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  Rica Half-Breed HellcatBuy this film here.
Year: 1972
Director: Koh Nakahira
Stars: Rika Aoki, Kazuko Nagamoto, Masami Souda, Michi Nono, Fuminori Sato, Ryôhei Uchida, Masane Tsukayama, Yasuo Harakayama, Sotoshi Moritsuka, Yoshihiro Nakadai, Jun Ôtomo, Emiko Azuma, Kotoe Hatsui, Kazuko Imai, Kunio Ôtsuka
Genre: Horror, Sex, Action, Thriller, Weirdo
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mixed-race juvenile delinquent Rica Aoki (Rika Aoki - see what they did there?) happens upon a friend writhing in agony on the beach. The dying girl reveals she drank poison in order to abort her unwanted baby. Rica delivers the aborted foetus to the cruel yakuza thug who got her friend pregnant. Challenged to a fight, she beats him to a bloody pulp, but is duly carted off to reform school while the Tachibana gang rape then kidnap her friends to be sold as sex slaves in Vietnam. A flashback reveals how, as a schoolgirl, Rica’s mother (Kazuko Imai) was raped by American G.I.’s, subsequently supporting her half-breed outcast daughter by working as a hooker.

History sadly repeats itself as schoolgirl Rica is raped by her mother’s wealthy sugar-daddy and grows up to be an antisocial misfit. After a spell at reform school, where she makes an enemy in knife-wielding Reiko (Kazuko Nagamoto), Rica blackmails her molester for enough money to ransom her friends back. She arrives too late, but super-cool tough guy Tetsu helps her kick a little yakuza ass. The Tachibana gang retaliate by kidnapping Tetsu’s girlfriend, so Rica agrees to pay back the debt by singing and dancing in a skimpy bikini at their boss’ nightclub. Which is where a string of subplots unfold…

Racism (usually anti-Korean prejudice) became a hot topic among the Japanese New Wave filmmakers during the 1960s. Nagisa Oshima made many films on the subject. By the Seventies these concerns filtered through to the “Pinky Violence” subgenre: the popular sexploitation-action-horror films centred around badass babes, of which Rica is a notable example. Produced by Toho Films rather than the usual suspects at Toei, this boasts a classier pedigree than the usual action quickie, being scripted by Kaneto Shindô, the acclaimed filmmaker best known for his art-house horror films Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). Although Shindô was not above for-hire gigs like scripting the trashy big-budget disaster film Deathquake (1980), he remains best known tackling important social issues. What impresses most about Rica is its pointed attack on the shady alliance between big business and violent gangsters and its call to arms for various oppressed minorities to fight back, be they working class Japanese, American war deserters, or downtrodden delinquent schoolgirls. Even Rica and Reiko learn to respect one another.

However, as a piece of storytelling the film is somewhat disjointed. Things race along at a fair clip but the plot is often confusing, switching tracks at random to encompass a tragic love story between a half-black/half-Japanese girl and an African-American G.I., Rica’s pursuit of Reiko after she stabs the reform school warden, and Tetsu’s one-man war against a tangled yakuza alliance. Shindo throws new details abruptly into the mix, like Rica suddenly becoming a heroin addict, and fails to clarify certain characters like the kindly reform school doctor (Masane Tsukayama) always on Rica’s trail. Why Rica flings a cluster of firecrackers into this poor guy’s wedding at the end of the movie, is hard to fathom. Lead actress Rika Aoki has a unique presence: grim and sulky and, in spite of her scantily-clad appearance, no fashion model. Her downbeat demeanour matches the tone of the story which, though it tries to match Toei’s vibrant comic book style, lacks the gleeful anarchy that made their violent excesses more palatable. This does rank among the goriest pinky violence movies, full of exploding heads, severed limbs and spurting blood that paints the walls red, and it does build to a rousing finish where the captive girls turn the tables on the sex-trafficking scumbags. Toho produced two sequels.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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