Rica 3: Juvenile's Lullaby (Japan 1973)

Rating: *
Review Date: 4/28/18
Cast: Rika Aoki, Masami Souda, Reiko Kasahara

Rica's final outing is appallingly bad, but it has a couple of moments that are worthwhile. Once again, Rica (Rika Aoki) finds herself locked up in reform school, where she immediately locks horns with Oman (Masami Souda), the current gang leader. For a bunch of inmates in a correctional facility, they all wear criminally short skirts. Naturally, they all manage to escape, and Rica gets involved with yet another human trafficking case. A band of local thugs is kidnapping girls and selling them to a porn filmmaker, and women who are patients at a mental hospital are being sold overseas. Before settling their differences with a seemingly endless series of catfights, Rica and Oman join forces to save a young girl from her nonconsensual porn film debut.

The series has clearly run out of ideas at this point, and the film is an incoherent mess. It looks decent, but the continuity is awful and the direction is barely competent. Much like "Rica 2: Lonely Wanderer" (1973), the film attempts to offset the sex and violence with silly music, goofy characters, and inappropriate humor. What's the best way to liven up a nasty rape scene? By making it funny, of course! Likewise, the scenes in the mental hospital are tasteless and unbearably silly. The film also plays up the racism angle really hard this time, which makes it even more unpleasant to watch. Rika Aoki brings her usual spunk and fire to the role, but she doesn't have any singing numbers this time and her magnificent ponytail is gone. Her fashion choices are downright hideous, but she looks really great in a sexy cop uniform. We also see a softer side to her as she presumably reunites with Goro from the previous film, who is confusingly and unconvincingly played by a different actor. Adding further to the casting confusion, Masami Souda also returns, but not as the blackface Hanako from the previous two films. The scenes of Rica and Oman beating each other up are arguably the highlight of the film, but another scene worth noting is where Rica fights off a bunch of thugs with a loaf of bread. It's completely baffling and bizarre.

It's a shame that after such a strong start, the series ends so poorly. Rika Aoki is consistently charming and charismatic in these films, but her career was disappointingly short. After starring in the "Rica" trilogy, she only appeared in one more film before retiring from the movie business.