- or, as seen here, Riki-Oh - has been a bit of a cause celebre
in the world of the video bootleg for a while now. A lot of us received
our first taste of this movie in Tom Weissner's Asian Cult Cinema
magazine, in a short article that described the movie in all its visceral
hyperbole. A couple of years later, I found a laserdisc pressing in
a shop that rented HK discs - the laser had no English subtitles, but
that didn't really seem to matter - Story of Ricky is the sort
of movie where the dialogue is almost superfluous. I missed the subtle
nuance here and there, but.... wait. Did I just say 'subtle'? Come now!
This is Story of Ricky we're talking about here!
you don't already know, Story of Ricky is a Hong Kong-Japanese
co-production, based on a hyper-violent manga of the same
name. Those of you familiar with comics like Fist of the North Star
and Violence Jack have an idea of what I mean by hyper- violence;
the autuers of these strips have an astoundingly grotesque imagination
when it comes to creative, explosive means of death. It's a story structure
we seen before in these pages, in the Daimajin
movies: Bad guys get to do really bad guy things, then die a
we see a bit of text onscreen informing us that it is the far-flung
year 2000, and all prisons have been privatized (In fact, in the Tokyo
Shock tape I'm reviewing, we get told this twice, at the very
beginning). Into such a prison comes our hero, Ricky, a man who is still
carrying around five bullets in his chest!
we all know, anything run by Big Business becomes irretrievably corrupt,
and this prison is no exception. Guards are largely
absent - what order there is inside being kept by four murderous convicts
called the Gang of Four, with each running a separate wing of the prison.
Our first inkling of what it's like on the inside occurs when Wildcat*, a major bully with an entourage of two, smashes the
wooden toy locomotive a white collar criminal was making for his son.
The salaryman tries to jump Wildcat with a wood lathe, but instead winds
up with a strip lathed from his nose (ouch!). Chuckling, Wildcat
saunters away... only to have Ricky trip him, so he does a header, face
down, on the exposed nails of the smashed engine (OUCH!).
would be excruciating viewing were the shot of Wildcat's head impaling
itself upon the bed of nails not such an obvious dummy - that, and we
are led to believe that Wildcat quite naturally put up his hand to ward
off the nails... and so winds up with his hand nailed to his face for
the remainder of the scene!
revenge, Wildcat enlists the aid of 400 pound homicidal maniac Elephant,
whose job it is to kill Ricky and then eat him.
Ricky responds to this by punching through Elephant (that is
some kung fu!), causing the fat felon to take a slow motion fall,
guts spilling from his abdomen and blood flying everywhere (again, in
slow motion... odd how his wound here looks nothing like the
wound Ricky inflicted in the close-up...). Ricky then takes a spike
through the hand from Wildcat (without blinking), and, for an encore,
punches through Wildcat. This eventually brings Ricky into conflict
with Gang of Four member Oscar, who slashes Ricky's arm badly during
their fight. Ricky responds by digging into his wrecked arm, knotting
the sinews back together, and then proceeding to beat the hell out of
Oscar. The bad guy, not about to be outdone, commits hara-kiri, hauling
out his own intestines to strangle Ricky!
there's more! Ricky throws Oscar into the air, and when he deals Oscar
the fatal blow, we get to see it in X-Ray (thank you, Streetfighter!)! Emboldened by Ricky's victory,
the inmates descend on the evil Assistant Warden (who has a claw for
one hand and a glass eye that dispenses mints), only to have the rest
of the Gang of Four show up to deal out some serious hurtin'.
is where what is perceived as Story of Ricky's major selling
point: if you watched Comedy Central's The Daily Show in the
Craig Kilborn days, the host would always close his celebrity interview
with a segment called "Five Questions", which was introduced
by a scene of a huge man making a mannequin's head explode betwixt his
clapping hands. That scene is from Story of Ricky, and it is
Gangster of Four Taizan's way of stopping the convicts cold (it is
a rather hard act to follow). The other Gangsters include a New Wave
guy who throws knitting needles attached to elastic bands, and what
is supposed to be a manga pretty boy, effeminate but deadly.
