Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song


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My final poster design in the Female Prisoner Scorpion series is for director Yasuharu Hasebe’s only entry, and Meiko Kaji’s last outing as Nami Matsushima/Sasori/The Scorpion, Grudge Song. While it lacks the wild creativity of Shunya Itō’s incredible trilogy, Hasebe was no slouch – a veteran of Nikkatsu’s ‘borderless action’ yazuka movies of the late 1960s, including his remarkable Retaliation which featured Meiko Kaji in a supporting role, and 3 entries into Kaji’s sukeban series Stray Cat Rock. A sombre and fascinating coda to the wilder Itō pictures, this film allows Kaji to ground her portrayal of Nami more than at any other time in the run – even going so far as to find her a male love interest for the first time since the evil corrupt cop that sent her down the path of cyclical incerceration and revenge. The film even features fascinating visual callbacks to the first film in the cycle that evoke that relationship, deepening the drama and dourness when things inevitably go awry for our stoic heroine.

I’ve tried to capture that pared-back simplicity with a bold and stark design that incorporates a flower-shaped bloodstain – visually representing one of the more memorable kills in the series as Nami eludes capture by driving a flower into a cop’s jugular. The bloodstained fabric refers to that visual callback during Nami’s brief moment of physical intimacy she shares with the damaged anarchist she comes to trust enough to take to bed – a visual motif that in the original film also recalls the hinomaru flag.


“A Pillar of Salt”, 2021, white charcoal pencil on black paper, 9″ x 12″ sketch

I read about Jimmy McDonough’s extraordinary biography of the inimitable, proudly disrespectful auteur Russ Meyer, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, kinda by accident in a stray magazine article. I remembered having seen Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! several years earlier as part of a loosely defined weekend tribute to The Cramps, big fans of Meyer’s work, and figured I’d give it a read as I thought the film was pretty amazing at the time. Little did I know that this brilliant book would spark a total fascination with his work – the kind of fascination that only comes with seeing a weird man lay out the most base and bizarre parts of his psyche for all to see without the pesky filters of good taste or meddlesome industry requirements.

1964’s Lorna, Meyer’s first foray outside of the “nudie cutie” genre he basically pioneered with the 1959 feature The Immoral Mr. Teas, was, of course, driven at least in part by his insatiable appetite for financial success in the burgeoning exploitation market. As he would proudly boast, he got in to the business to get rich, and get laid. But what fascinates me is the meticulous technical artistry which he brought to bear on his films – the innovative camera tricks, pin-sharp focussed and gorgeously lit visuals (usually using reflectors to harness the harsh light of his often desolate locations), and drum-tight editing that stands out from his pack of innovators who were usually content to drag meaningless, shabbily shot scenes out in pursuit of nothing more than the contractually-obligated runtime and minimum amount of indifferently presented nudity to sate the suckers in the cinema stalls. That, and the twisted and increasingly manic plots he trotted out. In Lorna, the kickoff to the Gothic/”roughie” phase of his career, this takes the form of a parable of sorts – a wild-eyed preacher/narrator (scriptwriter James Griffiths, who dashed off the screenplay in 4 days) halts the audience as it hurtles down a desolate highway, warning us of the immorality and shame that lie beyond. As he steps aside, we alight in a bleak little nowhere town, and meet a pair of shady, no-good scumbags and their hapless, blandly handsome co-worker. They cajole and bully him over his beautiful but inattentive wife, the titular (…) Lorna, played by pneumatic newcomer Lorna Maitland. Cue another sleazy gent, an escaped convict who happens upon Lorna indulging in some extended skinny dipping in a filthy-looking lake, and a whole lot of overwrought tragedy ensues.

Final artwork layout

The main image of the poster portrays Lorna lost in a reverie for a life of go-go neon excess and excitement that she so desperately craves, a phenomenal, overwhelming montage of champagne and pearls. Leering from above her, against a foreboding background of the stark and thorny swamp that is her dreary daily reality, are the three lascivious degenerates that desire her, alongside her sadsack spouse.

The final artwork dimensions are 30cm x 60cm, with each copy professionally giclee printed in archival quality lightfast pigment inks with extraordinary lifelike rendering of the pencil and paper textures of the original sketches, on Hahnemuehle Photo Rag 308gsm paper. This is a limited run of 64 signed and numbered prints.

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