Gone with the Pope (1976)
Director: Duke Mitchell
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Peter Milo, Jim LoBianco, Giorgio Tavolieri, John Murgia & Lorenzo Darado
Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Lost for over 30 years, nightclub performer Duke Mitchell would once again don several hats in his directorial followup, Gone with the Pope. Mitchell stars as Paul, a paroled gangster with a near impossible scheme to kidnap the Pope and charge every Catholic for his safe return. Unfinished at the time of Mitchell’s death in 1981, Gone with the Pope lives once again as its creators exploitation swan song.
Highlighting the exploits of criminals serving decades behind bars, Gone with the Pope finds Writer/Producer/Director Duke Mitchell starring as Paul, a recently paroled man with no choice but to revert back to his former lifestyle. Loyal to his friends still serving time and attempting to ensure their survival on the outside, Paul accepts a $50,000 job to wipe out several casino owners in Los Angeles while, his brother Giorgio (Giorgio Tavolieri) takes out the others in Las Vegas. Simultaneously rekindling a romance with wealthy widow Jean (Jeanne Hibbard), Paul, with his hard-earned money in tow, borrows his lover’s yacht to sail his recently released cellmates to Rome for a ransom like no other. Determined to abduct the Pope from the Vatican in order to demand one dollar from every Catholic in the world, Paul finds himself on an existential journey that questions his choices and sins while attempting to better his life and those closest to him. Sliding comfortably back into the fictional realm of gangsters, Duke Mitchell’s final effort ensures more bullet blasting bloodshed and the comical side of former prisoners sowing their wild oats including, a hilarious sexual encounter with an overweight female and Mitchell’s oh so offensive yet, highly engaging dialogue with a sexy black prostitute.
Ambitiously shot in California, Las Vegas, Rome and appearing far more flashy than its budget would suggest, Gone with the Pope continues to finesse the emerging cinematic voice of Duke Mitchell who was sadly combatting lung cancer during production. Comprised of nonprofessional, most of whom never acted again, the thespians deliver a naturalism fitting to the film’s eccentric atmosphere and positively cool leading man. For all its noticeably charming drive-in qualities, Duke Mitchell proves his way with words in the aforementioned encounter with a prostitute and his heated distaste for the Catholic Church vented to his Eminence. As Paul and his brothers in crime succeed with their kidnapping, the Pope’s presence effects the group in various ways leading Paul to restore balance in his own life through means of unapologetic violence. Concluding rather abstractly with Paul unable to fully escape his sins, Gone with the Pope is a holy grail discovery for cult enthusiasts that was discovered in a garage in its unfinished state. Adored with love and spending nearly a life sentence restoring it back to existence, Gone with the Pope beautifully compliments Duke Mitchell’s Massacre Mafia Style like spaghetti and meatballs with all the exploitation and swagger Mitchell is now rightfully being praised for.
Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Grindhouse Releasing debuts Gone with the Pope in its long-awaited Blu-ray release with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Having sat in a garage for years, the elements astound with rich skin tones and popping colors from the lights of the Las Vegas strip to the bright blue sea water as Paul and his cellmates sail to Rome. While inherent unfocused moments occur with minor speckling during a brief strip club sequence, black levels appear inky and visible. Bearing an absolutely filmic quality and striking detail, Gone with the Pope’s transfer is dynamite! Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Gone with the Pope generally satisfies with efficient dialogue levels that only encounter brief instances of muffled quality. Delighting with a mix of orchestrated horns and rocking guitars, its score is a more solid example of the track’s finest aspects. In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included. Grindhouse Releasing once again rolls out the red carpet for another splendid array of special features including, Gone with the Pope: The Players (66:52), Shooting Gone with the Pope (23:18), Restoring Gone with the Pope (3:14), seven Deleted Scenes (17:18), Out-Takes (12:41), Inserts (6:11) prefaced by Cinematographer Peter Santoro, Frankie Carr & The Nove-Eltes Live in Vegas (8:15), Hollywood World Premiere (20:48) from March 12, 2010 with a cast and crew hosted Q&A. In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:00), two Still Galleries consisting of 69 images in total, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Grindhouse Releasing Prevues, an Easter Egg Interview (2:25) hidden in the Set Up section of the disc joined by Linear Notes by John Skipp with a reversible poster and DVD edition of the release wrap up the supplemental offerings.
For what seems like an eternity of anticipation, Grindhouse Releasing’s exceptional care and preservation of Duke Mitchell’s final curtain call has been well worth the wait. Wonderfully restored and boasting a variety of audio options, the expansive special features only enlighten and increase the appreciation of its source material. Unlike most other exploitation offerings,Gone with the Pope combines crime elements and friendship with religion and faith to deliver a one of a kind gem only a Duke could produce. If there’s one cult discovery well worth praying to, it’s Gone with the Pope.
Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Gone with the Pope can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.
For more Blu-ray/DVD reviews from Mike Kenny, head over to Mike’s Pop Culture Playhouse!