Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 30th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Japan December 30th, 1972
Director: Shunya Ito
Writer: Tooru Shinohara
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi
DVD Released: October 26th, 2010
Approximate Running Time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Eastern Star / Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: A young woman named Mastu is wrongly sent to prison because of her boyfriend’s 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 it 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.
This film was previously released in region 1 ten years ago by Image entertainment. And a comparison between that release and this new DVD release from Eastern Star. Clearly shows how dated Image Entertainments transfer looks and Eastern Star is the stronger of the two transfers. It should be noted that the Image entertainment has slightly more picture on all four sides. Outside of region 1 this film has seen several other releases with the French DVD release from Pathe / Asian Star being the strongest of those releases.
Eastern Star presents Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. Colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look healthy and details generally look crisp throughout. Even though black levels look pretty good. There are a few instances where they look average. Also I did notice a few instances where there appears to have been some DNR applied to the image.
This release comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in Japanese. The audio sound clear and consistent throughout. There are no problems with distortion or background noise. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to read and error free.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (4 minutes 55 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), a interview with director Shunya Ito (19 minutes 8 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a interview with film critic Risaku Miridoushi (25 minutes 59 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles). Topics discussed in Shunya Ito interview include censorship, cinema influences, Meiko Kaji, what he was trying to achieve with the three Female Prisoner films he directed and his vision verses Toei’s vision of the Sasori character. The interview with Risaku Miridoushi primarily focuses on the shift in the 1970’s, towards more violent and sexually themed films in Japan. Overall Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 gets a good DVD release from Eastern Star.