Rica 3: Juvenile Lullaby

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“Carry On Raping”

rica3The third and last installment depicting the adventures of mixed-blood juvenile delinquent Rica (Aoki), has very much run out of ideas and is playing out the string: it’s no surprise the series ended here, all but taking Aoki’s career with it. As in the previous installment, it starts off with her confined to Aiyu Reform School, but it isn’t long before she has busted out. The storyline here focuses again on her half-black friend Hanako, whose daughter has run away. Unfortunately, she has actually been abducted by a gang, who are selling her on to a Western pornographer, who will pay a high price for a Japanese virgin. Rica herself falls foul of the gang, whose leader has no tolerance for Americans or Amerasians, due to an earlier incident where his girlfriend was raped by GIs and later killed herself.

Which all might be interesting – or, at least, okay – if this were executed straight, for intensity. Unfortunately, they got a new director in, Yoshimura replacing Kô Nakahira at the helm for this one, and he appears to have had a very different vision of the project.  For some reason known only to the film-makers, large chunks of this are obviously played for comedic relief, such as the sequence where they try to gang-rape Rica, only to be knocked out, one by one, through having a winch dropped on their heads. Throw in music which appears to have strayed in from Benny Hill, and you have something that has failed dismally to make the cultural transition over time and space – and that’s not even getting into the astonishingly obvious use of blackface for Hanako. It would take a special kind of talent to pull this kind of political incorrectness off, and even speaking as a viewer who is about as far from PC as imaginable, Yoshimura comes up woefully short. If you can make me cringe with embarrassment for the heroine, you’re doing… something. Just not what I want.

There are redeeming elements, led by Aoki’s continually smouldering portrayal of the heroine, who has a chip the size of Stonehenge on her shoulder against society, and takes no shit from anyone, be it her cell-mates in reform school, street punks or pornographic film-makers. When the film is pointed in the right direction, it’s by no means terrible; it’s just unfortunate that this tone is never sustained for long, before another wacky interlude destroys any atmosphere. It’s also a shame Aoki appeared in only one other movie, 1974’s Gakusei yakuza, since she has a striking look that could have sustained a longer career. This isn’t much of an epitaph.

Dir: Kôzaburô Yoshimura
Star: Rika Aoki, Jiro Kawarazaki, Taiji Tonoyama, Kotoe Hatsui

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