FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

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The Female Prisoner Scorpion film series is the story of one woman's wrath in a world that often abuses, misuses and attempts to control her. Most of the series takes place in a prison setting but the movies do shake things up by having main character Nami Matsushima make multiple escapes across the four movies. The movies themselves are bolstered by the special features on display.  

Those looking for the movies to be made pristine by today's digital technology are going to be disappointed, the films contains just as much grain as they ever did. The films also look as visually spectacular as ever. Female Prisoner Scorpion takes a lot of its design ques from Japanese theatre and often sets its tone using little more than colour and light. 

This approach is reflected in the character of Nami. She speaks very little and actress Meiko Kaji has to rely almost entirely on her facial expression to convey her characters feelings and intentions. Under a lesser actress this approach might not have worked but Meiko Kaji fully conveys her character's fury and manages to turn her into something truly terrifying. The plot may be a little thin in the movies but it serves its job as a structure from which the cast and the crew can work. If there is any one thing to complain about of the design it is that the appearance of the gore has not held up at all since these movies were made (during the early 70s). At one point during the first movie a prison warden suffers an attack that results in one of his eyes being gouged, but it looks as if the man has had his face smeared with play dough. Still, this is more of a nitpick than anything, it doesn't crop up much and it doesn't detract from the effectiveness of the overall design on display. 

When examining collections like this one it is important to mention the special features. Collections like these are made to commemorate certain movies and it would be disappointing if the collection didn't come with a decent set of extras. The history of the movies and how they were made are presented to viewers from a range of angles covering everything from the personal to the academic. Each movie comes with two or three such discussions and as a whole they are very comprehensive.

While certain aspects of the series may be off putting to newcomers but Female Prisoner Scorpion as a whole is tense, theatrical and imaginative.  There may be shock, but there is also genuine suspense. There is cruelty, but also compassion. These may be exploitation movies but they don't torment their characters needlessly and are worth seeking out. 

Special features: Newly filmed appreciation by filmmaker Gareth Evans (The Raid)/ Shunya Ito: Birth of an Outlaw, an archive interview with the director/ Scorpion Old and New, a new interview with assistant director Yutaka Kohira/ Theatrical Trailers for all four films in the series/ Newly filmed appreciation by critic Kier-La Janisse/ Japanese cinema critic Jasper Sharp looks over the career of Shunya Ito/ Designing Scorpion, a new interview with production designer Tadayuki Kuwana/ Original Theatrical Trailer and Teaser/ Newly filmed appreciation by critic Kat Ellinger/ Shunya Ito: Directing Meiko Kaji, an archive interview with the director/ Unchained Melody, a new visual essay by Tom Mes on the career of Meiko Kaji/ Original Theatrical Trailer and Teaser/ Newly filmed appreciation by filmmaker Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts)/ Yasuharu Hasebe: Finishing the Series, an archive interview with the director/ Japanese cinema critic Jasper Sharp looks over the career of Yasuharu Hasebe/ They Call Her Scorpion, a new visual essay by Tom Mes on the film series/ Original Theatrical Trailer

FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: SHUNYA ITO, YASUHARU HASEBE / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: MEIKO KAJI, RIE YOKOYAMA, FUMIO WATANABE / RELEASED: OUT NOW     
          


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