I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Vern’s Got DVD Reviews Of Two Dark Sky Cult Titles! TRAGIC CEREMONY and RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This is the best possible thing for Vern to end up reviewing for us… crazy obscure video titles. And I love the guys over at Dark Sky, so it’s a match made in heaven. Today’s review just proves my point…

So this Dark Sky label has been sending me their DVDs ever since I reviewed their great TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE ULTIMATE EDITION. Most of them aren’t classics like that, they’re obscure little things I never heard of, and they can be pretty interesting. This month’s titles are TRAGIC CEREMONY and RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE.

TRAGIC CEREMONY is a 1972 Italian horror movie about a TRAGIC CEREMONY. A group of young people go boating, then driving around in a dune buggy, they run out of gas and end up having to go up to a mansion to ask for help. Little do they know there’s a TRAGIC CEREMONY that’s gonna happen there. See, there’s a satanic cult, and one character has this pearl necklace that has a spooky past, and who knows what kind of crazy shit will go down?

Well, I know. I saw the movie. Some heads get chopped off, a guy gets thrown out a window, etc.

Tragic CeremonyI like the feel of the movie but it’s pretty slow, and let’s be honest, satanic cults are obsolete as a source of horror. Yeah, there was that time in the ’80s when Geraldo did a special and it seemed like at any moment you could find some satanists sacrificing bunnies in the woods by your house. But as soon as Anton Lavey and those type of dudes started actually appearing on talk shows it was all over. Those guys aren’t scary, they’re hilarious. Who’s gonna be afraid of a guy in a cape? Come on.

Luckily, as soon as the TRAGIC CEREMONY is over the movie gets more interesting. It suddenly and unexpectedly gets gory, the young people flee and since one of them left his guitar it’s suspected that a Charles Manson type hippie cult was responsible for the TRAGIC CEREMONY. But they don’t really have to prove their innocence because they seem to be kind of cursed and one–by–one meet gruesome fates.

I’m not saying the movie is great, but you will at least be impressed by this very realistic head that gets a sword chopped into it. The effects were done by that guy Carlo Rambaldi, and they’re pretty great. You can tell they were proud of that sword-to-the-head thing because they replay it about 7 or 8 times at the end.

The end of the movie is a real bummer though. It seems like a nice mysterious and unexplained occurrence, but then some dude comes out and explains what he thinks happened. It’s like PSYCHO but even more ridiculous because he’s explaining supernatural things, not psychological. Oh well.

To be honest the thing that got me to watch the movie was Camille Keaton. She’s Buster Keaton’s grand-niece, and she was in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOLANGE?, but I know her mainly as “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five [actually, four] men beyond recognition… but no jury in America would ever convict her!” from I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. She’s pretty good and doesn’t have to get raped in this one. The DVD also has an interview with her, about 12 minutes long. She talks about her career in European movies while sitting in front of two I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE posters. She doesn’t go into detail about that movie, but does seem to remember it fondly. She points out some similarities between that one and TRAGIC CEREMONY.

RiccoI was more impressed by the 1973 crime thriller RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE starring Christopher Mitchum as a young guy who gets out of prison, his dad has been killed by the mafia, and after some shenanigans he decides to exact revenge.

Yes, Christopher Mitchum is Robert Mitchum’s son. In the movie though he doesn’t look like his dad or have his kind of presence. He kind of looks like if after HAROLD AND MAUDE Bud Cort had a growth spurt and decided he was tough. I guess you could argue that Ricco is kind of tough, because he does karate on a bunch of dudes, and later shoots some guys and throws some guys off a bridge. But he’s just a lanky kid with a mop top and a red turtleneck. On the cover he’s painted as a bad motherfucker, and it does seem like people in the movie see him that way. He has two beautiful girlfriends (Barbara Bouchet and Malisa Longo) and they don’t seem to care that he gets around.

The movie has gone by many titles, RICCO and THE MEAN MACHINE being two of them. I can understand why they combined them for this DVD, because it sounds pretty cool. And it’s definitely better than the title used on the trailer included on the DVD, which is SOME GUY WITH A STRANGE FACE IS LOOKING FOR YOU TO KILL YOU. That one just doesn’t roll off the tongue, in my opinion.

But the truth is Ricco is not that much of a mean machine. In fact, the other guys in the movie are way more mean. They beat guys and throw them into acid. They kill Ricco’s entire family, including his mom, who’s in a wheelchair. They kill his girlfriend and send her back to him as bars of soap, saying they’ve returned what belongs to him. Also, they cut a guy’s dick off and stuff it into his mouth and then toss him into acid. It’s not just mean to him but to the audience because they show it and it looks pretty real.

