“What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now?” – FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION Film Series

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“Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”

– “The Mourning Bride” by William Congreve (Act III Scene 2) (1697)

Revenge films are a sub-genre that dances along the edge of horror, but they can often be found diving fully into horror as well. Another sub-genre that is also known to do just that are the “women in prison” exploitation films. The film series I am going to discuss this time around brings all these together in Female Prisoner Scorpion franchise out of Japan.

The four films series from Toei Company ran from 1972 to 1973 with Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1972), and Female Prisoner Scorpion: Grudge Song (1973). Actress Meiko Kaji played the lead role of Nami “Scorpion” Matsushima in all four films with Shunya Ito directing the first three and Yasuharu Hasebe directing the fourth. Based on the manga Scorpion by Toru Shinohara, the stories center around Nami who was wronged in the worst ways by her boyfriend, Sugimi, a corrupt narcotics detective. Set up and abused, Nami attempts to kill Sugimi in front of police headquarters and earns her trip to prison.

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In Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, Nami is subjected to brutal abuse from both the guards and her fellow inmates. But never does she break, because Nami is a bad ass, filled with rage and driven by vengeance. Fueled by this rage and through clever manipulations of her tormentors, things get bloody and gruesome, with many of those said tormentors meeting a nasty end. Outside of the “standard” tortures that Nami is put through, the set piece punishment in this installment was the digging and refilling and redigging of an exceptionally large hole in the prison yard. Events evolving from this led to a riot and escape, allowing Nami to finish her acts of vengeance.

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Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 opens to Nami having been returned to prison and bound up in solitary confinement. But she can still move her head, and she has been holding a spoon in her mouth and grinding it down on the concrete floor to make a shank! Told you she’s a bad ass. The prison riot kicks off early in this one, permitting a larger group to escape and going on the run during a transfer. This one dips into the spiritual and metaphysical a bit when the group of escapees comes across the hut of an old woman who essentially foretells what crimes they committed and how each will meet their end . . . except for Nami. There is still vengeance to be meted out as the warden from the first film survived and continues to torture and torment Nami whenever and however he can. As the road trip continues, it literally gets on the road with the hijacking of a tourist bus that leads to a standoff with the police. The ending takes a bit of a surreal twist, but it works.

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Now third film, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable, goes off in an odd but effective direction and adds in a bit of gothic horror and supernatural happenings. Yet again, Nami has escaped custody and is on the run. The first person to spot her is a prostitute in a cemetery . . . where Nami is trying to chew through the severed hand of the police detective that is still cuffed to her wrist. And that’s not even the most cringeworthy moment in this one! I don’t want to say much more than that, because I feel this is one you just need to jump into and go with. Just be prepared for the occasional head scratching and the “WTF?!?” reactions now and then.

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The final film, Female Prisoner Scorpion: Grudge Song, ended up being the weakest of the films for me, and I can chalk it up to a few reasons. The first being that while on the run (again!), Nami is found and aided by Kudo, a former student revolutionary who was tortured and maimed by the police. More than a third of the film focuses on him instead of on Nami, and it’s suppose to be her film. The second reason is the change in directors. Shunya Ito had a style in the first film that bordered on giallo to me, with his use of creative sets, bolded lighting, and quirky editing tricks. In each of the three films he directed, there was something technique-wise that caught my attention. Outside of one or two slightly trippy scenes in Grudge Song, Yasuharu Hasebe’s direction didn’t really do much for me. And a third thing! Even though Meiko Kaji could convey so much with a look that it allowed for keeping her dialogue to a minimum in the first three films, she had maybe four or five lines in the entirety of Grudge Song, and even those were used as internal monologue instead being spoken out loud.

Overall, it’s not a bad series of film if these are genres you like watching. If you are a fan of Japanese martial arts cinema of the early 1970s, you might recognize Meiko Kaji’s name from the legendary role she would go on to play shortly after this: Lady Snowblood. Like the theme from Lady Snowblood, theme song of this series will stick with you, too.

So, if my musings have piqued your interest, all four films are currently streaming on Shudder. What better way to pass the time in lock down than watching someone else in lock down?

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Episode 219 – Deadly Decades: The Troubled Teens (2010-2019)

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The wait for the decade to end is over! We can finally revisit one of our favorite series and provide you with each of our personal top ten picks from the previous decade. Enjoy!

