The Bloodstained Butterfly: a unique giallo from Duccio Tessari that deviates from the form in interesting ways. The premise revolves around the murder of a schoolgirl and how it affects the family of the man accused as well as the family’s close friends. Of course, the murders continue once the man is incarcerated but the whodunit aspect is only one part of what’s going on here. Tessari is more interested in using the mystery/thriller conventions of the giallo to comment on family dynamics and societal strains of the early ’70s, the latter aim drawn through a subplot involving Helmut Berger as an aimless son of privilege on the verge of cracking. The dramatic angle makes it less thrill-oriented than a lot of giallo films but the investment in character and theme pays off in a big way, complete with a finale that delivers the expected twists while having an unexpected but welcome element of emotional catharsis. Arrow has just issued this title in a special edition with an excellent transfer and supplements a-plenty.
Murder Unincorporated: on the last go-round, Quick Schlock observed that Danger Pays felt like a send-up of Nikkatsu’s ’50s/’60s era yakuza flicks. Murder Unincorporated takes this even further, playing like what a yakuza film parody might be if Mel Brooks and Tex Avery teamed up on one. The plot revolves around a cabal of businessmen who find themselves under attack from a secret assassin so they hire a bewildering array of hitmen, all of whom have quirky obsessions (Al Capone, baseball, etc.) and even quirkier backstories. Haruyasu Noguchi’s direction juggles a big ensemble cast and a barrage of subplots and gags with aplomb, with a self-referential style that suggests he understood postmodernism a few decades before it became a thing. It’s also worth noting Nikkatsu regular Jo Shishido turns in a fine deadpan comic performance that stands out from the other, showier performances. This is the final film on Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2, out now from Arrow with two more films and supplements.
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion: this Japanese live-action manga adaptation is Toei’s answer to the women-in-prison cycle of the early ’70s. It was an influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films and remains one of the best-ever films of its type. Meiko Kaji stars as the title character, a woman who was used and abused by her cop boyfriend and stashed in prison to protect the conspirators involved in a drug operation. She has to cope with spies, rival prisoners and assassination plots from her old enemies but her desire for revenge has transformed her into an avenging angel that can take on any threat. The minimalist narrative works thanks to stunning, uber-stylish direction from Shunya Ito, who stylizes things in a way that suggests The Warriors as directed by Mario Bava. It’s a stunning marriage of sleaze and style that Kaji presides over with magnetic yet chilly charisma. Available as part of Arrow’s Female Prisoner Scorpion box, along with the other three films in the series and tons of extras.