August 2017


Jaime looks at previously released films you may have missed
Gone With The Pope
Grindhouse Releasing
Blu-Ray Review By: Jaime Pina

A labor of love from the fine folks at Grindhouse who spent years searching for, editing and releasing this lost, unfinished gem by Duke Mitchell. Fans of psychotronic cinema had known Duke from his appearance in Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla. In 1951 at the height of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ popularity, Duke was teamed with a young Jerry Lewis look-alike named Sammy Petrillo. The faux team started getting good reviews and with Martin and Lewis making films and touring the world there was a market for a knock off version. Lewis sued them and when the lawsuit was dismissed Mitchell and Petrillo were obligated to make the one feature film together starring a down-on-his-luck Lugosi. Shortly after that Mitchell and Petrillo split and Duke became a popular singer in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and especially Palm Springs where he was a phenomenon.

Always looking for an angle and something to do to make a buck, Duke made a film called Massacre Mafia Style aka The Executioner and it became a cult hit that was sought after for years by fans of insane, underground films. Looking to make a second feature Duke started working on a film that was even more psychotic tentatively titled Kiss The Ring. For whatever reason Duke left work on the film to produce a television special where he paid tribute to Jimmy Durante. The special never aired and Duke fell ill to cancer passing away at a young 55 and the film was forgotten. While inquiring about the location of a negative to Massacre Mafia Style, Duke’s son, musician Jeffrey Mitchell said he wasn’t sure but there were several film cans of an unfinished project in the family garage. After years of research and painstaking restoration, Gone With The Pope was finally unveiled to an unsuspecting world.

Duke plays a criminal named Paul who has just been released from prison. Before he leaves he tells his three close friends that he will pull a job that will insure that the four will be able to spend the rest of their lives sailing the seas in a boat after they are all released. Paul is offered a job killing some wise guys in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and afterwards realizes that he has been set-up. He takes the down payment and concocts a plan to make the retirement money for him and his pals by kidnapping the Pope and charging every Catholic in the world fifty cents each for his safe return.

Having the same off-kilter sense of humor and extreme violence as Massacre Mafia Style, Gone With The Pope is a masterpiece of offbeat cinema. Duke Mitchell is an absolutely unforgettable screen presence with charisma to burn. Some of the other performances in the film are “stiff” but work well in the context of the surreal nature of the film. Featuring music by Duke and son Jeffrey, Gone With The Pope is a film that every fan of The Godfather will laugh along with and fans of subversive, underground, low budget cinema will foam at the mouth at its discovery.

Grindhouse Releasing is one of those small companies dealing in films other companies do not want to deal with. As a result of them being fans first and businessmen second, they cram their releases with great extras and really go the extra mile to make their releases special and this is no exception. The film looks and sounds great and since they had access to the original elements, it is a far better restoration than what they were able to do for Massacre Mafia Style. The music, both Duke’s Italian songs and Jeffrey’s head banging rock songs sound explosive as they should for such an explosive picture. There are several documentaries featuring interviews with many surviving key players associated with Duke and the film. And Duke was such an outrageous character there are many, many incredible stories about the Man and his legendary life.

RIP Duke Mitchell

RIP Sage Stallone (co-founder of Grindhouse Releasing)