Ichi the Killer is Takashi Miike’s 40-somethingth (no, really) film and the only one people seem to talk about other than Audition. Since I liked Audition so much, I figured Ichi would be right up my alley. I knew next to nothing about it going in to it other than it was a Miike flick, so I had a hunch that it was going to be wild to say the least. Ichi the Killer follows a sadomasochistic Yakuza thug named Kakihara as he searches for his missing boss. One thing leads to another, and he discovers his boss and colleagues are being hunted down by a disgustingly violent and relentless killer named Ichi. Being roughly Hellraiser levels into the whole pleasure-pain thing, Kakihara develops a sort of obsession with this legendary killer and begins seeking him out more out of curiosity than to find out what happened to his employer.
I’ve mentioned before how I work as a video store clerk, and any movie store worth it’s salt is sure to have a decently sized Criterion section. We’re lucky enough to have a sister section in our Criterion shelf dedicated to Arrow Video, a company that behaves like Criterion except they specialize in horror, sci-fi, exploitation, and cult films rather than pieces of high art. For example, films like Microwave Massacre, Society, and the entirety of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ catalogue of the macabre are available. Naturally, these films have flashy, explicit covers to grab your attention in any way possible, but out of all of them, I was drawn to a box set with a rather restrained and elegant cover. This turned out to be the Female Prisoner Scorpion Collection, a series of movies I knew nothing about at the time but after some quick Google-Fu, they shot right to the top of my to-watch list.
The Female Prisoner Scorpion films follow Nami Matsushima a.k.a Matsu the Scorpion (Meiko Kaji, later famous for Lady Snowblood), a convict in a Japanese all-women’s prison who was incarcerated for assaulting a police officer. Matsu fell in love with a narcotics officer named Sugimi who convinced her to work with him on a sting operation. Sugimi let the Yakuza catch Matsu, and let them have their way with her before using her rape as a distraction to help make his drug bust. Left bloodied, broken, and bruised, Matsu became hellbent on getting her revenge on Sugimi, and after a failed murder attempt against her former lover, she was locked away behind bars. Her hatred burns so deep however, that she’ll take any opportunity she can to escape prison, find Sugimi, and pay him back for the torture and pain she went through when he betrayed her.