The Film (4/5)
When Gone with the Pope was completed by Grindhouse Releasing in 2010, it was quite a feat for the company. They had managed to take a film that was raw footage, and random from it's director (not even a script to work from), and mold it into a cult feature, almost of their own creation. I remember at the time, and still to this day being fascinated by this. I had seen the trailer for Gone with the Pope on Grindhouse DVD’s prior, but had not known the story of it’s creation until that time. I remember discussing it with my wife who was pregnant at the time, and that discussion went from the film itself to the two men behind Grindhouse Releasing who were responsible for the film that worked so hard to get the film made, Bob Murawski and Sage Stallone, and it was during that conversation we would (to get personal for a moment) decide to name our son Sage.
Duke Mitchell, was a Palm Spring's crooner for much of his career focusing much of his talents on that segment of the entertainment industry. However, during his brief partnership with Sammy Petrillo in the early 1950's Mitchell became introduced to the film industry due to his lead role in the film Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. Mitchell never went on to become a full-time actor, but he did appear in roles throughout the 50's and 60's. In the early 70's Coppola's Godfather films became international smash-hits, and influenced Mitchell to throw his hat into the cinematic-ring, and he created his first feature the gonzo mob epic Massacre Mafia Style (aka the Executioner). He would then go in to shoot a follow up entitled Kiss the Ring in pieces, and on weekends, but the film would remain incomplete at the time of his 1981 death of lung cancer.
The Executioner as it would be called on VHS would go on to be released and become a minor cult hit on VHS, where it would come into the hands of Maniac director William Lustig and Sage Stallone, who attempted to track down Mitchell, but ended up discovering that the man had died years sooner. However, their investagtion into the film turned up his son Jeffrey, who was all too willing to talk. The pair wanted to release Massacre Mafia Style, but Jeffrey had no idea where the materials to that film were. He did, however, have footage for a feature film that his Father shot in his possession, that footage would lead to the film included on this Blu-ray, Gone with the Pope.
The film stars Duke Mitchell as Paul, a recently released from prison gangster, who in the great tradition of cinematic gangsters wants to leave his life of crime behind him. That doesn't last long, however, as he is quickly offered a load of cash to undertake a series of hits. After Paul gets back into the game, he decides to up the ante, and concocts a plan to kidnap the Pope, and blackmail a small monetary amount from every Catholic in the world to ensure the holy man's safe return. However, once they have acquired the Pope, and have him on their yacht, Paul, and his criminal cohorts begin to have a change of heart, being in the presence of the Pontiff has awakened something within them, and they have to decide whether to go through with their plan, or return the Pope without their desired riches.
Gone with the Pope, doesn't really have much of a story running through it. The elements of the film for which the film gets it's title are actually a small portion of the overall whole. Unlike Mitchell's earlier Massacre Mafia Style, this film feels like it was being created on the fly while shooting, and without a full story in mind. The overall atmosphere of the film at times channeled the spontaneity (not the quality of the acting mind you) of a Cassavetes film, of course something like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, but I also recalled the overall feeling of something like Husbands, and Love Streams.
While Duke Mitchell could clearly be seen as the visionary behind Gone with the Pope’s style. A certain amount of credit must go to Grindhouse's Bob Murawski (editor on the Hurt Locker and Spider-Man amongst others). The film carries a pacing that blends the sensibilities of a 70’s exploitation film with something more modern and fast, and the way certain scenes are punctuated show the hand of a master editor at work making this truly a collaboration between decades between director and editor.
Gone with the Pope carries an off the wall atmosphere where it truly feels that anything can happen at any moment from spontaneous acts of mob violence, to three-ways with obese women. The trailer for Gone with the Pope has appeared on most of Grindhouse's DVD and Blu-ray releases for years, is one of those trailers that is so good (much like the one for Massacre Mafia Style), that you wonder when watching if the film could possibly live up to the trailer. It does, and goes beyond that.
Grindhouse is one of those companies where I should just start out the A/V section with "you see that Grindhouse logo? Yeah, that means it looks and sound brilliant.” However, since most readers require more than that here goes. Gone with the Pope, and I will remind the reader this film was taken from footage that was discovered in Duke Mitchell's son's garage is presented in an extremely pleasing AVC encoded 1:78:1 1080p transfer that looks as good as this film could possibly look, and even better than that. The temptation to say it looks like a new film is there, but I will say rather, this looks a recently uncovered 1970's film in a pristine transfer with very few instances of damage from the source material. Colors are nice and stable, detail is excellent, and there is a nice pleasing film look, with a solid grain structure throughout.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. The audio sounds for the most part excellent with some dialogue being a bit obscured at times. Overall the score, and soundtrack come through nicely, as does the dialogue, and I did not detect any major issues with the track overall.
Grindhouse have included a series of interviews, documentary featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes, inserts, trailers, still galleries, and a Duke Mitchell filmography on their release of Gone with the Pope. The sheer amount of content here is sure to please any fan of the film, and gives loads of background on the film, it's production, and release.
Gone with the Pope after an extended, successful theatrical run is finally on Blu-ray, and that's a reason to recommend it alone. The film is a load of fun, and of course the A/V restoration from Grindhouse is as perfect as can be. The extras are over the top, and elaborate, and so of course, this release is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.