New Female Prisoner Scorpion: Special Cellblock X

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“And we bid a fond farewell to Nami, and a third different actress.”

The comparisons of Takigawa to Lazenby above proved appropriate in another way, both being canned after one entry playing the iconic title character, which is probably just as symptomatic of something. The replacement here as Nami Matsushima is Natsuki, who seems to go back toward a more taciturn heroine, closer to the original. But it’s, effectively, another reboot, with not even a nod to the previous entry. In this case, the heroine is a nurse, framed for her involvement in the hospital murder of a politician who was threatening to expose corrupt practices. The film starts with her being sent back to jail after a failed escape attempt: that resulted in the rest of the inmates being punished, and they’re none too pleased to see her brought back. There’s also a pragmatic guard who is happy to keep the inmates supplied with cigs and chocolate in exchange for peace, but his position is threated by the arrival of a new head of “security”, with a much tougher stance. After trying to expose the abuse to a visiting dignitary, he ends up in hot water, and teams up with Nami, the pair going on the lam through the mountains, chained to each other – it’s a bit like Black Mama, White Mama, with characters forced to work together for their mutual benefit.

In some ways, this feels like a combination of the first two movies: it has the “woman wronged by the man she loves” theme of the original, and then the “escape through a blasted landscape” plotline from its immediate sequel. There’s also the usual helpings of abuse, though the sexual content here is significantly toned-down, with Natsuki barely showing a nipple. On the other hand, the S&M seems more intense, most notably a scene where multiple prisoners are bound and hung up, to be brutally beaten. By this point, I’ll confess that my interest in that aspect, never exactly great, was all but non-existent. Things did perk up post-escape, with some excellent cinematography, as the pair struggle through the deserted landscape [it’s easy to forget how concentrated the Japanese population is, leaving some areas almost desolate]. Of course, it ends with another vengeful confrontation for Nami – not for the first time, on a roof.

The paucity of original ideas to be found here likely indicates why the series went into dormancy thereafter. As a way to wrap up, however, it works fairly well, particularly if you consider it as a “greatest hits compilation” from the preceding entries. While Natsuki still falls short of the intensity brought to the role by Kaji, she is an improvement on Takigawa, and this moves at a brisk enough pace to sustain interest, even in a viewer looking for less prurient aspects.

Dir: Yutaka Kohira
Star: Yoko Natsuki, Masashi Ishibashi, Hiroshi Tachi, Takeo Chii

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