The Bad Movie Report

Riki-Oh - Story of Ricky

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Rikki-O - 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!

If you don't already know, Story of Ricky is a Hong Kong-Japanese co-production, based on a hyper-violent manga of the "Did you drop this?"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 hideous death.

First, 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!

As 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!).

This 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!

Vowing revenge, Wildcat enlists the aid of 400 pound homicidal maniac Elephant, whose job it is to kill Ricky and then eat him."Ah!  And I didn't get YOU anything!" 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!

Wait, 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'.

Hey... my migraine's gone!Here 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...)

Ahem. 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.

Now 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.

You 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 9 out of ten doctors agree:  OUCH!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.

Although 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.

About 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.

It 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.

Ricky really needs to upgrade his entourage.Several 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 movie."

This 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.

The 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.

Ah, but if she does, gentlemen - that's amore, which is Italian for, that rules.



Hey, Cannibal Ferox fans! Eat This!

- August 15, 1999

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