vengeance, for herself, Yuki and a prostitute she met while being held prisoner whose baby was forcibly terminated, but, trapped like a beast in the stinky drains of the city...all seems as bleak as the overall tone of this dark but amazing film.

As a fan of the cycle, I really enjoyed Beast Stable, the trippy weirdness that makes the series so entertaining was still there, albeit in a quieter fashion, that suited the setting. The film was shot on real city streets, rather than the elaborate soundstage sets and dramatic wilderness locations of the previous entries, so the more realistic look demanded that the abstract shots be toned down slightly, resulting in a film that assaults the viewer with nastiness and sleaze, without the get out clause of stylization.

This was the final entry in the saga for director Shunya Ito and it's a fine hat trick of movies, each standing alone as a classic of 70s Japanese extreme cinema. Lead actress Meiko Kaji would go on to make one more entry, Grudge Song.

Overall, despite losing a little momentum when Sasori returns to prison, principally because it causes confusion in the viewer due to what happens in the preceding scene (no spoilers here folks!), Beast Stable is worth seeking out. Tarantino fans will recognize the title song from the Kill Bill soundtrack and the whole style of the movie is like seeing a very twisted Manga book come to life on screen. Meiko Kaji is an incredible actress, who has very little dialogue but can express so much rage with a mere glance that it would be superfluous to give her too many lines.

The Scorpion films are classics of dark cinema, and, for those who aren't offended by filmmakers dredging up the worst elements of human misery, they're works of art that deserve a wider audience.
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  1. Old Comment
    good review.

    I find it hard to judge whether this or Jailhouse 41 are the best of the original trilogy (before Ito left). Beast Stable grows on me with every view.

    A few truly innovative visual moments, especially the sewer match scene and bar clip.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 8th April 2010 at 07:39 PM by cinematheque cinematheque is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Japanese exploition movies win out for me over the output from any other country in terms of style and surprises.

    When you get into genre films, repetition is an important factor. I'm always looking for the how the money shots, those elements of a particular genre that must be included to get punters into the fleapits, are handled in a movie.

    But with Japanese films, it impossible to predict what's going to happen. Each of these movies took me completely by surprise. I think they deserved to be elevated above their Women-in-Prison genre roots. They've got so much more to offer.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 9th April 2010 at 08:24 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
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