Release Date(s)1976/2010 (March 24, 2015)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Much like its predecessor Massacre Mafia Style, Duke Mitchell’s previously lost work Gone with the Pope attempts to portray a slice of life from what he believed to be the real world of organized crime. This follow-up to Massacre was never completed during Mitchell’s lifetime as he died six years after filming it. Rediscovered by Grindhouse Releasing’s Bob Murawski in 1995, the film went through a meticulous bout of editing and restoration work by Murawski and his colleagues before it was finally completed.
Like Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope contains many of Duke Mitchell’s philosophies about the world he lives in. The story concerns a newly-released convict who is hired to hit some undesirables for Chicago mob bosses. Once he’s finished, he decides that in order to get the kind of money he needs to go straight, he’ll have to travel to Rome, kidnap the Pope, and hold him for ransom. Meanwhile, he goes off on soliloquies about the problems of the world and his feelings about them, even at inopportune points in time. He’s a contract killer with a conscience with an appreciation for life, more or less.
In some ways, Gone with the Pope is technically better than its predecessor, but in other ways it isn’t. It moves at a brisk pace, only taking time to stop and appreciate the violent, the melodramatic, and/or the poetic. Both films are siblings to each other, despite not having anything in common story-wise. They’re of a piece of sorts, with neither really rising above the other. Both fascinating and entertaining, they transcend the good/bad milieu, becoming something else entirely.
When judging the video quality of Gone with the Pope’s transfer, one must keep in mind that it was never finished, meaning that there are many shots out of focus that were never reshot, as well as other technical deficiencies built into the original cinematography. Some of it has been repaired, set within the limits of what would have been done during that period, while the rest has been fixed digitally, including scratches, vertical lines, and other damage. Grain management has also been carried out, but only to a minor degree. It’s quite stable and filmic in appearance, lacking artifice and maintaining the integrity of both the cinematography and the original camera negative’s properties. Colors are often robust with beautiful skin tones and deep, inky blacks. Brightness and contrast levels are also virtually perfect. Soaking in fine detail with enormous depth and clarity, it’s a beautiful presentation of an imperfect-looking film, one that by all rights shouldn’t exist. Also imperfect, as expected, is the film’s soundtrack. Three options are available: English 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD, as well as English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Like the video, the audio was never fully completed, meaning that a final mix with overdubbing never occurred. Bob Murawski works miracles here and makes the three tracks work within their own context. There are times when the dialogue is a little lost, but once you become accustomed to the film, it isn’t that jarring. Sound effects don’t play an enormous part, but definitely have real punch when it comes to moments containing gunshots. The score and song selection is where the sound design really shines. Containing a variety of musical tracks, including tunes from Duke Mitchell himself, a rich, vibrant, harmonious, and oftentimes, diverse selection can be heard. Low end activity is also present during some of these moments, giving the soundtrack real resonance. No subtitle options are available, but the A/V presentation is top of the line.
Like most Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray releases, this one is stacked with a bounty of extras. There’s the Gone with the Pope: The Players longform documentary; Shooting Gone with the Pope and Restoring Gone with the Pope featurettes; 7 deleted scenes; a set of outtakes; inserts, which is outtake footage with an intro and outro by cinematographer Peter Santoro; Frankie Carr & The Nov-Elites – Live in Vegas – the full musical performances from the movie; the film’s Hollywood World Premiere footage; the film’s theatrical trailer; 2 still galleries (production materials and theatrical release); a Duke Mitchell filmography with trailers for Massacre Mafia Style and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla; a set of Grindhouse Releasing Prevues (Massacre Mafia Style, The Beyond, Cat in the Brain, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Pieces, An American Hippie in Israel, Corruption, The Big Gundown, The Swimmer, The Tough Ones, Ice House, Poor White Trash 2, I Drink Your Blood); DVD-ROM material, including the film’s screenplay and notes on the restoration by John Draner; and a set of disc credits. Four Easter eggs in total can be found as well, including additional interview material with Jim Lo Bianco; a Q&A about the film at the New Beverly Cinema from July 13, 2010; John Murgia watching the film for the first time; and a text introduction from Bob Murawski to the Roll 23 outtake assembly. In addition, there’s also a DVD copy and a fold-out insert with a poster on one side and essay on the film by John Skipp on the other.
Highly enjoyable and equally intriguing from a scholarly point of view, Gone with the Pope was willed into existence by its distributors and found immediate approval from film and genre fans when it initially premiered. Still, one can’t help but believe that it hasn’t seen its full appreciation yet. Even if it isn’t a film that’s liked by all viewers, Grindhouse Releasing’s presentation of it makes it one of those great Blu-ray releases that’s nearly required viewing.
- Tim Salmons