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Theme Tuesday - Meiko Kaji - Female Convict Scorpion

The intense stare and charisma of Japanese actress Meiko Kaji has compelled me to explore her extensive filmography for December 2018.

One can’t help draw comparisons to James Bond when watching the Female Convict: Scorpion series. The song “Flower of Carnage” alone should be enough to set up Kaji as an icon, and it certainly had enough of an effect on Tarantino that he included it in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Beyond the song, she has that iconic all-black outfit complete with trenchcoat and large floppy hat (later paid homage to in Sion Sono’s Love Exposure) Finally, her knack of getting out of impossible situations and her physical prowess that even cows men with guns is the stuff of legends.

The Scorpion series is far from some feminist manifesto though, even if it is possible to read the movies this way. Though Kaji had tried to escape making pinku (erotic) cinema, she couldn’t quite escape the genre’s influence in this series, which often leers at the female form and the scenes of lesbian love play like men’s fantasies. Violence towards women is common and while it is not explicitly endorsed in these movies, it is often framed in a way that is made to objectify the victim who is often in varying states of undress.

It is very definitely Meiko Kaji who makes this movies devolve into pure sleaze, vividly directed as these movies are by Shunya Ito and Yasaharu Hasebe. Even when she is being horribly tortured, she never seems defeated, and her character is so relentlessly smart and resourceful that we don’t worry about her possibilities of escape or (more importantly in these movies) getting revenge.

As with Stray Cat Rock, the movies vary wildly in quality with the last two (Beast Stable and Grudge Song) being the lowest points. The second of the series, Jailhouse 41, was what I wanted from this series as a whole. It is just one obstacle after another with many opportunities for Kaji (or Sasori as she is known in these movies) to show off her resourcefulness and skills and also gives us many opportunities to see her and some of her escaped convicts, not all of whom are friendly to her, get revenge on some piggish men.

 

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