A Spanish-Italian co-production, Ricco The Mean Machine (1973) is an interesting and notorious bit of Eurocrime. First, a rundown of the alternate titles reveals it was sold as Ricco, The Dirty Mob, Mean Machine, Gangland, and, in an amazing bit of wrong-headed marketing, sold as a horror film under the title Cauldron of Death.
Ricco Aversi (Christopher Mitchum) is the layabout son of a powerful mobster. After his father was killed, Ricco had a run in with the man who usurped his father, Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy), who in turn had Ricco thrown in jail on trumped up charges for a couple of years. Ricco emerges form jail to find his family now ostracized, living on the outskirts of Rome, and to make matters even more humiliating Ricco's former flame, Rosa (Malisa Longo), has shacked up with Don Vito.
Ricco finds a sympathetic ally in a counterfeiter and his vixen niece, Scilla (Barbara Bouchet). Soon the Karate chopping Ricco is jabbing away at Don Vito, breaking into his compound, robbing him of his payoffs, all the while trying to uncover the identity of the man responsible for the hit on his father. Ricco gets more emboldened. Don Vito gets increasingly angry and is the kind of gangster prone to throwing men into the acid bath at his soap factory. So, it doesn't take a genius to realize the two are on a collision course.
Ricco The Mean Machine falls into an interesting sub-category of the revenge film genre. Most revenge films are pretty straightforward in their motivation- guy/girl gets wronged, guy/girl goes bloodthirsty for vengeance, wham, bam, end of story. Not so for our Ricco. He is a reluctant revenger. He didn't particularly have much love for his father and no ambition to be a gangster. So, his father getting offed was sort of part of the business he was in, and it isn't a business Ricco wants any part of. Rationally, it doesn't make much sense but for the purposes of pulp writing it is a neat slant. Ricco is more content to pick at Don Vito, annoy him, and only cares about killing the actual trigger man who pulled off his father's hit. Pick away at a bad, bad man, what else should you expect to happen? The bad guy is gonna' strike back.
Under the direction and writing of b-helmers Tulio Demicheli (Sabata the Killer) and Jose Gutierrez Maesso, Ricco The Mean Machine features a top notch cast of genre stars: the young Chris Mitchum looked a bit more like David Hemmings with a Lovin Spoonful, hippie haircut than his famous father, Aurthur Kennedy a vet and perfect oily bad guy, and the one two punch of Euro babe knockouts Bouchet and Longo.
The influence of films like Serpico, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and The Getaway really sparked change in Eurocrime, injecting the standard heist, cop and criminals fare with more urban grit, as well as an increase in violence, sex, and car chases. As far as the genre goes, Ricco came fairly early in the cycle. Opening with a point blank, graphic, head shot, it is certainly violent. Bouchet and Longo deliver the sex appeal. Overall, actionwise, it is low budget and, while entertaining, not especially elaborate.
The DVD: Dark Sky.
Anamorphic Widescreen. Technically, Dark Sky has produced a nice DVD of a cult film. I didn't notice any glaring issues like severe compression artefacts, boosting, or aliasing. The only real missive is the print itself, which definitely shows signs of its age and era. It is a forgivable issue, the color doesn't exactly pop and there is a good deal of grain, but, hey, that's the low budget 70's for ya'.
Mono, English dub. Optional English subtitles. Well, it isnt the greatest track. The problems are all source related. The mono track has a good deal of muffle and some occasional low levels.
Original Trailer. --- Still Gallery. --- ‟Mitchum The Mean Machine‟ interview with star Christopher Mitchum (18:14). Let me say this- if you are a DVD company and you have the rights to any Chris Mitchum titles (Final Score, Murder in a Blue World, Summertime Killer, American Commandos...), line the guy up for an interview and/or commentary. He is extremely genial and oozes charm. I don't know wether he pre-watched the movie for the interview but his recall is great. He gives a nice overview of how he got started in acting, his first fire of notoriety, getting effectively blacklisted in the States, and then his reprieve in Euro (and eventually Asian, though he only mentions it in passing) cult cinema. Naturally, in addition, he delivers several anecdotes about making Ricco.
White guy karate. Squib-spattering shootouts. An infamous graphic castration scene. Barbara Bouchet doing an extended night and fog drenched striptease. A genre fan cannot ask for much more. Dark Sky delivers a welcome, uncut, and decent transfer of Ricco The Mean Machine, making this one well worth a purchase.