Directed by: Shunya Ito
Actors: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Shinzo Hotta, Hideo Murota, Isao Natsuyagi, Yoko Mihara, Yumiko Katayama, Yayoi Watanabe, Hiroko Ogi
Language: Japanese (English subtitles)
Also known as: Joshuu 701-gô: Sasori
Description: Using youth and naivete of Matsu, Inspector of antidrug department Sugimi her fall in love to, and then substitutes, sending to the den of drug dealers. Grabbing the criminals, he throws Matsu. Unsuccessful attempt of revenge, she goes to prison. Now her only desire to go out and take revenge on the villain.
Review: If you’re reading this hoping to find out if “Female Convict #701” is filled with lots of boobs, sex and lurid lesbian action, then I will spare you the trouble of reading further with a curt response : no. I’m sorry ‘bout that, but I can refer you to “Bare Behind Bars”, “Jailhouse Girls” and “99 Women”, which may be more what you are looking for.
“Female Convict #701” straddles the line between exploitation and motion picture art, and the director, Shunya Itō, masterfully interweaves the two, sometimes intoxicatingly so in the same scene. For instance, consider the rape scene of the movie’s star: the beautiful Meiko Kaji’s Nami Matsushima. This scene of rape, normally so dehumanizing with an implied distance between the victim and audience and a traditional staple of WIP films, is given a touch of empathy as the camera shifts to beneath Nami’s body, and we see what she sees, courtesy of a glass floor. The use of color and imagery are also interspersed throughout the movie, as when Nami turns angry, her ferocity is usually represented by the color red. In a particularly memorable scene, when Nami and her fellow prisoners stage a riot, the sky becomes engulfed in a red vortex, foreshadowing the carnage that was to come. For fans of cinema or smut, there is just enough here to keep everyone happy.
The plot itself is rather pedestrian, utilizing typical archetypes, but it is carried by the aforementioned artistic touches, as well as some moments of levity and Kaji’s considerable acting prowess. She speaks, by my estimate, less than a century of words, maintains but one – gravely serious – facial expression, but still she manages to be the axis around which the entire movie rotates. Like Atlas, she carries the weight of the movie upon her slender shoulders, but once she is present in a scene, it comes alive.
We are almost immediately given a taste of this acting prowess, as the movie begins with Nami and her friend, Yukiko Kida, escaping the prison through some marshlands. Their gambit for freedom interrupts the Warden’s commendation ceremony, apparently for outstanding public service. Escaping through harsh terrain, sans shoes and weapons, the duo of Nami and Yukiko are further slowed when the latter has her period, and are eventually captured and returned to face the wrath of the Warden, furious at the duo, especially Nami, for ruining his commendation. Alone in solitary confinement, we soon see what was the cause of Nami’s imprisonment via a flashback.
Nami was in love with a corrupt detective, Sugimi, to whom she lost her virginity. Sugimi asks her to infiltrate a Yakuza drug smuggling ring for him. In the process however, the gang members caught on to her act, and she was soon savagely gang raped. Apparently, Sugimi was in cohorts with the Yakuza all along, and decides not to arrest the other Yakuza members (for either the drug smuggling or the rape), which enables him to earn a large payday and curry favor from the Yakuza boss. Nami, enraged at this betrayal, attempts to exact revenge with a dagger, but proceeds to just flail around in vain, before she is apprehended by Sugimi’s Tokyo Metropolitan Police colleagues, and she is sent to the hellhole she currently inhabits.
Back in the prison, Nami continues to prove herself unpopular amongst her fellow inmates, as her attempted escape resulted in the entire prison being punished. She is also frequently the target of attacks by the trustees. To compound her problems, she further descends to the depths of the warden’s rage, when her quick reflexes cause the warden to be stabbed in the eye by a glass shard, a shard that was meant for her, and Sugimi and his Yakuza boss decide to have her killed. Apparently, Nami never testified at trial about Sugimi’s and the Yakuza’s nefarious dealings, and coupled with her escape attempts, Sugimi and his boss become weary of a possible revenge ploy. They decide to have her killed, by a trustee prisoner named Katagiri, a drug mule collared by Sugimi in the past, in exchange for parole.
The Warden tries a multitude of ways to break Nami, including sending her to solitary with a female guard, Kitoh, who poses as an inmate. His plan spectacularly backfires, however, as the incredibly perceptive Nami picks up on this, and seduces Kitoh. Their lesbian adventure leads to one of the funniest scenes in the entire movie, where Kitoh pleads to go back to solitary, so enraptured was she at Nami’s love making prowess. The Warden tries again to break Nami, this time by digging a hole continuously until she collapses, referred to as the “Devil’s Punishment”. Nami, however, in addition to her mental and emotional strength, seems to be nearly indestructible, as she lasts nearly 36 hours of continuous digging, before collapsing. With the guards distracted by Nami, the other female prisoners seize the moment to stage a riot, taking some guards hostage. Unfortunately, Nami’s friend Yukiko dies while taking a bullet from a fun fired by Katagiri, and her last act is to warn Nami about Katagiri.
Nami finds herself in a tight spot when she is hung up and beaten like a piñata by her fellow inmates, under influence from Katagiri. Nami finds and ally in an older inmate who catches Katagiri trying to electrocute her, and when the guards finally infiltrate the inmate’s riot stronghold, she uses the confusion to escape.
Review #2 : Overall, the movie is quite good, even if you do not make allowances for the year. Now do not even take off in Japan. There are some moments that are a little spoiled impression such as immediately striking unnatural scenes of beatings, largely because of their abundance, diversity and low implementation. These places had to be clever to work, or just take a camera to the viewer is not focused on the careless. But even that I would have recorded an asset, as a measure of the film becomes not so cruel. Also, there are scenes of sexual coloration, after all the action takes place in a women’s prison, with all the ensuing consequences. In general, children under 16 is forbidden view, although this is no limited. There is an interesting approach taken with memories and moments of revenge. Another plus is that the film is loose, just a half hour.
About actors. A bit simplistic, but I will say that not all Japanese look the same. Remembered for all the right story characters. Let their images and not fully disclosed, but still understandable. Starring Meiko Kaji and made it great. Silent plus this role her eyes, eyes that are not hiding, by the way, the first thing that comes to mind at the thought of watching. The second is how to dig the pit, looking weary, as if he dig.
About music. Great song of hate «Urami Bushi» Meiko Kaji (Sex Hunter) played sounds twice. The rest of the sound, shrill as a Western, although I prefer to speak of him as a romantic thriller.
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