Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 15th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, November 17th, 1976
Japanese Title: Shin joshuu sasori: 701-gô
Approximate running time: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Director: Yutaka Kohira
Cinematograper: Masahiko Iimura
Composer: Masaaki Hirao
Cast: Yumi Takigawa, Ryôko Ema, Nobuo Kaneko, Ichirô Nakaya, Luna Takamura
Synopsis: A woman if framed for the murder of her sister when she discovers government corruption.
Not wanting to let a good thing go down the tubes Toei resumed the Female Prisoner 701 series in 1976 three years after Meiko Kaji last performance as the title character. This time around the series would get a slight re-title New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701. Stepping into a role that is so identified with the previous actress (Mieko Kaji) who played the part four times was a formidable task for any actress to undertake. In the lead role of Nami (the New Female Prisoner #701) is Yumi Takigawa an actress who up to this point in her career had roles in Graveyard of Honor, Bullet Train, Karate Bear Fighter and her most famous role as the lead in School of the Holy Beast.
The look of Nami the New Female Prisoner #701 is exactly how Mieko Kaji’s character looked. Even Nami’s mannerisms and lack of dialog are following right in line with the way Meiko Kaji had previously played the part. The casting of Yumi Takigawa does make sense since she does faintly resemble Meiko Kaji especially when she is in character. Yumi Takigawa performance is very convincing even if it does border on a mimic of the previous actresses portrayal of the Female Prisoner #701 character. This may seem like an unfair assessment since filling the shoes worn so brilliantly by Mieko Kaji is an impossible task.
Given the assignment of directing the revival of The New Female prisoner #701 series is Yutaka Kohira a director who previous credits Bakuhatsu! Nana-han zoku and Dragon Princess. Visually Yutaka Kohira creates a nightmarish tale that rivals the previous entries in the series. The dream sequences in the film are very stylish and they look like Salvador Dalí’s dream sequences that he created for the Alfred Hitchcock film Spellbound. Other standout moments visually are the stylized courtroom scene and Nami’s rape scene is slow motion.
The story features rape/torture/blackmail/murder and an all out prison riot to top things off. Plot wise the film closely resembles the first Female Prisoner film with Meiko Kaji right down to a boyfriend who betrays Nami sending her to prison. Despite recycling story ideas and mimicking Meiko Kaji’s portrayal of the Female Prisoner #701 this entry in the series deserves its place right next to the previous four films. Ultimately New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701 is an undiscovered gem and the most underrated entry in the series.
Note: This title is only currently available on DVD in France as part of a Female Prisoner #701 box set titled “Coffret intégrale la femme scorpion”. This box set includes all six Female Prisoner #701 films (no English subtitles options with this set).