Matsu (Meiko Kaji, LADY SNOWBLOOD) - or Scorpion to her fellow inmates - is on the run, a wanted woman since her daring prison escape.

She sits inconspicuous on a crowded subway train, but is still noticed by two police detectives who give chase to her. Matsu slashes one across the throat while the other - Kondo (Mikjo Narita, GRAVEYARD OF HONOR) - manages to catch up with her at the train's sliding door. Unfortunately for him, Matsu hacks his arm off and races away through the station, the severed limb flapping lifelessly in her hand.

Later that evening Matsu meets fledgling prostitute Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe, SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST) in an old graveyard. Despite the fact that Yuki first sees Matsu as she's tucking into Kondo's dismembered arm, she still feels sympathy towards her and takes her back to her place.

There, Matsu meets Yuki's brain-damaged brother who is so obsessed with sex that Yuki sleeps with him to protect other women from him. Matsu struggles to understand this, and once she finds herself a job in a sewing factory she moves out into her own place.

One evening Yuki meets Matsu after work and follows her home, asking if she can stay the night. She explains that she is pregnant with her brother's baby and that she wants him dead. But Yuki flees when Matsu slaps her across the face, angry that Yuki has suggested the convict may murder the brother for her.

Instead of going home, Yuki takes to the streets to sell her wares. Which is not the best move, as she's dragged off the street by a group of pimps for trespassing on their turf. The pimps' boss arrives, and leaves it to his mistress - the lard-faced Katsu (Reisen Lee, MISHIMA) - to dole out Yuki's punishment, by way of a golf club rammed up the muff.

Matsu, having had a change of heart in the meantime, travels to Yuki's house that night to kill the brother as requested. But Yuki throws her out, insisting she's changed her mind and will now be keeping the baby and looking after her brother.

Matsu returns home deflated, only to be accosted by one of the pimps - he recognises her from "wanted" posters and is there to make a very simple offer: work for him, or get turned in to the cops.

Matsu reluctantly agrees to work for the pimp but when her first client dies, she is sent to the boss for punishment. Katsu immediately recognises Matsu as a former cellmate, and hates her with a passion. As a result, Matsu is punished then kept captive in a huge birdcage.

But when a fellow prostitute is wronged by the gang, Matsu escapes with revenge in mind. This puts the shits up Katsu and clan, as they soon learn what Matsu is capable of. Their only protection, it would seem, is a vengeful one-armed Kondo, who turns up searching for his quarry.

BEAST STABLE isn't as delirious as it's predecessor, the sublime FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41. But it's a strong movie in it's own right, and a worthy addition to the Scorpion series.

It's filled with arresting visuals and gloriously cool widescreen compositions that elevate the movie into arthouse territory on frequent occasion. Director Shunya Ito (FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41) has a keen sense of colour, his lurid primary schemes recalling Mario Bava's more Gothic works.

The pacing is a little off to begin with - after the initial rush of the opening credits chase scene, the story begins to unravel laconically with very little dialogue. But it all picks up again for a superb exciting third act that ends with a finale so deliciously cruel it's impossible not to crack a wry smile.

Echoing the feminism that was heavily present in JAILHOUSE 41, BEAST STABLE also brings out a more sympathetic quality to Matsu's character. Still brooding, silent and intense for the main part - but there's a humanity present this time around that was doubtlessly necessary if the series was to grow. BEAST STABLE is, essentially, a love story - Matsu and Yuki develop a bond as two kindred spirits happiest when they are together, and lost when they are forced to be apart.

But don't worry, there's still plenty of violent action and cartoonish villains to enjoy along the way - not to mention disturbing themes such as prostitution, incest and abortion.

Eureka's transfer is excellent. The first couple of minutes seemed a little rocky, with minor grain, some motion blurriness and a few print specks. But this all soon clears up and what we're left with is a crisp, clean and sharp anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer.

The Japanese mono audio serves the visuals well with a solid track, while optional English subtitles are ready at hand.

This screener disc had no extras, or even menus, although the film could be navigated through on the remote control handset via 16 chapters.

Another superb addition to the Scorpion series, given a sterling transfer from the folk at Eureka. Recommended.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Eureka
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review