Bootlegging Pokemon cards
carries a stiff penalty.
Back in the 1970's Japanese exploitation films tended to be fairly arty affairs. Their American equivalents, the blaxploitation films, the women in prison films, and the rape-revenge films, usually made some stab at having a moral. Bad behavior was punished, virtue rewarded. Japanese exploitation was usually a tad more cynical. But both strategies, artistic virtue and moralizing, were probably employed to deflect criticism that exploitation films were complete trash. These films might have lots of blood and boobs, but they had a point too.
Scorpion's Revenge (the Japanese title was Sasori in U.S.A.) is a modern remake/sequel to a series of exploitation films from the 1970's. One of the films from the earlier series, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, was recently released on the art house circuit to glowing reviews. Jailhouse 41 isn't really that much better than other exploitation films of the period, but it is a very stylish movie. Scorpion's Revenge, in keeping with most modern Japanese exploitation, is not nearly so stylish.
A scene that was lamentably
cut from Cool Hand Luke.
Our main character is Nami Matsushima (Yohko Saitoh), a Japanese interior designer living in Los Angeles. She is the "Scorpion" of the title, and keeping with traditions of the series, she's in prison. At first we don't know why, though the opening credits include some shots of her choking her fiancé Jiro (Takanori Kikuchi) during sex. This turns out to have nothing to do with anything, and frankly contradicts the straight arrow personality she has in the rest of the movie. Through flashbacks a little later on we find out that Jiro died when his car blew up outside the home he shared with Nami. We found it really pretty odd to see Japanese people living in a home. Japanese movies almost exclusively show people living in apartments, especially in the city. In any case, Nami was convicted of murder because Jiro had taken out life insurance a month before, and she was the beneficiary. This seems a little thin as evidence of murder, considering that Jiro, as a corporate lawyer, had other enemies. Maybe the moral here is "Don't ask Richard Kimble or Cameron Poe for advice when choosing a lawyer."
The prison where Nami is incarcerated is supposed to be in California, and the film was probably even filmed there, but the outfits the women prisoners wear more resemble Japanese ones, and certain other details are more recognizable from Japanese prison movies. But there are certain constants in these kinds of films, no matter where they are supposed to take place. Lesbianism is rampant. And of course there is a shower scene. Scorpion's Revenge gets that one out of the way right up front because the film doesn't spend that long in the actual prison.
Thelma and Louise, Japanese style.
The prison also comes with standard issue insane warden. The warden (Michael Hegedus) reads from the Bible to the inmates every morning, and the first time Nami goes through the ritual, the warden has one of the guards shoot a crossbow bolt into the foot of a woman not paying attention. Nami removes the bolt, brandishes it at the warden and says (in English), "Do you mean to tell us this is also an act of God?"
The woman who takes the arrow in the foot is the only other Japanese in the prison, Yukiko (Shizuka Ochi). Yukiko is raped that night by the warden, and Nami somehow angers the Amazonian blonde inmate that acts as the warden's right hand. You probably know the drill for what happens next. There's a fight in the cafeteria. Nami is punished for it, and then the warden tries to rape her, but Nami has fashioned a shiv out of Yukiko's harmonica and gives him an eye-ectomy. Then Nami starts a riot, and all the prisoners try to escape by climbing over the fence. Other than Nami and Yukiko it doesn't look like anybody else makes it.
The prison riot scene is where Scorpion's Revenge really loses it. This was obviously a pretty low budget movie, shot on video, but it's fairly effective when it concentrates on Nami. But with the riot the movie overreaches it's grasp with what should be an epic scene, but it comes off as more than a little silly. First of all the prisoners run for freedom with all the conviction of sorority sisters fleeing a panty raid. The exaggerated fall one guard makes to get out of their way doesn't help. And secondly, not to be unkind, most of the extras playing prisoners look like they may have been put in prison for violating the policies of Jenny Craig. Either that or this prison cafeteria is catered by Sara Lee.
"I knew Viagra for women was a bad idea!"
Once over the fence, Nami and Yukiko make their way across a desert. For reasons that weren't clear to us at the time, Nami ties a rope between their waists. There's also a scene where Nami shares spit with a dehydrated Yukiko, providing some out-of-prison lesbianism, just in case we had forgotten why we were watching this.
Stuck in the desert, Yukiko shares the story of how she got into prison with Nami. Yukiko was attending music school because she's blind -- Oh, she's blind! That explains the rope thing. In any case, Yukiko's boyfriend was murdered by a racist thug who wore bells. Later, the thug wandered by Yukiko. She heard the bells, and attacked him with a knife. He wasn't badly hurt, and she went to prison.
Somehow Nami and Yukiko make it to a friend's house. Here the movie kicks into its second phase, where these two women get revenge on those who have wronged them.
We're guessing Charlton Heston
is giving away the bride.
Yukiko learns how shoot a gun blind, then dresses up in a wedding dress and shows up at the bell-wearing thug's wedding! No one seems to notice the Japanese woman at the back of the hall wearing white until she pulls out a gun and threatens to kill the groom. In an example of natural selection at work, bell wearing thug responds to this by saying, "Well, well, it is you! The one from that night..." and then gets shot. To all our readers, we can't emphasize this enough: If a blind woman is holding you at gunpoint, keep your mouth shut! We guess we're supposed assume that Yukiko goes to jail again after this, but we don't find out for sure. She just disappears.
All that's left is for Nami to find out who set her up. It doesn't really take a genius to figure it out. It's pretty much driven down our throats in the first scene of the movie that Jiro faked his own death, and we now find out that he's been busy murdering corporate lawyers in the meantime. Nami manages to contact him, and they meet in their old house. Jiro makes an impassioned speech to her about how lawsuits against companies are destroying the American dream, making this movie the longest, most bizarre argument for torte reform ever. Then Jiro tries to kill Nami for some reason, there's a car chase into the desert, and the final showdown.
In Tijuana, Japanese women
with rifles are thick as thieves.
As we mentioned earlier, the original series of Female Prisoner Scorpion movies were very stylish and moody, with scenes bathed in color, and even featured occasional supernatural elements. Scorpion's Revenge is a very straight forward, both in plot and presentation. The actress who plays Nami is attractive, but she's doesn't do much to portray the desperation Nami would be feeling. The nudity is here, and the rape scenes and violence one expects of a women in prison film, but none of it is presented with any energy. This movie is just going through the paces.
Still, if you're looking for entertainment outside of that intended, you might find some here in the laughably inappropriate elements of the movie. Nami and Jiro have a favorite song, but it sounds like they got it off a "Best of Big Top Circus Music" CD. When Jiro explains how he faked his own death, he states, "I bought the dead body of a Mexican," as if this is the kind of item one can order from Amazon.com. And the final car chase that is clearly taking place at highway safe speeds. But outside of things like this, Scorpion's Revenge isn't that interesting.