Ricco the Mean Machine DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Dark Sky Films

Aren't you going to get dressed? – Ricco
Why? Does it bother you? – Scilla

Directed by Tulio Demicheli
Written by Mario Di Nardo, Jose G. Maesso and Santiago Moncada
1973, Region 1 (NTSC), 94 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on January 29th, 2008

Christopher Mitchum as Ricco Aversi
Barbara Bouchet as Scilla
Malisa Longo as Rosa
Eduardo Fajardo as Cyrano
Manuel Zarzo as Tony
Arthur Kennedy as Don Avito


Fresh out of the joint, young Ricco (Chris Mitchum, offspring and spitting image of screen giant Robert Mitchum) is eager to get home to see his family. He was cut loose a year early for good behavior, but it certainly wasn't good behavior that got him in the big house in the first place. Two years prior, Ricco took it upon himself to go after Don Avito (Arthur Kennedy), the man who killed his pappy and took his girlfriend. I don't know much about Italy's legal system in the '70s, but it couldn't have possibly been a jury trial. Honestly, who could blame Ricco for wanting to kill the man who messed up his life like that?

Yet Ricco came out of prison a changed man. He had a lot of time to think, and the anger and thirst for revenge is no longer there, much to his mother's chagrin. She is quite upset that her son is not interested in paying back Don Avito for his deeds, and she needles Ricco relentlessly until he reluctantly gives in to her demands.

I assure you, that is when the fun really starts. Up until the point where Ricco decides to avenge his father, even if it's a half-ass resignation to do so, there's a lot of blah blah blah going on. There is a ridiculous fight scene involving Ricco, three or four henchmen, some karate and a non-existent fight choreographer, but it's not until he runs into — and enlists the help of — Scilla (Barbara Bouchet), a con artist working with her counterfeiter uncle to pass funny money, does the movie start to move. And you know the exact moment the movie kicks it, too. It's the moment you see Bouchet's cleavage strutting toward the camera. She is nothing short of stunning.

There are other fantastic moments, too, like when Ricco pays a visit to Don Avito's girlfriend, Rosa (the equally gorgeous Malisa Longo), the very woman Avito took from him, and she starts giving him some lip. When she gets a backhand to that smart mouth of hers, sending her flying onto the bed, yeah, I admit it, I giggled. There's something animalistic about the sultry Rosa, as immediately after the smack, she's ready to give herself to Ricco. It's also great scene, because you can tell Ricco put about two years of the anger he had with her in that swing, all the while making it look nonchalant.

And that is one of the seemingly unique things about Ricco the Mean Machine, its main character's nonchalance throughout the film. For a revenge (and exploitation, oh yes, there's exploitation) flick, its protagonist is one of the most laid back cats I've seen — not unlike Jennifer (Camille Keaton) in I Spit on Your Grave. Mitchum does a good job with the character. Off the bat, he looks laid back with his blond surfer hairstyle. But he's obviously more Californian than just the hair, and Ricco really does come off as carefree. Don't fool yourself into thinking he's too carefree, because by the end of the movie, you'll see why he's called "The Mean Machine", even if he floats through the majority of the film. A high credit to Mitchum for making both aspects of the character believable. Mitchum's Ricco is calm, cool, collected and has a vein of humor about him. Instead of going after Don Avito directly, Ricco goes after his wallet by either shaking down or tricking Vito's henchmen into handing over the money that is supposed to go to Avito.

True to life, when a powerful man's money is messed with, especially a man like Don Avito, he doesn't play nice. Considering Avito keeps a vat of acid about for the explicit purpose of getting rid of 'problems,' you can imagine what kind of person Ricco is dealing with — even if Ricco doesn't. However, towards the end of the movie, Ricco certainly finds out, and finds out hard. The film's ending is a shocker. I didn't see it coming, but it's one that is the most realistic (all things considered) ending possible.

Like Mitchum's Ricco, Arthur Kennedy's Don Avito is one cool cat. He's as collected as Ricco, but is sorely lacking the sense of humor. I guess there are some sacrifices one must make when taking the gig of leader of a crime syndicate. Avito has a calmness on the exterior, but the cold-bloodedness that got him to the top is obviously just under the surface of that faux demeanor. The biggest telltale sign of this is not his use of the acid vat, but his punishment of one of his henchmen for fucking up in the worst possible way. All I will say is, guys, it involves a switchblade in the worst possible place. Kennedy owned this role.

While Ricco the Mean Machine has all the ingredients for an exploitation film — sex, violence, revenge — it also has a good, cohesive story, which is something that many exploitation movies of its time (and now) lacked. And even though some of the fight scenes are unintentionally funny, or some of the effects are a little dated, the film holds up remarkably well, and will be right at home in any 42nd Street Cinema fan's collection.

Video and Audio:

The anamorphic 1.77:1 presentation is soft, but virtually clean of any blemishes. Colors aren't jumping off the screen, but they are what to be expected from a movie of Ricco's age and popularity, and I can only imagine what Dark Sky had to work with. Fortunately, for a 30-year-old movie, it's more than adequate, and this is probably going to be the best video Ricco will see for the near future.

Ricco's 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is somewhat hollow, and would have aided by more bass, but levels are even and there were no noises other than what you are supposed to hear.

Special Features:

  • "Mitchum the Mean Machine" – featurette with Christopher Mitchum
  • Still Gallery
  • Trailer

"Mitchum the Mean Machine" is a too-short 25 minute interview with Christopher Mitchum. He's an incredibly likeable guy, and his interview covers a lot of bases, such as how he got involved in film, his experiences on the set of Ricco, as well as the other movies he's been in. Well worth a watch.

Normally, I don't go out of my way to mention trailers, other than which ones are on the disc. But the Ricco's trailer is worth a look, if only to check the title of the Italian dubbed version of Ricco (which is the only trailer offered).



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