Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gone With The Pope

GONE WITH THE POPE (Kiss the Ring) Directed By Duke Mitchell, Starring Duke Mitchell (1975/2010).

Had Duke Mitchell been only known as "Mr. Palm Springs", the singing voice of Fred Flintstone and a close personal friend to "Old Blue Eyes", exploitation film fans would've been totally unaware of his legacy. I don't know what possessed Duke to make "Mafia Massacre Style" (aka The Executioner), but I'm so grateful that he decided to because it's one of the craziest, ballsiest Wopsploitation films ever. Mitchell is not a trained actor by any means, but his presence and natural ability is so genuinely infectious, that it never matters in the slightest and you even root for him. Mafia Massacre Style is a complete film and the reason Gone With The Pope is here for the world to watch is because Duke's son Jeff Mitchell (who also contributed a fuzzed out rock number for Pope) met with Bob Murawski and Bill Lustig (who were major fans of MMS) and they were delighted to find that this lost film was available.

Then years and years went by and many exclusive midnight screenings were presented by Grindhouse Releasing until finally this jam packed Blu-Ray/DVD became available, is it any good, was it worth it . . . kinda.

If you are a fan of homespun grime or just want to see more adventures with Duke Mitchell, then you will eat it up like Manicotti smothered in copious levels of mozzarella and cigarette butts. There's something magical about non actors (no one can claim that this choice was due to Neo Realism unfortunately however). Duke's buddies were just that, his real pals fucking around on film, which chugs along in an odd way, too many ideas were spit balled and tried out, they kind of work and even if they don't, it's all sublimely entertaining!

How do I work this Fuggin thing anyway?

Duke does a Biblical soliloquy during the credits that ends in a joke. We dissolve into cartoony Dick Tracy style gangsters who are nervous about the FBI. It seems as if we're off on the same track as Massacre, but hold on a minute because this movie switches gears a lot. You have to just ingest the weirdness, don't try to bottle it up, let it evolve and maybe you'll be on board with the strange pacing of this unfinished flick.

real Mafia guys are probably burying someone in the desert right now

Mitchell is Paul, a "nice" wise guy who everyone in jail is sad to see go, he wants to hop on a boat where there are no laws (Ahem what about Maritime laws, you mook)?! On the sea, Paul thinks he'll be free from all the oppression. Next he goes to see his wooden acting wife Jean, who's the cleanest thing in his life--just call her "Clean Jean". Why can't he be content with his straight laced wife and dog named Hamlet, possibly because the ocean is calling his name and he has to extort all the Catholics in the world. I mean that's the premise of this film, he's going to hold the Pope for ransom until all his followers pay a dollar. Had this film never come out, the trailer alone would've remained legendary (just like another one of my all time favorite previews that never emerged; Shock Tilt). The erroneous dialogue about "guys getting wacked, drifts over prime vintage Vegas footage" and the musical stylings of Frankie Carr & The Novelettes, who were obviously a real club act they just decided to film to bring color to an already saturated 70's Ambrosia salad of delights.

musical barf!

Pope comes off like a glorious home movie, man those casino lights just shine like crummy evil diamonds! You sense the frenzy of top notch editors behind the scenes, furiously trying to make some semblance of this lost film. And I am glad this DVD exists, even with all its exposed boils and warts, it's very surreal.

Paul guns down Papa Georgio with his "italian sausage" buddy as Jeff Mitchell's crunchy "Jack Knife" song blasts away in a James Gang doom-rock sort of way.

my cousin Miguel Angel Fuentes was in The Puma Man

The racist vibes start reaching an uncomfortable level as Paul dances with a black hooker, then they screw. He mentions that her pubes look like Brillo, which is hilarious because the hair on his head matches her crotch. You can't really get politically correct in an exploitation film, but it's seriously uncomfortable when he racks up the "fried chicken watermelon or do the windows jokes". The way she giggles as he says venomous shit, makes it seem like it's their fetish role-play!

This ain't affirmative action

After some ugliness, a boat is chartered and Paul and his cronies hit the high seas (he maps everything out like a Sicilian Steve Zissou). There's almost no character establishment, things just occur and you're constantly aware that Mitchell probably never intended for this to ever come out. And yet, as dopey and stuck together with sticky tape and bubblegum it is, it's actually endearing and a fun time.

The Life Moronic with Salvatore Zissourelli

It turns out Mitchell's character is the only non Religious one, out of his frightened buddies, who feel that it's a sin to steal the Pope. It's a good thing one of their pals looks exactly like the famed Padre and they can dupe Rome into thinking their Holy Father is still in the Vatican. Just before the whole kidnapping goes down though, this ginormous fat woman is stripped and almost gang banged by the two elderly gagootz! In the extras they mention how John Waters was an influence and they found her at a crummy all night diner. I have severe doubts about whether this girl wants to be seen this way, it's pretty offensive and humiliating.

Fatliners 3 : The Search for more meatballs

The Pope boards the boat and works his magic on all of Paul's scumbag friends, successfully converting all, accept their leader of course, it's a touching scene. Mitchell's speech to the Catholic father is actually moving and one of the best moments in the film. Maybe he should've checked to see if his cronies were Atheists, because they all turn against him and want to leave in peace, absolved of all their sins. Then they all split up and go their separate ways as Paul celebrates Christmas with his wife and dog. After that scene, it gets so random and bizarre that it seems as if a bunch of inserts were spliced together, he's at the racetrack in a Spaghetti Western get-up, stabs some guy, then sees an eyeless vision of the holy Mother, finally running toward the screen in super slo-mo. What was Duke's original intent for the ending--I guess we'll never know. The finale we're left with is silly and uneven, the editors worked overtime trying to fix it and did the best they could with what little source material was available and it's commendable.

Give us some credit Crank! 

From what cinematographer Peter Santoro says in interviews, everyone had tons of ideas and he busted his ass to get it on screen in a sloppy way (and he didn't ever see the dailies as it was happening). My advice is to see Massacre Mafia Style and if you aren't won over by it's charm, don't bother watching this or Bela Lugosi and a Brooklyn Gorilla, because you won't enjoy yourself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...