Saturday, September 18, 2010
Midnight Movie Madness: GONE WITH THE POPE
This is a film that, yes, was technically released for the first time in 2010. But it's also a kind of Grindhouse example of Metropolis, another movie that was restored this year. New footage was found and meticulous care was put to editing something that people had never seen before. One was a testament to man and his inner quest for self-knowledge set against an oppressive world, and the other was Metropolis ;)
But I jest. This was shot by real (and I mean REALLY) no-budget director Duke Mitchell, who made only one other film in the 1970s, and did shoot the footage for this film (you can tell, all HUGE warts and out-of-focus shots and all). But it was never finished due to lack of funds. Years later (as in two years ago) some former friends and people at the Grindhouse DVD company, got together and took all the footage Mitchell had shot and made a movie as competently as they could.
Frankly, that it turned out as well as it did is something of a miracle because, quite frankly, this stinks. But it stinks in a way that is friendly to fellow bad-movie lovers. The craftsmanship is so terrible, the acting so non-existent, the story so WTF, that I wondered at certain points if Torgo from Manos the Hands of Fate would make an appearance. All I could really gather about anything relating to a "story" was that Paul (also Mitchell) is released from jail, kills some gangsters, and then takes a boat trip with some friends from California to Rome to kidnap the Pope and hold the world hostage: every Catholic pays 1 buck. That's a lot of bucks.
From the dialog that is at best decent street-tough stuff to at worst really racist and sometimes just dull dialog - and the racist stuff especially, as Paul makes wisecracks (and not the subtle kind) to a black prostitute who, somehow, takes it in stride, is hilariously painful to hear spoken - to the cinematography that gives cinematography a bad name (FOCUS, goddamn it, FOCUS!), to the one or two actors such as Paul's wife or Giorgio, who both look like they were picked up from the local deli counter, to the very mixed messages sent about religion (a very *nice* Pope who somehow gets everyone except Paul on his side! and a polemic speech by Paul at one point that rivals ANY of the preachifying in Machete), this is trash cinema at its base level.
It's not a good movie. At all. If you're looking for things like, I don't know, motivation on the character's part, be it things like killing lots of other people we haven't seen before (sometimes with telephones) or to a random "prank" scene with a huge fat woman getting naked and surprising one of Paul's friend asleep and proceeding to lock her in the room for a good, it's more than absent. It's almost like Mitchell seemed to forget what a movie makes - albeit he is awe-inspiring at making montages, such as one with him and his wife frolicking at a park - and was more transfixed by his own sideburns than anything else. When he tries to get genuine laughs, such as the fat woman scene, it feel so awful that you just recoil in your seat. The movie also disappoints, if in one major way as a Midnight Movie, in not having more craziness with the religious angle. Without saying too much, the film needed to be more like the last scene, which did leave me with a big smile and almost clapping with the rest of the audience.
But for all of the dull moments, and believe you-me there are plenty, and the cringe-worthy performances, it's a very funny movie without knowing that it is. It's also commendable to the editors and producers of this finished version that there are some scenes and transitions that move to a cool beat, maybe in ways Mitchell himself never envisioned. Song selections vary; some are genuinely fantastic, while others go along with the hokey nature of the film. It frustrates and entertains, and it actually has a sense of admiration for the Pope (!) in all his cardboard-performing glory. Then again, his dead-pan is just what's needed on the flip-side of Mitchell's mugging.
Two ratings: as a "good" movie: 3/10; as a fun-bad movie: 7/10
ADDENDUM: I was just informed that the editor of The Hurt Locker is responsible for the job on this finished version. I suddenly am not sure whether I respect it more or despise it for how bad it actually is. I lean more to the former, just because it really could have been just total shit. Somehow the editor made it watchable, even if I was just waiting for Robin Williams' "soft" character from Deconstructing Harry to wander into one of the shots. FOCUS!