StoryGonzo doesn't begin to describe this wild women-in-prison film. A mad mix of outrageous exploitation, flamboyant art movie, and energetic comic book, this manga-inspired cult classic is actually the second film in a series, but you hardly need the history. Matsu (Meiko Kaji, of Lady Snowblood fame) is an innocent woman in jail who defies the sadistic warden and brutal guards with silent stares and sudden strikes. Nicknamed "Scorpion" for her lethal, lightning attacks, she is systematically abused, tortured, and humiliated by the vengeful warden (guess why he wears that eye patch), but escapes with a chain gang and leads the cops on a violent chase through the countryside. The doomed "Seven Sinful Women" are systematically cut down by the trigger-happy posse, but not before they take a few with them. Kaji gives a near silent performance as the smoldering Matsu, who stares out from under artfully tousled hair with piercing eyes and spars with her bullying, psychotic cellblock rival. Director Shunya Ito paints his striking set pieces in brilliant colors: an autumnal death scene that turns from restful, leaf-blown orange to a desolate gray in a flash, a blue waterfall that suddenly runs red with blood, an escape down a literal mountain of garbage. Never has exploitation looked so beautiful.
Mastered from a gorgeous widescreen print, the image is sharp and the colors vivid. The subtitles are printed on the film, but in this case they are easy to read and grammatically sound. The DVD also features the theatrical trailer and informative liner notes that chart the series' background history by film programmer and historian Chris D. --Sean Axmaker