What do you get when you mix one part Euro-sleaze crime drama, two parts ultra-violence, and laughably inept “martial arts”? Why, you get “Ricco the Mean Machine” the latest in a long line of lost treasures dug up by the folks at Dark Sky, presented in all of its gory glory.
Ricco (played by Christopher Mitchum, son of Robert), has been jailed for two years after attacking Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy), the man who took over the crime empire Ricco’s father had run. You see, Ricco believes Don Vito not only killed his father, but provided the coup de grace – a final shot to the head – that humiliated Ricco and his family. Now out of prison, Ricco wants to walk the straight and narrow, but, at the behest of his still-suffering mother, Ricco finds himself obligated to carry out the vengeance he promised his father on his death bed. With the help of the sexy niece of one of his father’s old allies (played by Barbara Bouchet), Ricco infiltrates Don Vito’s empire, and takes them down – one clumsy karate chop at a time.
As silly as the lanky and sleepy-eyed Christopher Mitchum looks delivering some of the most poorly choreographed martial arts moves ever committed to film, one can’t help but get caught up in this timeless tale of revenge, especially when its topped off by such a ridiculous amount of gore, senseless nudity, and ultra-groovy seventies soundtrack. Ricco also sports a castration sequence that would make even Ruggero Deodato squirm, as well as some hilariously gooey acid baths, which led to its release in the U.S. under the misleading title “Cauldron of Death”.
Dark Sky presents Ricco with a very watchable transfer that is only occasionally marred by the expected amount of flecks, grain, and general ravages of time. The soundtrack has also been fairly well cleaned up, with only hints of distortion and phasing. There aren’t a lot of extras, but the lengthy interview with Christopher Mitchum is quite funny and enlightening, and serves as something of a mini-commentary as he reminisces about key scenes and participants in the production.
Dark Sky has rounded up yet another retro winner, here, as Ricco is such a hodge-podge of genres that it’s got something to please just about everyone, from the most ardent gore fans to Italia/mob-movie maniacs, and just about everyone in between. So bust out your Nehru jacket and slip into some bellbottoms – it’s ass-kickin’ time!