Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Christopher Mitchum, Barbara Bouchet, Malisa Longo
Directed by Tulio Demicheli
Released by Dark Sky Films
When is a horror film not a horror film? When it’s a ridiculously cheesy, badly dubbed Italian film staring the son of Robert Mitchum and originally released as Cauldron of Death before being nabbed by Dark Sky for DVD release under the title Ricco the Mean Machine, even though the title card in the film itself is only Ricco. That’s when.
The story follows the titular mean machine (Mitchum) who vows to avenge his father’s death, despite the fact that his dad was a prick who always treated him like a brat. Doesn’t help that he actually was a brat, however. He’s sent to jail for two years after his father is killed, framed for one thing or another, and now he’s back and hot on the vengeance trail.
Well, maybe “hot” is not the right verb. How about lukewarm? Passably interested? Barely shrugging his way through scene after scene of inept dialogue is more like it. The few times the perpetually-stoned looking (just like his father, admittedly) Mitchum actually looks like he’s interested in what’s going on around him are when he’s with one of the two incredibly hot women that find themselves attracted to him. And it ain’t much, trust me.
So the bad guy, Don Vito, has this great scheme going; he puts anyone who crosses him into a nice, warm acid bath, renders their fat, and sells it as designer soap to saps across the planet. My God, did I accidentally discover David Fincher’s influence for the strange career of Tyler Durden? Seems so. Other than the acid bath, though, he doesn’t do too many horrible things … that is, until he finds his best man bedding his best girl (whom he stole from Ricco after killing his father). The punishment for this transgression is an extremely painful castration … followed by the standard acid bath.
I’ve seen a lot of fake cock-n-balls in movies, I hesitantly admit, but the set found in Ricco the Mean Machine are shown just long enough on screen to look pretty damn realistic; one of the only well-done effects in the film, actually. Apparently this scene in particular had crowds freaking out when it was released back in the 70’s, even though it only lasts about 5 seconds and is really the only cringe-inducing moment of the entire film.
Baldy choreographed fight scenes that feature more karate chops dealt out by Mitchum than actual punches (apparently he was a black belt at the time of filming) and awkward shootouts are about all the action you’ll be seeing in the rest of Ricco. The only positive note I can give Ricco is that it doesn’t take the easy route and let the love interest live, instead giving her the old acid-bath treatment, as well. Unexpected, that was.
As for the DVD, the only feature included here is a 20-minute interview with Mitchum shot recently (by Plague Town director David Gregory) that’s actually kind of fun. Young Mitchum got to roll next to The Duke himself in his formative years, before Wayne’s comments about the Vietnam War got him and those who worked with him blacklisted, at which time he headed off to Spain to find a new acting career. Not a bad gig if you can get it, which Mitchum readily admits.
So really not a whole helluva lot of reason to check this out, to be honest, unless you’re curious about the castration scene mentioned early (pervert). It’s certainly not a horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but thankfully Dark Sky is being a bit more upfront about that with the new title than whomever released it as Cauldron of Death.
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
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