“Some guy with a strange face is looking for you to kill you.”
Chris Mitchum (son of legendary actor Robert Mitchum) is Ricco Avasi; a fresh from prison parolee who comes home to find out that his gangster father has been whacked and his woman Rosa (Marisa Longo) is with another man. The sonofabitch behind it all is Don Vito (Arthur Kennedy) and he has no idea the kind of hell he has brought on himself by messing with the MEAN MACHINE. So full of vengeance that it looks like he is sleepwalking, Ricco travels to Rome to find the bastards that screwed up his life. He eventually teams up with an old counterfeiter and his often-naked daughter (Barbara Bouchet) to exact his revenge in this Italian/Spanish co-production.
Ricco talks a lot and gets into a ‘so bad it’s awesome’ karate brawl at a soap company. Sex. People shoot guns. Weird group hugs. Acid baptisms. Boobs. Fiats. Violated crotches. Everything I would want to see in a kick-ass revenge movie. I mean look at that dvd box art! Ricco sprawled in a chair with a gun in one hand and a cigarillo in the other. There are scantily clad women (wait…one is topless!) and a car that looks like it is about to swerve and splatter Don Vito all over the pavement. All of that potential energy is squandered and the film is boring (save for one painful sequence) and so uneven that you will pray that something happens in the movie. When a naked breast appears on screen, you will actually cheer. The main reason that this film drags is Chris Mitchum himself, who looks like he would prefer to be doing anything else rather than taking names and kicking ass.
Argentinian-born Tulio Demicheli, like a lot of his European contemporaries, was a jack-of-all-trades director and worked in different genres in Spain. One of the inherent downfalls of working on co-productions in Europe in the 1970s (like Ricco) was that these films played like rip-offs of films that ripped off something else. In fact, Ricco The Mean Machine is kind of similar to…lemme think…that Spanish flick where Karl Malden plays the cop with the guilty conscience…oh right…! The plots between the two movies is virtually the same – man gets revenge for father’s death and both star CHRIS MITCHUM!
It seems that the producers on Ricco The Mean Machine knew they had a rotten egg on their hands and were desperate to market this movie to the unsuspecting masses. One of the most aggregious moves in cinema history was to edit and market Ricco The Mean Machine to U.S. audiences as a horror film entitled The Cauldron of Death. I can’t imagine watching something titled as awesome as The Cauldron of Death and still end up having to watch the same ol’ Ricco slump around Rome yawning his way to revenge. That would be enough to turn anyone into a mean machine. As hard as I am on Ricco The Mean Machine, it does have some good qualities as well. Veteran film and stage actor Arthur Kennedy does a damn fine job as the slick Don Vito. Kind of ironic that a mob boss who owns a soap factory can come off so smarmy. Barbara Bouchet pulls out her typical ‘Girl Friday’ role and manages to get naked or nearly that way throughout most of the film. Malisa Longo follows suit (no pun intended) and spends about half of her screen time in the buff, although her performance is much more tragic.
Overall, Ricco The Mean Machine is total crap. It moves at a snail’s pace and by the time Ricco finally decides to commence his vengeance, we are ten minutes away from end credits. A few shots are fired. The end. Thank whatever god you pray to that it’s over. Dark Sky Films released Ricco The Mean Machine back in 2008. It includes a still gallery and a documentary entitled Mitchum The Mean Machine; where he speaks about his short start in Hollywood and his career in Europe and Asia.It’s actually more enjoyable than Ricco is. This isn’t a film for everybody and if you are interested in Italian crime films, I would seek out Umberto Lenzi‘sand Enzo Castellari‘s before you try to watch this one. But if you are a glutton for punishment…then by all means, check it out.