The Film (4.5/5)
I like to think of Duke Mitchell, not as a filmmaker, not as an actor, or a crooner, but as a mid-20th Century Renaissance Man. Mitchell was a Sinatra style crooner in the early portion of his career, before a producer paired him with Jerry Lewis clone Sammy Petrillo for a night club act. Although, the two only worked together for about a year this collaboration would help open up new career avenues for Mitchell. This period’s most notable pop culture contribution is the film Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, a low budget comedy starring Petrillo and Lewis alongside the titular Lugosi..
Following Bela Lugosi... Mitchell would feature in bit parts in other films throughout the 50's, but he would more or less stick to his nightclub act for the next decade and a half making a name for himself in the Palm Springs area. He was so popular in the city, that we would be named the Honorary Mayor of Palm Springs for 4 years running, and be dubbed "Mr. Palm Springs" by those that knew him. In the early '70's after the release of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films, it is alleged that Mitchell decided to reach back into his Italian heritage for inspiration, and make his answer to the Coppola film. He would make two films, the first Massacre Mafia Style was completed in 1974. The second original titled Kiss the Ring (later retitled Gone with the Pope) would never see completion during Mitchell's lifetime.
Grindhouse Releasing have long teased a release of Massacre Mafia Style, on every DVD and Blu-ray release for as long as I can recall from them they have put the trailer for this film and its companion Gone with the Pope. The trailer for the film is basically an edited down version of the opening sequence featuring two Mafia hit men taking out the entire staff of an office building minus a single child. This sequence is set to a crooner-esque pop tune, and is one of the best trailers for any film I had ever seen, and though Grindhouse has played the film theatrically for years, I never had the opportunity to see it until this Blu-ray release.
The film stars Duke Mitchell as Mimi Miceli, the son of a Mafia kingpin who was previously deported back to Italy. Mimi with his Father's blessing decides to leave his own child behind in Italy with his old man to be raised, and heads back to the United States, specifically L.A., to reestablish the family business. He does this not with behind the scenes deal making, but with blunt violent force, which forces the other local Mafia families to take notice of Mimi and his partner, childhood friend Jolly. The pair and their associates wreak so much havoc that a hit is quickly put out for them, rather then try and find out who is behind it, they decide to kill everyone who may be involved.
Massacre Mafia Style is a short film that never overstays it's welcome, at 79 minutes it's a raw, fast, and dirty experience that offers a lot to the adventurous cinemagoer. We have an excellent central performance by Duke Mitchell who is in practically every scene. Duke offers a certain raw charisma in his performance as Mimi that makes him intriguing to watch. The film is also peppered with extreme violence and nudity, the violence in this film is over the top, and occasionally feels like it comes out of nowhere offering an experience that is like a cinematic hammer to the face. It has been a long wait to get Massacre Mafia Style on a home video format, but now that it's here the wait has proven to be well worth it.
Grindhouse Releasing have once again proven when they are the most trusted label in cult film home video releasing with their Blu-ray of Massacre Mafia Style. The Blu-ray offers a spectacular 1080p AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer that is quite a sight to behold. Colors here look quite nice, black levels are solid, there is excellent fine detail, and a healthy amount of film grain present. There is some damage present in the source material, but it's very minor, and not very distracting.
There are two audio options present the DTS-HD Mono track in English and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track also in English for my viewing I stuck to the DTS-HD track which sounds quite excellent. The dialogue comes through quite nicely, as does the films soundtrack/score (peppered with Duke's own music), and effects. I did not detect any issues with pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Grindhouse have made the wait for Massacre Mafia Style even more worth it by packing the release with extra features. We have a 44 minute documentary ported over from the prior DVD release called Like Father, Like Son (also the original title of the film) that looks back at the life of Duke Mitchell. We then get an interview a pair of interviews one with Hundra director Matt Cimber, and another with Jim Lo Bianco. Following this we get a 12 part segment called Duke Mitchell's Home Movies which are exactly what they say they are, home movies of Duke. This segments ends with a Duke Mitchell live performance. The main extras portion concludes with Radio and TV spots, trailers, stills gallery, etc. That being said it's not the only extra content on the disc. Grindhouse have included not one, but two additional features. The first is a standard definition version of Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, the second is an oddity from late in Duke Mitchell's career called an Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante. This film sees Duke don makeup and a wardrobe to look like Durante, and then perform in his vein. I would never go so far as to call Duke Mitchell an avant-garde filmmaker, but this piece here offers evidence of a career that was not.
Massacre Mafia Style finally arrives from Grindhouse Releasing in a fantastic Blu-ray edition. The film is an absolute blast. The restoration looks and sounds fantastic, and the disc is so loaded with extras that it is seriously an early contender for one of the top releases of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.