Unreleased But Viewable: Ricky 6

Chris Jordan takes on the little known film, Ricky 6.

"I just can't wait to star
on Mad Men."
They are the stuff of myths and legends among film fans: movies that get most or all of the way through production, but for some reason are never released. The tantalizing mystery of why a film never saw the light of day, or what it might have been like if it had, naturally captures the imagination of moviegoers. Or perhaps it is the very fact that the films are impossible to see that makes them so intriguing: the ultimate rare movie for collectors to wish they could get their hands on. But every now and then, an unreleased film finds its way out into the world through unofficial channels: either someone close to the project leaks it just so it can finally be seen, or a copy finds its way into the hands of someone who decides to share the secret. One such film, which exists only as a leaked workprint of its unreleased final cut, is Peter Filardi's 2000 indie drama Ricky 6. And thanks to YouTube, it is far more readily available than most rare films ever get to be.

A moody character study telling the true story of a New England teenager's psychological downward spiral, Ricky 6 was screenwriter Filardi's first (and only) film as a director, and generated a decent amount of buzz before its sudden and strange disappearance. It got as far as a few festival showings, where it was greeted with strong reviews and a couple awards, and it was even slated for a North American theatrical run. But then something happened – allegedly having to do with behind-the-scenes financial troubles and the legal complications that they caused – and the film suddenly found itself in an un-releasable limbo, where it has stayed for fifteen years. But eventually bootleg DVDs of the film's final workprint began circulating, and someone claiming to be Peter Filardi posted the workprint on YouTube. Could it be that the writer/director leaked his own film, just so it could be widely seen at last? The leaked workprint is of pretty good quality too, all things considered: a somewhat washed-out VHS copy with burned-in timecode, but the finished cut of the movie, with completed post-production work, music, and audio mix. Not ideal, of course, but more than good enough for a film that was never supposed to be released at all, and way better than the typical workprint. Even in this state, Ricky 6 is a very good movie.

Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men, Angel) plays Ricky, a sensitive but troubled kid in the mid-1980s struggling with more than his share of psychological and emotional baggage. As he searches desperately for some sort of purpose or sense of belonging and acceptance, he discovers Satanism, and it provides the perfect outlet for his feelings of depression and alienation. It is clear from the opening scene that Ricky is in a dangerously steep downward spiral that cannot end well (the film is told in flashback), but the focus is not on where Ricky ends up, or what he ultimately does; it is on understanding him as a person, and exploring his frayed mental state. It is hard to not feel sympathy for this kid who is quite literally going through a personal hell just to find some sense of knowing where he fits into the world around him – particularly thanks to Vincent Kartheiser's excellent, empathetic performance. A few years before his television fame, this film already shows what a strong actor Kartheiser is.

Ricky's story is told in a very drifting, slice-of-life style, typical of 90s indie films: we hang out with him and his friends (one of whom is played by Patrick Renna, the redhead kid from The Sandlot), and get to be a fly on the wall of their lives; getting to know them as people, and observing their various psychological troubles and the ways in which they cope with them. But we also get to see things subjectively from Ricky's perspective, and this can be quite startling indeed: the film gives us several hallucinatory dream and drug trip sequences, in which his Satanic beliefs come to life before his eyes. This mix of styles is at times reminiscent of both Boys Don't Cry and Heavenly Creatures. With Boys Don't Cry, the film shares its exploration of alienated youth in a small town whose story is told under an oppressive air suggesting impending doom. With Heavenly Creatures, the film shares its skill at vividly capturing its troubled protagonists' mental state, showing us the world through their eyes. It must be said, Ricky 6 is not quite as great as either of those films – it does have some flaws that stop it from reaching that level – but it is nonetheless very good, and uses these styles very strongly.

"VHS quality is SOOOOOO rad!"
Most of the film's flaws simply stem from it being a relatively low-budget indie. The production values are occasionally a bit rough around the edges, and while stars Vincent Kartheiser and Chad Christ (as Ricky's best friend and our narrator) give very good performances, the supporting cast is a bit more uneven. But for an independent film like this, these things are perfectly forgivable; on the whole, Ricky 6 is very impressive, especially for a first feature. The somewhat washed-out VHS quality of the workprint may not allow us to fully appreciate the film's cinematography and lighting design, but even in this state it looks very good. The dream/nightmare/hallucination sequences in particular are very well-done, and quite haunting.

Had Ricky 6 actually been released, at the very least it would have become something of a cult classic, and done very good things for Peter Filardi's career. Yet sadly that was not to be; and as it is, Filardi never directed again, and has only written a couple scripts since. At the very least, we can be happy that someone – whether it was actually Peter Filardi or not – was kind enough to leak the film onto YouTube, so that even if it never finds its way out of distribution hell, it can still be appreciated, and still managed to find a bit of a cult following after all.

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-Christopher S. Jordan