Episode 219 – Deadly Decades: The Troubled Teens (2010-2019)

The Letterboxd Companion List

Friday the 13th: Forty Years of Sex, Betsy, and Bacon

By Jenny

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Friday the 13th, the iconic godfather of the slasher film, turned forty this weekend. The fact that this movie is nearly as old as I am, and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, is a big part of why I hold it so dearly. But this movie holds way more appeal to me than just the sentimental, so allow me to rhapsodize. This movie has it all-weed, snakes, sex, Kevin Bacon…what more can you ask for?

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Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, and made for a budget of $550,000, Friday the 13th was the 18th highest-grossing movie of 1980, and eventually went on to spawn one of the most iconic horror franchises in history. And while it was, and still is, beloved by horror fans, it had its detractors, including Gene Siskel, who loathed it so strongly that he spoiled the ending in his review, and the MPAA, who insisted the sequel have less gore, because they have no sense of adventure. It’s been said that the writer, Victor Miller, drew inspiration both from the stalwart Halloween and also the classic comedy Meatballs, which has a definite “two great tastes that taste great together!” vibe to it.

If you’ve never seen Friday the 13th (which, incidentally, is an issue you should remedy immediately, after reading and liking this post, of course), the movie starts with a serene night at Camp Crystal Lake in 1958, with songs being sung around the campfire. The children of the camp are sleeping in their cabins, which we know because we get an unsettling POV (and the first hint of Harry Manfredini’s deliciously minimalist score) of someone creeping through, watching them doze. Within minutes, the person has come upon a couple of counselors making out, and Willie Adams officially becomes the first victim in the franchise.

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(Annie, we hardly knew ya!)

Then we come to Friday the 13th in “the present day”, where would-be camp cook Annie (Robbi Morgan)  is trying to find a ride to Camp Crystal Lake. She hitches a ride with Enos, who gives us some solid exposition on the dark history of “Camp Blood.” Annie is one of my favorite characters in the franchise, even though our time with her is short, and her sweetness and joie de vivre make her bloody, untimely death all the more shocking. We also meet the rest of the counselors: Marcie (Jeannine Taylor), Jack (Kevin Bacon), Bill (Harry Crosby), Brenda (Laurie Bartram), Ned (Mark Nelson) and slightly creepy camp owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), who is infatuated by one of the most well-known final girls of all time, Alice (Adrienne King.) The Meatballs influence is clearly seen in the banter between the counselors, most notably so in the scene with Officer Dorf (Ron Millkie), who “ain’t gonna stand for no weirdness out here!”

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(Told you Steve was creepy)

We also get to meet the predecessor to sooooooo many horror movie doomsayers, Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney), who assures them that they’re all doomed, which they totally are. He appears earlier in the movie, but really cements his place in Friday history with his jump scare appearance in the pantry. From there, there are sexy times aplenty, but also murders aplenty, because vengeance is mine, sayeth the mom.

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(Take note-strip Monopoly leads to untimely death)

What’s interesting about this movie is that, while its OG slasher, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) loses her head at the hands of Alice at the end, this little movie ended up spawning not only a prolific amount of sequels, it also led to the creation of one of the most well-known horror icons of all time, the one and only Jason Voorhees, who appears as the avenged child in this film. Luckily for all of us, Jason’s vengeful streak is as strong as his mother’s, but also has a tinge of the supernatural to keep it interesting, the precursor of which we see in his inexplicable appearance (and pee your pants moment) at the end of this film. He wasn’t a very good swimmer, but he seemed to have gotten the hang of it in the scene with Alice.

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This is one of those rare movies that checks off all of the boxes for me, and always has. It’s got gore, it’s got a kickass score, it’s got sex, it’s got strong women, it’s got a creepy ghost/child, it’s got a plot twist-check, check check, check, check, check. I’ve seen it more times than I can count, yet I always get sucked into it, because it’s just such a fun ride. It’s also among the movies I consider “comfort food”-the movies I know so well and adore, and can throw on any time and end up in a better mood than when I started it.

So happy anniversary, Friday the 13th-you’ve slashed your way into our hearts and the public consciousness, and the world is a better, bloodier place for it!

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Friday Night at the Video Store: Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

By Joe Meyers

My father is the King of horror B-film lovers so I wasn’t shocked when he told me on the morning of September 14th, 1991, “I caught part of a movie called ‘Sorority Babes in the Bowl-O-Rama of Death’ last night, let’s head to the video store to rent it later today.” How do I know the exact date? Because what he caught was part of an UP ALL NIGHT with Rhonda Shear episode that aired Friday the 13th, on the USA Network, featuring MEATBALLS III and SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA.

