Massacre Mafia Style (aka Like Father, Like Son) (1974/Blu-ray+DVD Combo/Grindhouse Releasing) Review

Grindhouse Releasing has been going strong ever since its return to form on the home video market in late 2013. Every new release is absolutely worth supporting; not only for the always substantial packages themselves but also for the fact that each one is a labor of love for film editor and co-founder Bob Murawski. One of the label’s first 2015 releases is Massacre Mafia Style, a film I had seen trailers for on older Grindhouse discs but had never had the chance to see until now. I wasn’t familiar with the name Duke Mitchell going in, but does this recent release change that? Let’s jump right in to this autopsy and find out.

The film plays out very much like a low-budget answer to The Godfather. Massacre Mafia Style (aka Like Father, Like Son or The Executioner) is the story of a ruthless gangster who relocates to California and follows his own American Dream, that being one of aggressively sadistic hedonism. The son of a notorious mafia kingpin, he witnesses the painfully slow deterioration of a sub-culture on its way out and eventually returns home to tell the tale; but not before he leaves a trail of blood, bullets, broads, and bread in his wake.

Mitchell’s min-gangster epic (which, it should be mentioned, he wrote, directed, produced, scored, and acted in) is first and foremost an exploitation picture. It’s down and dirty and the perfect film for anyone who thought Coppola’s aforementioned classic wasn’t violent enough. It lets you know off the bat what kind of ride you’re in for, first with the all-out slaughter of a room full of African American workers and then the murder of a disabled businessman by way of toilet-water electrocution. It’s an unapologetic piece, but that’s just as it should be.

As exhilarating as the sheer spectacle of it is, there’s a lot more to this one than meets the eye. Mitchell clearly had a very specific vision in mind; and his real intentions seem to involve discussing the changing times and moral values within the titular sub-culture. This is confirmed in a heartbreaking monologue near the end, delivered by none other than Mitchell himself. It’s a powerful singular moment that changed how I looked at the film completely.

And what a release Grindhouse has put together to allow one’s appreciation for the film to be even deeper. This set is packaged in a clear keepcase, includes both Blu-Ray and DVD copies of the film, and also comes with a little ten-page booklet containing an essay. And as for what’s on those discs, well…for starters the video transfer is outstanding and the audio presentation is very solid throughout as well.

As for extras, there’s a stellar documentary titled Like Father, Like Son which features Duke’s son Jeffrey speaking about his relationship with his father. He doesn’t mention a whole lot about Massacre Mafia Style, but in place of unique behind-the-scenes stories we do get a compelling portrait of a fascinating if flawed individual. Interviews with family members and frequent collaborators are also included both in the doc and as their own extras. Another neat bonus is nearly an hour of Duke Mitchell home videos, which allow fans to bask once again in the glory of Duke’s sweet, sweet music. There’s even a standard definition copy of Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla on the Blu, which isn’t all that good of a movie but is a must-see for any of the pre-existing or soon-to-be Mitchell completest.

As can be expected from the label, there are other surprises as well, but I need not get into all of them. This is a very solid and important release, well worth the money and the time, with bonus materials that add to the overall impact that the film has on the individual viewer. The film itself packs a hell of a punch, and is likely one of the better gangster movies I’ve seen in spite of the budgetary shortcomings. Mitchell oozes cool and was obviously skilled in a wide variety of areas. Overall, this is a stellar release for a thoroughly engaging and surprisingly thoughtful bit of sleaze. 

-Ryan Marshall

Director: Duke Mitchell
Lead Actor/Actress: Duke Mitchell
Genre: Action/Exploitation
Blu-ray Release Year: 2015
Theatrical Release Year: 1974
Time Length: 79 mins.
Rating: NR
Region Code: A
Release Company: Grindhouse Releasing