Less Than Average I: Gone With the Pope

It’s Andy! You know…from ‘Lights, Camera, Average!’ the Film Podcast? Me and my comrades usually talk about good movies (and average ones). But my sweet spot, and about half of my collection, is devoted to the weird, bad, and down right ridiculous. We don’t talk about these films much on the show, and I don’t think the discussion would be all that entertaining anyway. So, for your consideration, I humbly present my pet project on a website we already own, so why not. I christen this ‘Less Then Average: The Editorial,’ Enjoy!

For my first entry, I find it only fitting to discuss one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. Duke Mitchell’s “classic” ‘Gone With the Pope’ released in 2010. Yes. 2010. I’ll get to that later. So, what’s this movie about? Well…its sort of about these three ex-cons who get a boat, go to Italy, kidnap the pope (stay with me), and then demand a ransom of one dollar from every Catholic in the world. Poetry.

What I DIDN’T tell you is that this doesn’t happen until at least 30-45 minutes into the run time. Most of the beginning is about a assassination job that Duke Mitchell and his buddy have to do in Las Vegas. This gives him the money he needs to spring the rest of the gang and head out on the water. It’s never really mentioned until the end. But don’t worry, this section of the movie is where you begin to notice how blatantly racist this movie is. Holy slurs! They’re almost played as endearing. This is our “hero” and he’s just dropping slurs all over the place. This film was originally filmed in the 1970’s, so maybe you can chalk SOME of it up to that…but still.

Still, nothing really makes sense…or happens here. Even after the capture the pope (spoilers, I’m sorry) they just sort of go back to the pope and give impassioned speeches. Duke Mitchell then says that he will quote “kill 100 priests as his way to avenge the Jews” if anything happens to his friends who have become overcome with emotion in the presence of the pope and decide to leave with him. After this he goes back to the mainland, kills a dude with a phone (yep), and then has a religious experience with trick candles.

Confused? Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt when I saw it the first time. I wanted to try and replicate my experience. I first saw this movie in 2010 at a midnight screening. This had just been released for the first time, and nobody knew what it was going to be. Sitting in the theater, the title credits come up, and the movie begins. There are some tentative chuckles, but mostly silence. Until the fish scene.

At one point one of the guys on the boat loses his mom’s family chain. And then he finds it. In the Mediterranean. In a fish. The theater erupted into laughter. I was crying, the guy I was with was practically on the floor, the big guy in front of us had leaped out of his seat with arms raised…pure pandemonium. Pure cinematic bliss. From that moment, there was not a quiet moment left. Every time you could see someone read the lines on a cue card, someone had a funny reaction shot, or pretty much anything the theater would burst into laughter. That’s part of the reason why I have a fondness for this one. It was the best theater experience I’ve ever had. It will never be replicated.

Now, the weird part about this film is how it was made. Remember, I said it was released in 2010. I also said it was filmed in the 70’s. Basically, the footage was left unfinished because Duke Mitchell didn’t have the cash to finish the movie back then. So, the Grindhouse Releasing team found it (in a garage allegedly), or maybe it was sold to them? Who knows, not important. But basically THEY’RE the ones who put it together and added the title credits, and added the soundtrack.

Which leaves it in a weird place. This fundamentally can’t be Duke Mitchell’s vision, because this is not the film he put together. This is footage he filmed being put together by someone else nearly 40 years after the fact. There was a work print, yes, but how can we know this is really the way it was meant to be? Were all of these scenes meant to be in? Would some have been cut? Who can say? Maybe it makes it more memorable. If things made more sense, it may not be as ridiculous, and what would that be good for? On top of that, if it was finished back then, I may have been robbed of my awesome theater experience. It’s a unique movie that is truly one of a kind.

Unfortunately, as of this posting, the DVD/Bluray combo from Grindhouse Releasing isn’t available on Amazon anymore. And, as far as I know, it isn’t streaming. It took 5 years for a home release of this movie to be available, so I’m not surprised. It’s difficult to find, but if you can find it (and have the right mindset) you might have as much fun as I did watching it. I leave you with the immortal trailer. Enjoy! (NSFW for language, and nudity).

image from: dailygrindhouse.com

 

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