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So, instead of discovering that hidden horror gem in the video store as we roamed the aisles, we began a trek to find this supposed cinematic horror masterpiece like it was The Holy Grail. Our stops at the video stores near us (this was the era where mom and pop shops still thrived alongside chain video stores, so we made many stops) proved unsuccessful. None of them had it on the shelf, and inquiries with the staff resulted in blank stares and “I’ve never heard of it before” replies. Dejected, but refusing to quit, we returned home where I was tasked with cracking open the phone book to call other video stores in the area.

Lucky for us an employee at a place I contacted looked the movie up in their VHS catalog, because he thought it “sounded cool.” Thankfully this is where the clerk gave me the correct title for the film, but followed that revelation up with bad news. They didn’t have it, although they could order it for us, BUT we’d have to pay roughly $80.00 for them to buy the VHS tape from their supplier. Surprisingly, usually not one with impulse buying control, my dad declined the offer. Armed with the actual title of the film I did hit pay dirt a few calls later at a mom and pop shop forty minutes away from us. Not only did they have the film, the tape was in, and they agreed to hold it for us.

Finally, back home with our VHS treasure, my pops and I settled in to view the David DeCoteau directed, and Sergei Hasenecz written (their only feature film writing credit), horror movie. It begins with three sad sacks, Calvin (Andras Jones), Jimmie (Hal Havins), and Keith (John Stewart Wilman) deciding to spy on the Tri-Delta sorority’s initiation ceremony.

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Tri-Delta members Babs (Robin Stille), Rhonda (Kathi O’Brech), and Frankie (Carla Baron) haze sorority pledges Taffy (Brinke Stevens) and Lisa (Michelle Bauer) by having them strip down, and lean over the couch for spankings with the sorority house paddle. This is followed by a little whipped cream action which, OF COURSE, leads to Taffy and Lisa needing a shower. The guys decide to sneak into the sorority house, adding breaking and entering to their “Peeping Tom” resume, to watch the ladies showering only to get caught in the act by the Tri-Deltas.

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As punishment (I guess?) Babs sends Calvin, Jimmie, and Keith with Taffy and Lisa on the final part of their initiation, breaking into the mall bowling alley to retrieve a bowling trophy. Bab’s father runs the mall so the Tri-Deltas are able to watch the heist attempt from monitors in the mall security office. The group successfully breaks in, only to find bad-ass biker chick, Spider (Linnea Quigley), already robbing the place. After some tense moments Spider helps them break into the trophy room, they retrieve their prize, and then all Hell breaks loose as the trophy is accidentally dropped…releasing an Imp (a puppet voiced by Michael David Sonye, better known as Dukey Flyswatter of the L.A. horror punk band Haunted Garage) who was trapped inside.

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The Imp, looking like the love child of Shrek and Donkey, offers to grant everyone present a wish. Naturally there’s a catch as we enter “be careful what you wish for” territory. In quick secession all the wishes begin to go wrong, some of the group are turned into “Uncle Impie’s” demon minions, and others are dispatched in various ways around the bowling alley until the climatic, final battle against the Imp concludes. I’m being vague, and super “wrap up-ity” here, as to not spoil the fun for any potential first time viewers.

Was this the VHS gold at the end of the video store rainbow my dad made it out to be? Debatable, to be sure, but sixteen-year-old me enjoyed it for the horror sleaze that it was. Forty five-year-old me, watching again last week for the first time since that September day in 1991, sure sees it as a trashy, horror nostalgia trip best enjoyed with fellow horror-loving  friends/family and COPIOUS amounts of beer and pizza. Besides, you can’t go wrong with the awesomeness that is Linnea Quigley. There’s a reason the episode of UP ALL NIGHT my father happened upon that Friday the 13th almost three decades ago is a fan favorite of the series.

Now, if you’re from the UK, you may be thinking this sounds exactly like a movie you’ve seen before, but it wasn’t called SORORITY BABES IN THE SILMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA. That’s because it was released on video there under another title…THE IMP. I have to say I prefer the US title. I mean, yes, it’s a mouthful but it lays everything out on front street. This movie is exactly what it sounds like…pure 80’s, low-budget, T&A horror cheese. If that’s in your Film-watching wheelhouse, then dive on in with the rest of us slimeballs.

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Episode 217 – Drive-In Double Feature: Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) and Phantom of The Paradise (1974)

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After an off key start, we find our rhythm and dive into a musical Drive-In Double Feature and sing the praises of REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA and PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE.

Episode 217 – Drive-In Double Feature: Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) and Phantom of The Paradise (1974)