Masaru Konuma
Mondo Macabro

Having just watched FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! (Joshû ori), I can't for the life of me shake this feeling that I need to take a long hot bath, confess to a priest, delete my browsers history and call my mother and apologize. I just feel dirty, and not in a good way. Don't get me wrong, Mondo Macabro's latest is a solid exploitation picture, worthy of the time and attention of any fan of the women in prison subgenre. What separates CAGED! from its sister WIP films, and what made me want to wash all my clothes and Febreze my living room couch, is that from the moment the film starts to the second it ends, the screen is drenched in bodily fluids. Sweat, blood, semen and urine, if it's secreted from the human body than FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! has devoted several long, lingering scenes in which to witness gravity's pull on said juices. Delving once again into the Nikkatsu vaults, Mondo Macabro has plucked themselves another winner, and while I would recommend CAGED! to any grindhouse aficionado or Pink Film fan, I would also suggest preparedness before viewing. You might want to break out that raincoat that's been collecting dust in your closet ever since the red lights of 42nd street turned a healthy green and it wouldn't hurt to lay some newspapers or plastic around your television, because things are about to get messy.

Stop me if you've heard this one. After a failed escape attempt, young, fresh faced Masayo (Mina Asami) is thrown back into jail where she catches the eye of the prison camp's sadistic female warden. As the unusually hot summer stretches out before her, the warden decides to make Masayo her pet project and with the aid of her dominating head warden and a perverted priest, attempts to break the young convict down by turning her fellow inmates and friends against her. Masayo repeatedly lashes out at any one who crosses her path, her mind clouded with dreams of longing to embrace her boyfriend once again and to be free of the forced labor camp she now calls home. A surprise conjugal visit brightens Masayo’s disposition momentarily, but such short spurts of ecstasy are quickly forgotten as the warden and her staff tighten their grip on the convict, applying every form of physical torture their sick minds can conjure in an attempt to break Masayo’s spirit.

Obviously FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED!, also known as THE PRISON HEAT, doesn't stray far from the women in prison formula that Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN and Jack Hill's THE BIG DOLL HOUSE helped establish in the early 1970s. Other than it's omission of the always pivotal shower scene that breaks out into a fight between the heroine and the leader of the rival girls’ gang, CAGED! covers all the necessary bases, encrusting them in a thick coat of blood, mud, and mire, and impressively so. In just under 70 minutes, the film is able to squeeze in scenes of lesbian sex, forced female masturbation, men raping women, women raping women, rope bondage, golden showers, foot licking, you name it. Director Masaru Konuma is best known for his work in Nikkatsu's Roman Porno or romantic pornographic line of films, particularly those with a strong S&M theme. With 1973’s AFTERNOON AFFAIR: KYOTO HOLY TAPESTRY (Hirusagari no joji Koto-mandara) Masaru Konuma kicked of a whole series of sadomasochistic films with such succulent tiles as EROTIC DIARY OF AN OFFICE LADY (OL kanno nikki: Ah! Watashi no naka de) and WIFE TO BE SACRIFICED (Ikenie fujin), both of which were released in 2007 by Kino. While CAGED! is somewhat light on the rope bondage, its numerous other kinky indulgences help to rise the film's sleaze meter far beyond the red.

Similair to Masaru Konuma's Hana to Hebi, which Media Blasters released in 2007 under the title FLOWER AND SNAKE '74, CAGED! features several scenes that tread an unusual path between kink and comedy. One scene in particular comes to mind as equal parts disturbing and ridiculous. Masayo, spent after a rousing conjugal visit with her boyfriend (a scene which is partially mosaiced in order not to violate Japans strict law of not displaying pubic hair or genitalia) nearly collapses outside by the waterhole in the prison's courtyard. Her fellow inmates rush to her aid, when one notices a pearly white substance streaming down her inner thigh. Running her finger up Masayo’s thigh like she was scooping the last bit of icing from a mixing bowl, the inmate parades the sticky substance around like she just found the golden ticket. Her fellow convicts swoon around her, smelling her finger and fainting over the very idea of a man. Rather conveniently, a small group of construction workers are working just on the other side of the prison's chain link fence. The scent of a man's essence having triggered their primal libidos, the pact of ladies attack the fence, rubbing themselves against it in an attempt to get their hands on the men just out of reach. Several middle-aged, yet surprising agile inmates eventually scale the prison wall and attack the workers, who are more than grateful for the attention, groping, fondling and urinating on them as they wait for the camp's guards to retrieve their prisoners. As troubling as it is riotous, FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! is never boring.

Mondo Macabro presents FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! in a brand new anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that has been taken from the original negative. While the film is a touch grainy at times, overall colors are accurate and I can’t recall seeing even a hint of wear or tear on the source print. About 34 minutes in, there are three, single second flashes of black that interrupt the film briefly but otherwise the transfer is quite sound. Audio features a Japanese language track in Dolby Digital stereo with accompanying English subtitles. Dialogue and several John Carpenteresque synth soundtrack cues all sound clear without any distortion.

Extra features include three brief essays about Nikkatsu Studios, the film itself and its director Masaru Konuma. "The Erotic Empire" is a 24-minute documentary on the Nikkatsu Studios Roman Porno era, which was previously available on Mondo Macabro's other Nikkatsu releases, THE WATCHER IN THE ATTIC and ASSAULT! JACK THE RIPPER. If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth your time, as are all of Mondo Macabro's exclusive documentaries. Jasper Sharp, author of Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema provides an 11- minute interview that touches on the film but is mainly spent discussing its director. Jasper also makes several remarks about RINGU and DARK WATER director Hideo Nakata, who having worked under Masaru Konuma, directed a documentary called SADISTIC AND MASOCHISTIC in 2000, which chronicles the career of his former mentor. This documentary in its entirety can be found on Kimstim/Kino’s release of WIFE TO BE SACRIFICED. CAGED!’s original trailer is included along with several other Nikkatsu Studios releases, including ASSAULT! JACK THE RIPPER, THE WATCHER IN THE ATTIC, NAKED RASHOMON, THE SINS OF SISTER LUCIA and THE PROSPERITIES OF VICE. As always, Mondo Macabro's ever expanding promo reel, that is still promising a release of the Philippines-made SNAKE SISTERS, fleshes out another winner for the company. (Jason McElreath)