So compared to them Ricco is not a mean machine, he’s actually a pretty laid back machine. Though he does beat a guy’s face in with the butt of a rifle. And shoot a guy in the ass. And smile about it. But still, he never cuts anything off of a guy nor does he shove that thing into the guy’s mouth, and if he did it would probaly not be the guy’s dick. You’d have to be a real asshole machine to do something like that.

That’s definitely the highlight of the movie though. When I started watching the movie I was not thinking “this seems like one of those movies where they cut a guy’s dick off and shove it in his mouth and then toss him into acid.” If I had to bet one way or the other I would’ve bet that the movie would not have gone that way. But I would’ve been wrong.

But if you are not into graphic violence there is some beauty in the movie. Both of Ricco’s girlfriends get naked. Bouchet has a really funny scene where she suddenly appears in the middle of a foggy road and does a strip tease on the hood of some mob guys’ car to lure them out, at which point they get tossed off the bridge. It’s a pretty goofy movie.

The DVD includes an interview with Mitchum, giving some background on his acting and martial arts. And now he does kind of look like Robert Mitchum. Still doesn’t look like a very mean machine, though.

–Vern

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/35441

http://youtu.be/vOU0m9cehUE

http://youtu.be/qBGc8gXJn8A

View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 3:18 a.m. CST

    Hey Niemla…

    by Horace Cox

    Suck it!

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 3:21 a.m. CST

    Pearl necklace???

    by Horace Cox

    A chick in TRAGIC CEREMONY gets a pearl necklace? What kid of filth are you watching, Vern? And where can I rent it?

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 4:45 a.m. CST

    I

    by Spoiler_Man

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 4:48 a.m. CST

    Does Vern ever get to see proper movies?

    by Spoiler_Man

    Or does Harry not let him? Is he banned from cinemas across the country due to his outlaw past? I bet Vern’s cut a guys dick off, stuck it in his mouth and thrown him in acid.
    Vern is my hero.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 4:48 a.m. CST

    Im sorry for my first post

    by Spoiler_Man

    I got all excited thinking about this Tragic Ceremony movie and hit the enter button after entering just one word.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 5:03 a.m. CST

    LOL

    by Spoiler_Man

    See, there’s a satanic cult, and one character has this pearl necklace that has a spooky past, and who knows what kind of crazy shit will go down?

    Well, I know. I saw the movie.”
    LOL!

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 5:08 a.m. CST

    Ricco was also released as Gangland

    by JackRabbitSlim

    The VHS copy under the Gangland title was slightly edited in that there is no cock-in-mouth but does sport the copious nudity. Nowhere near as good as some of Fernando Di Leo’s films, this one is definitely only for the Italo-crime completists.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 5:17 a.m. CST

    Anton Lavey

    by Knuckleduster

    I’m checking out the Church Of Satan website now. Funny shit. Well, about as funny as any religion, I suppose. But these guys are clowns, man. They should watch Rosemary’s Baby. Polanski can out-evil anyone (but in a good way, of course).

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 6:01 a.m. CST

    Both Sound better than what I watched last night!

    by FILMFUNK

    Which was Hatchet!
    This site has been bigging up that movie from the start so I though it would at least be entertaining but I ended up forwrding between the Kills (which were at least pretty decent in camera effects with no CG) but it’s a bit sad when the extra features are 100 times more entertaining than the movie!

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 6:52 a.m. CST

    I like the longer title

    by Franklin T Marmoset

    SOME GUY WITH A STRANGE FACE IS LOOKING FOR YOU TO KILL YOU. That is a solid title right there.
    I saw a film last night that should have been called SOME GUY WITHOUT A MUSTACHE WILL LATER GROW A MUSTACHE AND SHOOT A BUNCH OF OTHER GUYS. It was Wyatt Earp.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 7:26 a.m. CST

    DICK/MOUTH/ACID!!!

    by travis-dane

    Sounds Great!

