WIP Review: True Story of a Woman In Jail Series
Reviews by James Bickert
With the Synapse announcement of True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell (1975) to be released on DVD this year, I decided to review the film and its sequels. This isn’t a review of their discs which I’m sure will be gorgeous but a review of some Japanese copies laying around my cell collecting dust.
The Japanese Studio Nikkatsu were the masters of Roman Porno and Pink Eiga so it made sense they would jump into the Women in Prison genre seeing a resurgence from Toei studio’s Female Convict Scorpion series adapted from the popular Tooru Shinohara Manga. Director Koyu Ohara (Fairy in a Cage, White Rose Campus: Then Everyone Get’s Raped) doesn’t have the filmmaking chops of Shunya Ito but he sure has some horny ambitions for True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell.
Mayumi (Hitomi Kozue) channels her best Meiko Kaji pose as the prison new fish who has been incarcerated for killing her boyfriend’s wife or maybe mistress. Dunno. With the so-so accurate Video Search of Miami subtitles, it was hard to comprehend. Anyway, once in the joint she runs up against queen bee Hiromi. This is where the majority of the short lived conflicts arise. The Ida Lupino classic Women’s Prison (1955) set the genre convention of Warden and Prison being the antagonist, a major plot point in the Scorpion series, not so much here. There are a few horny guards but they seem to be lending more of a helping penis to this grabby bag of horny women. Lesbian action is the reason this film was made and there is plenty of grinding, rubbing, home made dildos and close-up nipple fights to please any girl on girl enthusiast.
Occasionally the film flashbacks to outside the prison walls not to help drive the convoluted back stories but to inject some ugly men into the softcore shenanigans. There are plenty of the requisite catfights, an escape and some good old fashioned revenge thrown in the mix. For those uninitiated with Japanese sex films, shocks will probably be had with the sheer volume of bowel movement and menstrual blood scenes. Ohara seems to be particularly fascinated with urine and is quick to throw in a golden shower any chance his script presents the opportunity. We’re even given a chop sokey miscarriage scene as a bonus.
While pretty mediocre in the grand scheme of things, TSOAWIJ:SH does move along at a good clip. Actress Hitomi Kozue is quite stunning and all the ladies display much better acting chops than International competitors would require. Since pubic hair and genitals are a no-no, I’ve always found the most enjoyable part of the Nikkatsu softcore films to be the innovative ways they hide privates through creative camera angles. You get some pretty interesting ones but nothing on the level of Wife to be Sacrificed (1974). One clever scene that must have had the censors screaming, involves a gang of lusty lessies plucking our heroine’s pubic hair one follicle at a time. Ribald stuff for the Japanese. It’s all harmless enough and you could do worse. The matter of fact ending involving a prostitute snitch is unique and quite good.
In True Story of a Woman in Hell Continues (1975), around the bend comes a new bus of women. Picking up where the last one left off Mayumi has been recaptured and is hanging around her cell floor like Sasori in the opening scene of Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972). Brought out of solitary confinement she joins the rest of the population where it’s just another day in tuna town with lady licking and dildo horseplay. The prison burned down in the first installment so it’s upgraded with an intercom system and a pink water fountain for cleaning the gals down under. Right out of orientation it ups the ante with a full on nudity packed bathhouse catfight. Aww crap there goes director Ohara with the golden showers again. The sex is amped up and the scenes longer in this installment. Akira Momoi’s script throws in a brutal double rape flashback and exterior prison sex scenes are motivated by a prison guard/yakuza pornography syndicate plotline. A few guards and officials are actually antagonist allowing Mayumi (Hitomi Kozue) to revive her miscarriage karate kick technique. This time completely nude. Woo-hoo! It all ends in a riot. Even though it’s technically better than the first film, the skimping on lesbian scenes is kind of disappointing. Hitomi Kozue isn’t given a whole lot to do here either. Until the final reel, she mostly stands around in tough poses trying to imitate her Toei studios counterpart. A studio decision I’m sure.
A year later Nikkatsu must of got wind that Toei was re-launching the Sassori series with New Female Prisoner #701 (1976) allowing director Koyu Ohara to be back in business with New True Story of a Woman in Jail (1976). Toei replaced Meiko Kaji as Sassori with Yumi Takigawa but Nikkatsu liked what they had going so even though the word “new” is in the title, actress Hitomi Kozue is back in the gray bar hotel. This time Nikkatsu had a secret weapon with Fumio Kônami screenwriter of the original Female Convict Scorpion 701 (1972) and Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974). A frequent scribe for the legendary Kenji Fukasaku, Kônami knows the W.I.P. genre.
We begin with a variation on Mayumi’s ever changing storyline. It’s a pink film, who’s going to notice, right? In this one the poor gal was courted by a warden and once they had finished the ol’ silk sheet dance, his yakuza girlfriend busts in and cracks a bottle over Mayumi’s pretty noggin. Then the duo ties her up real nice and forces her to watch them grind out their frustrations. Our heroine returns to set wrongs right with a Tanto knife. Slash! Slash! Time to throw her on the fur bus and roll opening credits!
All the successful elements are rehashed from the first two episodes but this time the conflict is supplied by the sickie sadist running the joint. Turn the kink knob up to eleven. We have a cackling prison commander who unleashes a giant electric tentacle on bound inmates so the Warden and Wardress can get into the mood for the horizontal bop. When inmates learn of their sexual shenanigans, poison is secretly place on their dildos to silence them forever. These freaks are downright unpleasant. To silence Mayumi they bring in the tattooed yakuza gal she cut up. This leads to catfights, knife fights, explosions and a riot.
The third time is a charm because it all works. Screenwriters Fumio Kônami & Mikio Matsushita incorporate tons of Christian imagery giving the proceedings a much needed shot in the arm of juxtaposed weirdness. The secret S&M chamber is behind the church alter, statues of the virgin Mary are used as dildos, a faction of inmates walk around singing religious hymns and women go down on women striking the Jesus Christ pose. One inspired scene pokes fun at Japanese censors by having the inmates draw nude people and take turns adding pubic hair with crayons. They rub the pieces of paper together and then dump a load of glue on them simulating a money shot. Not a big deal to the Western raised raincoat porn crowd but pretty ballsy of the Japanese. The biggest welcome change is the entire action takes place in the prison! It’s full throttle big, bold and brassy too. The steamy bathhouse fight between Mayumi and the Yakuza broad is visually exciting and somewhat energetic for a change. My only complaint is it should have been extended. With five minutes left in the film, just when you think it’s a pee pee free event, a gaggle of inmates urinate on Mr. Tentacle shlong. Damn! I guess Ohara had to top himself. Was that in the script? Who knows?
While not in the league of the Sasori series, for a softcore knock off this is by far the best. Undoubtedly this was due to the screenwriting contributions from Kônami. The series might have been over but Nikkatsu and Koyu Ohara were not done cashing in. He returned with Female Convict 101: Sucks (1977). One side note, these films also go by the name of True Story of a Woman Condemned.
James Bickert is an Atlanta based filmmaker raised around swamp filled drive-ins. His life long ambition has been to inject highfalutin film elements into the 70’s genre trash he loves. James has a website dedicated to W.I.P. Cinema called Big Bust Out. His latest exploitation film Dear God No! will be hitting DVD shelves this year. For more information, visit www.deargodnomovie.com or his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DearGodNoMovie.