Meiko (Lady Snowblood) Kaji stars as Matsu, a beautiful girl who naively helps her cop boyfriend Sugimi collect evidence on the yakuza. When the yakuza finds out, she’s beaten and raped. Sugimi busts them but his silence is easily bought and he’s put on the yakuza payroll. Betrayed, Matsu tries to kill him and is caught by the police and sent to a hellhole prison. One chick has it in for her, so they have an incredible Kabuki inspired fight scene in the shower that culminates with the warden being stabbed in the eye. In the film’s best scene, Matsu is put in solitary with another female prisoner and seduces her. The prisoner turns out to be an undercover guard and when the warden finds hickies all over her she is fired. “No! More! I must go back!”
As punishment Matsu has to continually dig a hole while the other inmates fill it up. Meanwhile, Sugimi bribes another prisoner, Katagiri to kill Matsu. During an awesome sunset prison riot, the prisoners take a few male guards hostage and the horny prisoners rape them! Katagiri blames Matsu for everything and has the inmates string her up and beat her, but when Katagiri tries to escape on her own, they string her up instead. The guards attack and as the place burns to the ground Matsu escapes. She quickly sets out to kill the men who raped her and the yakuza boss to before getting her revenge by stabbing Sugimi to death. In the end she’s sent back to prison, where she would stay for four sequels.
There are some excellent theatrical effects (lighting, scene transitions, etc.) that enhance the mood of the film. The sex and violence, while not over the top is shocking and realistic. Director Shunya Ito brings considerable style and finesse to this his first film. Kaji is excellent as the nearly silent, bitter and beautiful Matsu. She also sings the haunting theme son, “Urami Bushi” which Tarantino later used in Kill Bill Vol. 2. (He also put Kaji’s theme from Lady Snowblood, “The Flower of Carnage” in Vol. 1 too.) Female Prisoner #701: Jailhouse 41 was the first sequel.