Directed By: Duke Mitchell
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo
Tag line: "You're IN... or... you're IN THE WAY!"
Trivia: Many of the events in this film were based on real life stories Duke Mitchell heard from his mob buddies
The last time I saw Duke Mitchell, he and Sammy Petrillo were on the run from the great Bela Lugosi in a horrifically bad movie titled Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. To be honest, Mitchell didn’t impress me at all in that film, either with his singing or his acting. But after watching 1978’s Massacre Mafia Style, a picture he also wrote and directed, I see his heart just wasn’t in that earlier stinker. Given the right material, Duke Mitchell was a charismatic performer, and Massacre Mafia Style shows him at his absolute best.
Recent widower Mimi Miceli (Mitchell) is heading back to America. Having lived in Sicily ever since his father, mob boss Don Mimi (Lorenzo Dodo), was booted out by the U.S. government, Mimi is determined to make a name for himself in Los Angeles, and once there immediately looks up his old pal Jolly (Vic Caesar), who agrees to help Mimi any way he can. In a show of strength, the two kidnap Chucky Triploi (Lou Zito), a former Lieutenant of Don Mimi’s and the current boss of a large crime family. Having proven their worth, Tripoli accepts Mimi and Jolly into his organization, using them as muscle whenever he needs to send someone a message. Before long, Mimi is one of most feared hit men in the mob, a fact that doesn’t sit well with his father. To knock some sense into his beloved son, Don Mimi sends his most trusted associate, Bones (Fred Otash), to America with $50,000 in cash, enough money to set Mimi up in a “legitimate” business (i.e. – the porn industry). But as Mimi and Jolly discover, the Mafia isn’t an organization you can easily walk away from, and it isn’t long before the two are fighting for their lives against their former comrades.
Also released as Like Father, Like Son and The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style is, first and foremost, an exploitation film. The opening sequence, during which Mimi and Jolly shoot up an office building (killing around two dozen people in the process), sets the tone for the entire picture (showing off his musical prowess, Mitchell underscores this opening with a catchy Italian ditty). The violence on display early on continues throughout the movie (another scene, where Mimi and Jolly pay a visit to an associate known as “The Greek”, also gets kinda messy), but aside from its more extreme attributes, Massacre Mafia Style was also a very personal picture for Duke Mitchell, who filled it with tales and events from his own life, as well as a few he’d heard from others over the years. In one of the film’s more poignant moments, Mimi tells Jolly the story of what happened to his father when he first arrived in America, how he was forced to become a fish merchant, only to be attacked and beaten by his competitors whenever he tried to sell his wares. It’s a moving tale, and Mitchell delivers it perfectly.
Originally produced as a response to Coppola’s The Godfather, Massacre Mafia Style approaches mob life from a much different perspective, offering a “down and dirty” look at the lifestyle that’s just as effective in getting its message across. More than this, though, Massacre Mafia Style forced me to take a second look at Duke Mitchell, and I’m happy to report there was a lot more to him than Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla led me to believe.