They're not fooling anyone - that's Yukari Oshima with a short hair
cut! (I'd recognize those luscious hips anywhere...)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Ricky's kung fu. Damn, he's good! But that's not
all - Ricky also has superhuman strength. We are informed of this during
a flashback when Ricky's uncle asks him, "So, Ricky... do you still
have superhuman strength?" Ricky is serving time for the first
time he used his skills in anger, killing the drug dealer responsible
for the death of his girlfriend. So it is small wonder that, when Ricky
discovers that the entire west wing of the prison is being used to grow
opium poppies, he goes nutzoid again and burns the entire crop.
all the bad guys are pissed at Ricky, including the recently
returned Warden, who packs a gun which, for some reason, makes people
blow up like balloons and explode. And oh, yeah, he knows Ricky's form
of kung fu, too. Only when he uses it, he grows into a seven
foot tall monster, with a real mucus problem.
may think I've told you a lot of what goes on in Ricky. I assure
you, I have not - just when you think this movie has run out of ways
to do violence to the human form, it surprises you all over again. Yet
it somehow, oddly, manages to avoid being totally mean-spirited; unlike
the catalog of atrocities in say, your average Italian chunk-blower,
the stuff on display in Ricky is more like the exuberant grossness
of a 13 year-old who has been drawing his own comic books and suddenly
discovers the magic of a red marker. A friend, unable to see past the
gore, once remarked that Romero's Dawn of the Dead looked like
what would happen if a young boy were given a movie camera and a budget;
he was wrong - Story of Ricky is that movie. This gleeful
gratuity totally befits the movie's comic book origins - Ricky will
be battered, cut, torn and bleeding from a fight in one scene, and appear
miraculously whole and unscarred in the very next scene. He even regenerates
like Wile E. Coyote.
I wouldn't classify Story of Ricky as a comedy, the movies it
immediately invokes as comrades are gore comedies, like Evil Dead II and Bad Taste.
The gore comedy is fiendishly hard to pull off - there is a reason that
only Raimi and Jackson's names fly to mind when one contemplates masters
of this subgenre. Those pictures share Ricky's enthusiasm for
showing What's On The Inside Suddenly Coming Outside - which is why
I must post a particular caveat for this picture.
ten years ago, when I was working full-time at a local theater (stage,
not movie), a group of us would, every Sunday, scrape the children's
show makeup off and head to my house to watch movies (the idea being
it was somebody's turn to entertain us). After several weeks
of programming such odd and well-received fare as Straight to Hell
and Diane Keaton's Heaven, I tried to slip in Bad Taste
- and was commanded, after the first ten minutes, to turn the movie
off. By every female in the room.
is a rare woman, it seems, who can look past the horror on the screen,
to see the latex and colored syrup, and appreciate the audacity of what
the filmmakers are parading across the screen. And that's okay
- if we were all warped, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere would
starve. But I learned a powerful lesson on that day: maybe my sense
of humor is a shade too refined.
years later, I was asked by a friend (the sort of friend who asks really
good questions), as he looked about my apartment ... at the horror
movie stuff, the extensive library of Warner Brothers Cartoons, the
comic books and music encompassing all genres... he asked, "What
is the unifying theme here? What is it about all this that you like?"
I thought for a moment and then answered, "I like the absurd. And
when you get right down to it, there is nothing more absurd than a horror
is a fine distinction, this razor's edge difference between absurd
and horrifying. Daffy Duck getting shot in the head any number
of times and suffering only Beak Dislocation is absurd; so is a man
punching his way through another man. If there was anything in the least
realistic about the goings-on in Ricky, it would be unwatchable
drek; as it is, even the plausible incidents in the movie - and there
aren't many - are rendered in such an over-the-top manner that one expects
Jon Lovitz' Master Thespian to step out from behind a column and shout,
"Acting!" In badly-synced sound, of course. The Tokyo Shock
version has provided the one thing I was missing from my Ricky
experience- typically bad dubbing, allowing it to finally keep company,
in my mind, with my beloved Shaw Brothers movies from the 70's.
upshot of all this? Story of Ricky comes highly recommended,
but use as directed. Display at beer-swilling Guy Meetings. Do not
expect to pop it in on a quiet evening on the couch and have your lady
love appreciate it's gooey wonders over a glass of Chablis.
but if she does, gentlemen - that's amore, which is Italian for,