Crime, Drama

Gone With The Pope (1976)

Comments Off on Gone With The Pope (1976) 15 August 2015

Gone with the Pope coverStudio: Grindhouse Releasing

Blu-Ray Release: March 24th, 2015

Rating: Not Rated

Directed by Duke Mitchell

Review by Craig Sorensen

Duke Mitchell’s epic final film finally sees the light of day thanks to the Herculean efforts of Grindhouse Releasing.  If you’ve seen Mitchell’s previous directorial effort Massacre Mafia Style you might have some idea what to expect (old Italian men acting cool, saying a bunch of outrageous things and shooting people).  Of course, with Mitchell, what you get is more than the sum of it’s parts. 

Gone with the Pope 01The plot, such as it is, involves Paul (Mitchell) being released from prison (crime undisclosed) and immediately being contracted by the mafia to hit seven men.  From there he decides to take a cruise with some buddies from prison to Italy.  Why are they going to Italy?  Why, to kidnap the Pope of course.  Paul and company pull it off without a hitch but begin to have second thoughts (it wouldn’t be an Italian-American crime picture without Christian guilt).  Then Paul comes back and kills some more people.  Look, the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, OK.  Mostly the film plays like a series of strange, pulpy interludes.  I guess there is a sort of character arc for Paul as he goes from unrepentant criminal to someone who has doubts, which leads into one of the greatest endings in film history.  You won’t see the end coming but once you see it you’ll realize it couldn’t end any other way. 

Gone with the Pope 02So, Gone with the Pope had been sitting, unfinished, since the ‘70s until Grindhouse partnered with Mitchell’s son to finally finish the film.  It doesn’t really begin to feel like an unfinished film until about the halfway point.  More and more of the film is shot MOS and dialog is overdubbed.  This is also where the film drags a little bit.  It’s a minor complaint though as there is still some amazingly bizarre stuff there.  It’s also where the film is at it’s most philosophic with some great speeches from Mitchell about his character’s views on the church and religion.  If that’s not your cup of tea just hang in there, the film gets back to the bloodshed eventually. 

Gone with the Pope 04a

Gone with the Pope 03Films like this don’t seem to be made any more. It’s a vanity project through and through, of course (written, directed and starring Duke Mitchell who also contributes to the soundtrack), and those are certainly not a dying breed these days.  No, there’s something in the style of the film that sets it apart.  If a similar film were to be made today, every decision would be informed by the ‘Hollywood’ style.  Everything would be designed to mimic the look and feel of a larger budgeted film.  There would be a couple of Scorsese and Tarantino riffs here and there and the structure and cinematography and editing would look just like every other film released in the last twenty years.  I don’t know if it’s a lack of imagination, ingenuity or some diluted stab at big business legitimacy.  That last option is probably the closest to the truth. 

Gone with the Pope 07

Gone with the Pope 08Independently made films these days feel less like art and more like a business card.  “Please consider me for your next franchise film Mr. Studio Executive”.  You can’t really say that about films like Gone with the Pope.  There are so many strange little touches that seem so out of place. Together though they come together to create a uniquely singular feel. Are they intentional?  Are they accidental?  Does it matter?  And what studio executive would see this and think ‘yes, I want this man directing the Jaws reboot’.  And it’s strange because you would think that more films like this would be seeing the light of day now because the tools needed to make a film are so much cheaper.  For less than $5,000 you could buy a very nice camera and some sound equipment and shoot whatever you want.  The tools are cheaper but the infrastructure just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Maybe with the passage of time these films will emerge, I don’t know.  I guess I’ll just keep being bored when I go to the movies or listen to people talk about whatever cool new film is hot at the moment.

Gone with the Pope 05

Gone with the Pope 09Anyway, the blu-ray looks fucking great.  Colors are strong and vibrant and the film hasn’t been overly processed.  If you saw the film in it’s recent theatrical showing then you’ll know what to expect.  Audio is available in mono, stereo and a 5.1 surround mix.  And this being a Grindhouse Releasing, uh, release, you get plenty of extras.  First up is “The Players” a 60 minute video gathering many of the actors and crew who put the film together.  “Shooting Gone with the Pope” is a 20 minute conversation with the film’s cinematographer Peter Santoro.  Santoro returns for a very short “Restoring Gone with the Pope” segment detailing the work that went into finally finishing and restoring the film for it’s theatrical release.  You also get some entertaining outtakes from the film, seven deleted scenes, and an almost full set from Frankie Carr and the Nov-elites live in Las Vegas.  Finally you get some video from the film’s premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.  Also included is the theatrical trailer and trailers for other Mitchell films Massacre Mafia Style and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla and all the other Grindhouse Releasing trailers.  Hopefully we’ll be getting The Tough Ones soon.

Rating: ★★★★★

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- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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