Directed By: Duke Mitchell
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Lorenzo Dardado, Jim LoBianco
Tag line: "You're either in, or you're in the way!"
Trivia: Filming began in November 1975 and finished in January 1976. It was only shot on weekends
Duke Mitchell’s Gone with the Pope is a crazy movie, but the story behind it is even crazier. Shot on weekends in the mid-‘70s, Gone with the Pope (initially titled Kiss the Ring) was supposed to be Mitchell’s follow-up to 1974’s Massacre Mafia Style. Unfortunately, he died before he could finish the film, and for years, the negatives, along with pages of hand-written notes, sat in a parking garage, collecting dust. Then, sometime in the 1990s, Mitchell’s son Anthony turned everything over to the folks at Grindhouse Releasing, and for the next 15 years, a team of editors, led by Bob Murawski, worked on the movie whenever they could, assembling the footage, adding music (some of which was written and performed by Mitchell himself), and molding it into a finished work as close to Mitchell’s original concept as possible. Considering they had no script to guide them (Mitchell shot a number of scenes for Gone with the Pope on the fly, making them up as he went along), I’d say what Murawski and his crew accomplished was nothing short of a miracle.
Within days of his release from prison, Paul (Mitchell) is offered $100,000 by the local mob to kill seven men. Ignoring the pleas of his longtime girlfriend Jean (Jeanne Hibbard), who wants him to give up his life of crime, Paul agrees to carry out the hits, and asks his buddy Giorgio (Giorgio Tavolieri) to assist him. The job goes off without a hitch, and Paul, looking to lay low for a while, uses his portion of the money to buy a boat. Joined by three of his former prison mates: Luke (Jim LoBianco), Peter (Peter Milo), and “The Old Man” (Lorenzo Dardado), Paul sails the boat to Rome, and once there, he and his pals kidnap the Pope (also played by Dardado) and hold him for ransom. Their demands? $0.50 from every Catholic in the world! Will Paul and the others pull of what might be the crime of the century, or will their consciences get the better of them?
With a supporting cast made up entirely of Mitchell’s friends, the performances in Gone with the Pope are, as you’d expect, on the weak side (with the exception of Mitchell himself, who does a fine job in the lead role). But what the movie lacks in the acting department, it more than makes up for with some kick-ass individual scenes. The killings carried out by Paul and Giorgio (Giorgio shot three men in Las Vegas, while Paul took care of the remaining four in Hollywood) are fairly brutal, and a later sequence set in Rome, when Paul surprises Peter (who’s looking to get laid) by bringing an obese hooker (Nola Hand) back to their hotel room, is absolutely bat-shit crazy (after yanking off the woman’s clothes, Paul and Peter, laughing uncontrollably, barricade themselves in the bathroom, at which point they learn just how strong their “guest” really is). In addition to the sex and violence, Gone with the Pope has its share of romance (early on, Paul and Jean spend some quality time together in the park), and a scene where Paul has a frank conversation with the Pope concerning, among other things, the church’s indifference towards the Holocaust packs a dramatic punch.
Like Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope is a glorious bit of exploitation goodness, and if it wasn’t for Bob Murawski and the gang at Grindhouse Releasing, it would have never seen the light of day. This alone makes it a must-see; the fact that it’s entertaining as well is a nice little bonus.