When Ricco the Mean Machine was first released outside of its native country of Italy, it was marketed in many places (including the U.S.) as a horror film. I think that would have been a very hard sell. Ricco, released in 1973 is little more than a typical mafia revenge film with a few acid splashes of gore.
The story follows our young, blond hero Ricco (played by Robert Mitchum?s son, Christopher), fresh out of jail he discovers that his dad, a mafia boss, was shot in the head by Don Vito. Vito is head of the mob, and he?s also stolen Ricco?s girlfriend. Which proves as we all suspected that in the early seventies in Italy, girlfriends were inherited, not courted. Don Vito is a son of a bitch, and the rest of the movie follows Ricco battling through his minions, extracting clues from anyone and everyone, and sleeping with his girlfriend?s cousin while her uncle stands around.
Unfortunately Ricco suffers from many downfalls. First, for such a simple story, the 94 minute run time is simply too long. If this were a quick action packed 80 minute piece, it could have had real potential. Also, the quality of the performances really ran the gamut. While at times Christopher Mitchum played the unwilling hero with grace, often he was only good for throwing wild karate chops. The beautiful Barbara Bouchet treated audiences to a strip tease on the hood of a car, but other than her looks, her performance was fairly forgettable. When all is said and done the finer performances were drawn from the ancillary characters. The actor behind the role of Don Vito played him with a kind of ruthless, clear cut evil that is becoming increasingly rare in modern cinema. Don Vito simply wants money and power, there?s no arguing, no questioning?he?s just evil and well played.
The major draws I assume for this film are the bountiful breasts and the four or five scenes of gore. In the first scene of violence we see Ricco?s father get his skull shot open, but the editing almost ruins the effect. Perhaps the special effect wasn?t all that special, and a quick cut away from the blast to papa?s skull was the only thing keeping the audience from thinking a flesh colored clay pot just bit the dust. Next we see a few people dumped into a vat of boiling liquid, this is perhaps one of the best effects of the film. We see a face sizzling in the liquid, the poor screaming fools thrashing as it boils, and we hear the pitiless bubbling of the damned pit. But the scene that?s sure to make everyone squirm is described on the DVD jacket as ?Switchblade Circumcision?, but that?s putting it lightly. The genital destruction that ensued was enough to keep this film banned in its full version for many years. Eli Roth, eat your heart out!
In the end, the film suffers from age, acting (or lack thereof) and overall effect. It doesn?t evoke anything other than appreciation for modern filmmaking techniques and acting/fashion styles. Dark Sky has given this film a faithful release though, and some credit must be given there. The audio is in pristine quality, the color is a little dim, but very clear and crisp, and the jacket art is quite handsome. The DVD case shows a wonderful oil painting of Ricco, sitting like a bare-chested king on his thrown, as women and guns surround him. Also included is an interview with the interminably charming Christopher Mitchum, which gives interesting insight into the process of making this low budget flick.
So overall there?s not enough violence and gore to warrant a horror tag in the video store, so don?t come a-knocking if that?s all you?re into. If cult/cheeseball/exploitation flicks are your thing, then hey, what the hell, give Ricco the Mean Machine a try. At the very least you and your friends can Mystery Science Theater the living daylights out of it.