Gone With The Pope (1976/Blu-ray+DVD Combo/Grindhouse Releasing) Review

A hysterical, high-energy outlet for writer/director/musician/star Duke Mitchell to tackle yet another issue that plagued his troubled mind and a fifteen year passion project for film editor Bob Murawski, Gone With the Pope finally comes home five years after its completion at the hands of the aforementioned co-founder of Grindhouse Releasing. It’s easy to just admire the effort and leave it at that, but is there actually more to it than that? What exactly justifies a decade and a half of hard work from Murawski to save Mitchell’s swan song, left incomplete for some time after his death in 1981, from obscurity? Let’s jump right into the autopsy and find out.

 The premise alone should be enough to sell the film to just about anyone – Paul, a gangster fresh out of the joint, comes up with a plan to kidnap The Pope and charge every Catholic in the world a dollar (which soon turns into 50 cents) for his safe return. Now, it takes a bit of time to get to that point, but before then we get a lot of great dialogue between Paul and his boys and even a job in which Paul whacks four in Hollywood and his buddy gets three others in Vegas. It’s never anything less than thrilling.
 But once the Pope has been snatched aboard Paul’s boat (it actually belongs to his lover), things get surprisingly real. The ruthless gangster’s own faith, or lack thereof, is challenged and upon his return home, he is forced to put his own sick spin on redemption. As you can probably tell, Gone With the Pope deals with some of the same themes that were explored, perhaps to more of an extent in Massacre Mafia Style, but it unmistakably possesses its own unique cinematic identity; and that’s because it’s the crazier of the two films. 
 In fact, it’s absolute bat-shit insanity. On top of all the expected breasts and blood, there’s even a threesome with a fat lady! Better yet, it adds absolutely nothing to the story! Yes, Gone With the Pope has it all. The film is a roller coaster ride which seldom gives the audience a chance to stop and catch their breath. Production was halted before its completion, and there’s a distinct feeling of confusion that one feels a few times throughout the experience which can certainly be attributed to the missing footage, although I feel that Murawski and company did a characteristically fantastic job making as much sense of this flick as they could with the existing negative. 
 And then there’s the quality of the image, which is just…wow. There are some scenes early on that take place in jail where many of the shots are out of focus and the audio just appears to have been unsalvageable, but aside from that it looks and sounds almost as if it were made yesterday. It is now quite difficult to imagine basking in the coolness of Duke Mitchell in anything less than High Definition, and I feel that the more modern techniques that Murawski employed while stitching this thing back together add to the surreal ambience.
 Once again, Grindhouse has put together a striking package that will please both fans and the fans-to-be alike! For its home video debut, Gone With the Pope comes a-knockin’ in a lovely clear case with the gorgeous original poster art on the front cover (and also included in a little fold-out booklet/essay on the inside) and includes both a Blu-Ray and DVD copy of the film + extras. And what extras they are! Another doc, interviews with cast and crew, footage taken at the film’s 2010 World Premiere, deleted scenes, still galleries, Easter Eggs, you name it! There’s so much to dig through here - so much which allows one to appreciate the film in question even more. Gone With the Pope can manage on its own just fine, but there’s a certain warmth that these extras bring to the overall experience, and I can’t complain. This is precisely how I want to feel when I invest in a Grindhouse Releasing disc. The film is imperfect by nature but seems so proud of it. That’s just the way The Duke rolls. This is one of the most important releases of the year; run, don’t walk!
-Ryan Marshall
Director: Duke Mitchell
Lead Actor/Actress: Duke Mitchell
Genre: Action
Blu-ray Release Year: 2015
Theatrical Release Year: 2010 (Finished Version), 1975 (Unfinished Version)
Time Length: 83 mins.
Rating: NR
Region Code: Region A
Release Company: Grindhouse Releasing