Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 8th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan December 30th, 1972
Director: Shunya Ito
Writer: Tooru Shinohara
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi
DVD Released: August 15th, 2000
Approximate Running Time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japnese
Subtitles: English (Burnt-in)
DVD Release: Image
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.99
Synopsis: A young woman named Mastu is wrongly sent to prison because of her boyfriends betrayal. In prison the warden and guards brutalize Mastu and the other prisoners. With the help of six other convicts, she escapes from prison.Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 was directed by Shunya Ito. He began his career as a cinematographer for Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men). He would become a director in his own right with his directorial debut Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion. Besides directing these two aforementioned entries in the Female Prisoner series. He would direct one more entry in the series Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable. With the fourth entry in the series Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701′s Grudge Song being directed by Yasuharu Hasebe (Assault! Jack the Ripper).
Based on a popular manga comic Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 the second entry in a series of 6 films. The first four films starred Meiko Kaji and the other two films (New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701, New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701: Special Cell X) starring Yumi Takigawa and Yôko Natsuki, respectively. The score for Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 was composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi, who’s other notable scores include Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable, Sister Street Fighter, The Return of the Sister Street Fighter, Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread and Dragon Princess.
Plot wise the film picks up right where its predecessor left off. Content wise Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 is essentially a surreal road trip in which the lead character Mastu and six other inmates take the viewers on a hellish journey. Where the first film spent the majority of the film in a prison. This one opens things up. With only a handful of scenes in the opening taking place in the prison.From production stand point the visuals, editing and performances are all exceptional. Director Shunya Ito creates what is arguably his strongest visual statement of the three Female Prisoner films that he directed. Whether is be barren landscapes, forests or landfills covered in debris the size of mountains. Not a single frame is wasted in this film. Some of the film’s more iconic moments include a police guard who genitals have been mutilated and a waterfall that flows blood red.
Meiko Kaji would star on a total of 4 films as Matsu (Sasori), Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable and Female Prisoner #701’s Grudge Song. She would later go onto star in the revenge classics Lady SnowBlood and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance. She is perfectly cast as Mastu and her striking beauty and strong presence are felt throughout this film. Also consider the fact Mastu barely speaks over the course of the film. In the final scene where Mastu stabs the warden repeatedly Mastu now looks radiant as she is no longer in her prison clothes and she is looking glamorous as she exacts her revenge.
The film is anamorphic enhanced and it is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the picture for the most part is clean. Colors looked overly saturated and flesh tones look off. Black levels are generally weak and there is noticeable edge enhancement throughout.
The white English subtitles are burned on the image and cannot be removed which are easy to read, but may for some present a problem. The soundtrack is in Japanese mono and the sound is was you would expect for a film that is over thirty years old so there are bound to be limitations. Overall dialog is clear enough to follow.
Japanese Trailer is included and there are informative liner notes by Chris D., author of the upcoming book Yakuza Eiga: an encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster films 1956-1980. It’s not a question if you like Women in Prison, or just Exploitation films. Overall Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 is one of the high water marks of Japanese cinema from the 1970’s should be in every exploitation fan’s collection.