Ricco The Mean Machine

Ricco The Mean Machine (Tulio Demicheli, 1973)

 aka ‘Un tipo con una faccia strana ti cerca per ucciderti’

Recently released from prison, a year early for good behaviour, Ricco (Chris Mitchum) makes his way home to the family owned petrol Station only to find it closed for business. Customers pull up on the forecourt only to drive off when they realise there is no one around to serve them. His Mother and sister are both at home, trouble is that his sister is too busy having wild sex with her husband and his Mother is sitting in her wheelchair chugging down a bottle of J&B. Where’s the Father? He had his head ventilated just before the film’s title sequence…

It turns out Ricco’s spell in prison was due to him trying to attack a certain Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy), a notorious gangster who may have had something to do with Ricco’s Father’s murder. Naturally now he’s out of prison his mother is keen for Ricco to exact revenge, offering him his Father’s pistol so he can meet out family justice. Ricco refuses declaring that he’ll get Don Vito by his own methods. Scouring the streets for clues Ricco soon meets up with sassy scam artist Scilla (Barbara Bouchet) and between them the pair come up with a plan to infiltrate Don Vito’s mansion and get even with crime lord.

Not known for his great acting range Chris Mitchum started out in the film business as a gofer on his father’s films, progressing to acting alongside the likes of John Wayne and other old school Hollywood Western stalwarts and it’s easy to see where he got the idea of playing straight faced emotionless hard men from. All criticisms aside he does fare pretty well in this film especially taking into consideration his particularly wooden turn in Antonio Isasi-Isasimendi’s ‘The Summertime Killer’ the previous year.

With his hair slicked back and dyed dark brown, along with his eyebrows and moustache, the wonderful Arthur Kennedy rules the roost as the dreaded Don Vito and pretty much steals the scene every time he’s on screen.

Director Demicheli takes full advantage of Barbara Bouchet’s beauty with gratuitous close ups of her cleavage and backside and the foggy moonlit strip tease is pure exploitation heaven. Despite the bad acting and poorly choreographed fight scenes it’s the show stopping violence that makes Ricco an unforgettable film. Women get bitch slapped, men get bitch slapped and poor unforunates are reduced to sludge in vats of acid… Thoroughly remorseless in attitude and damned dirty with its aggro, Ricco is as morally wrong as it is wild.

Fans of the film have been denied for years the chance to see the fully uncut version, only an extremely rare Venezuelen VHS release contained the fully uncut version and copies of that were of such terrible quality that it rendered the film unwatchable. Dark Sky have now remedied this situation with a great looking 16:9 enhanced widescreen DVD that is fully uncut. Rounding out the package is an Italian language trailer and a featurette featuring an interview with Ricco himself Chris Mitchum, who turns out to be a great guy with a very lucid memory for the films he made so long ago.

A well overdue release but very welcome indeed and surely should be in the collection of every European Cult movie aficionado.

(Jonny Redman)

Note: Portions of this review were first published in the Midnight Media publication ‘Blazing Magnums vol. 1’ obtainable by visiting the link below.

Midnight Media