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 7:30 a.m. CST

    I wish Vern would review “Remains of the Day”

    by Abin Sur

    Just to hear him talk about how did Hannibal Lecter turn into such a pussy.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 7:48 a.m. CST

    it’s the Ong Bak of decapitation movies

    by Kloipy

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST

    Man…

    by Dollar Bird

    How many times have I gone into a movie thinking “this seems like one of those movies where they cut a guy’s dick off and shove it in his mouth and then toss him into acid.”? None times, but now I know it could happen.
    If you want mainstream reviews by Vern, folks, you should go to his websight. Great stuff on there. His reviews of Beowulf and Cars were particularly good.
    Also, Vern, sorry you’ve been getting flak on other talkbacks. Those people, are kind of all douches. You’ll only get mad love from me.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 7:51 a.m. CST

    I won’t see theese flicks, but…

    by FlickaPoo

    …read the review twice. Laid back machine…dig it.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 8:29 a.m. CST

    Kloipy:”it’s the Ong Bak of decapitation movies”

    by travis-dane

    funky!MILF forever man!

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 8:40 a.m. CST

    travis, you know it brother!

    by Kloipy

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 9:12 a.m. CST

    Dark Sky presents; Un-timely Gathering

    by Kloipy

    Vern, you continue to make my day with each new review.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Dark Sky DVD Transfers

    by Matango!

    Dark Sky has a bad habit of cropping their transfers on all four sides…

    http://tinyurl.com/2fo8xq

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 11:51 a.m. CST

    i wasn’t going to read this

    by frankenfickle

    because i’ve never heard of either movie and don’t care about horror. then i saw vern’s name attached and thought oh of course i have to read this. and i did. and it was awesome. thanks vern, you’re always interesting.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Filmfunk

    by Vern

    Yeah, I have to agree with you on HATCHET. I read all about it here and in the Fangoria horror magazine and it sounds like exactly the type of movie I want to see. None of that meta shit like BEHIND THE MASK, just straight-ahead sort-of retro slasher movie. But it just didn’t work for me.

    I think maybe two of the biggest problems for me were 1. it didn’t follow the traditional slasher formula of having the characters separate and get picked off one by one, which sounds fine except it means most of the movie is a big group of people standing in the same place exchanging bad dialogue. and 2. there was no atmosphere at all! It didn’t look like a real swamp or like they were ever moving through the swamp. It looked like one small soundstage with some headlights shining on it.

    At least they got Kane Hodder to be the killer though. He was kind of a stupid character with all his dubbed in Toxic Avenger style growling, but I’m glad he wasn’t some Stifler-looking dude like in BEHIND THE MASK.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Franklin…

    by TELF

    You’re in the UK? I watched a bit of Earp last night too. And Tombstone was a coupla nights before that. Tombstone is trashy but I must admit I prefer it…

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 4:26 p.m. CST

    Biggest problem with Hatchet…

    by sonnyfern

    What the hell was Crowley? A ghost? A zombie? We never get any kind of goddamn rules…If they would’ve made him just a regular crazy, I think it would’ve been a lot more effective.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Vern reviews all types of movies…

    by Master Darque

    If you haven’t already, you should really check out his site — I read that more than AICN. If I’m bored, I just go into the review archives and pick one at random. Words fail to convey how privileged we all are to be on the planet at the same time as Vern. Anyone who likes his reviews should really check out his review for “The Secret” — truly one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  • Jan. 29, 2008, 8:54 p.m. CST

    aka CAULDRON OF DEATH

    by Missing Dink

    Like I said, aka CAULDRON OF DEATH.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 7:07 a.m. CST

    Master Darque

    by Gilkuliehe

    Isn’t it?! I was at this party once and this boring bitch started babbling about THE SECRET, and I kept remembering Vern’s review of it, and how Gollum and Die Hard refute THE SECRET. I started laughing and I just had to tell everyone about Vern and his theory. Needless to say the boring bitch felt very insulted by me, but what’s a guy to do. Thank you Vern.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Tragic Ceremony sounds like Rocky Horror

    by CuervoJones

    Vern rocks.

  • Jan. 30, 2008, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Vern should have his own Coaxial here. Cuz

    by Stormwatcher

    Truly man, he’s the best reviewer on this site. Harry is good for news and opinions but not reviews. Not after giving the pass to Sum of All Fears, Armageddon, Van Helsing, ah man so much crap he likes.

  • Feb. 1, 2008, 3:36 a.m. CST

    Vern knows what I mean.

    by The-Duke-of-New-York

    “Then fuck you, jack” is probably my most visited recreation website. www.geocities.com/outlawvern

  • Feb. 1, 2008, 8:25 a.m. CST

    Everytime I walk into a movie now…

    by psychedelic

    I’ll think, “Hmmmmm. I wonder if this is one of those movies where they chop a guy’s dick off, shove it down his throat, and throw him in a vat of acid.” LOL

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 at 4:01 am and is filed under AICN, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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