Saturday, June 11, 2011


Duke Mitchell, 2010
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Peter Milo, Jim LoBianco, Giorgio Tavolieri, Lorenzo Dardado

Though it took almost thirty five years, Gone with the Pope (aka Kiss the Ring) has finally made it onto the big screen. Duke Mitchell's follow up to his previous directorial effort Massacre Mafia Style (aka The Executioner, what good exploitation film doesn't have at least two names?) remained unfinished, stored in boxes until Bob Murawski got a hold of it. Murawski, famous for his award winning editing work on The Hurt Locker and more famous to genre fans for his work with Sam Raimi, took about fifteen years to assemble and edit the film, all done in his free time. His production company, Grindhouse Releasing, is distributing the film on its tour around the country, which started in L.A. earlier this year.

Like Massacre Mafia StyleGone with the Pope was written and directed by Duke Mitchell, who is also the star and does a lot of the soundtrack work. Known in the '60s and '70s as an actor, comedian and singer, his most famous film is Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, though you might also recognize his voice as Fred's singing voice in The Flinstones cartoon. It's amazing that his sophomore effort has finally reached audiences, because it is a wonderful exploitation film well worth trekking out to see.

Duke Mitchell stars as Paul, an ex-con trying to get in one final heist before he embraces the straight life and gets together with his wealthy honey. After completing a near impossible mafia hit that requires him to be in two places at once, he takes the money, rounds up a group of loyal ex-cons he has sworn to protect and heads out to sea. During their absurdly long ocean adventure he plans the heist: they will capture the Pope and ransom $1 from every Catholic in the world, which, obviously, is a shit-ton of dough. And a ridiculous plan. Though his friends are doubtful and slightly scandalized by the idea, they pull it off through a series of silly disguises, a bribe, and the ol' switcheroo. The Pope (Lorenzo Dardado) is calm, quiet, sweet and otherwise very holy, soon winning over his captors with aplomb. Paul, still scornful of religion, is in a conundrum. Should he let the Pope go?

Though Gone with the Pope has all the usual trappings of exploitation cinema - violence, nudity, low production values, bad dialogue, sexism, and racism - it is also fresh, unpredictable and funny, both intentionally and accidentally. Other than the plot description, which you can find pretty much anywhere, I don't want to give too much away. It's a charming, entertaining film that I hope to see again, very soon. I had the fortune of seeing it at the Danger After Dark festival and I highly recommend seeing it in a theater if you can. Part of the joy is witnessing other people's reactions: gasps of disbelief, laughter, and enthusiastic applause. It is also a relatively accessible exploitation film. Unlike a lot of its brethren, Gone with the Pope is ultimately a moral and good-hearted kind of film, absent of the usual blackness and misanthropy of the period. Though he lives in a Darwinian world of violence and crime, Paul is really just trying to survive and do the right thing by his family (the other ex-cons) and his woman.

It also has one of the greatest endings in all of '70s exploitation cinema. And one of the best trailers I've ever seen.

To find out when Gone with the Pope is coming to a theater near you and hopefully when it will be released on DVD, visit the webpage.

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