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Currently showing posts tagged Sage Stallone

  • Gone with the Pope (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Gone with the Pope (1976)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Peter Milo, Jim LoBianco, Giorgio Tavolieri, John Murgia & Lorenzo Darado

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Lost for over 30 years, nightclub performer Duke Mitchell would once again don several hats in his directorial followup, Gone with the Pope.  Mitchell stars as Paul, a paroled gangster with a near impossible scheme to kidnap the Pope and charge every Catholic for his safe return.  Unfinished at the time of Mitchell’s death in 1981, Gone with the Pope lives once again as its creators exploitation swan song.

    Highlighting the exploits of criminals serving decades behind bars, Gone with the Pope finds Writer/Producer/Director Duke Mitchell starring as Paul, a recently paroled man with no choice but to revert back to his former lifestyle.  Loyal to his friends still serving time and attempting to ensure their survival on the outside, Paul accepts a $50,000 job to wipe out several casino owners in Los Angeles while, his brother Giorgio (Giorgio Tavolieri) takes out the others in Las Vegas.  Simultaneously rekindling a romance with wealthy widow Jean (Jeanne Hibbard), Paul, with his hard-earned money in tow, borrows his lover’s yacht to sail his recently released cellmates to Rome for a ransom like no other.  Determined to abduct the Pope from the Vatican in order to demand one dollar from every Catholic in the world, Paul finds himself on an existential journey that questions his choices and sins while attempting to better his life and those closest to him.  Sliding comfortably back into the fictional realm of gangsters, Duke Mitchell’s final effort ensures more bullet blasting bloodshed and the comical side of former prisoners sowing their wild oats including, a hilarious sexual encounter with an overweight female and Mitchell’s oh so offensive yet, highly engaging dialogue with a sexy black prostitute.

    Ambitiously shot in California, Las Vegas, Rome and appearing far more flashy than its budget would suggest, Gone with the Pope continues to finesse the emerging cinematic voice of Duke Mitchell who was sadly combatting lung cancer during production.  Comprised of nonprofessional, most of whom never acted again, the thespians deliver a naturalism fitting to the film’s eccentric atmosphere and positively cool leading man.  For all its noticeably charming drive-in qualities, Duke Mitchell proves his way with words in the aforementioned encounter with a prostitute and his heated distaste for the Catholic Church vented to his Eminence.  As Paul and his brothers in crime succeed with their kidnapping, the Pope’s presence effects the group in various ways leading Paul to restore balance in his own life through means of unapologetic violence.  Concluding rather abstractly with Paul unable to fully escape his sins, Gone with the Pope is a holy grail discovery for cult enthusiasts that was discovered in a garage in its unfinished state.  Adored with love and spending nearly a life sentence restoring it back to existence, Gone with the Pope beautifully compliments Duke Mitchell’s Massacre Mafia Style like spaghetti and meatballs with all the exploitation and swagger Mitchell is now rightfully being praised for.

    Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Grindhouse Releasing debuts Gone with the Pope in its long-awaited Blu-ray release with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Having sat in a garage for years, the elements astound with rich skin tones and popping colors from the lights of the Las Vegas strip to the bright blue sea water as Paul and his cellmates sail to Rome.  While inherent unfocused moments occur with minor speckling during a brief strip club sequence, black levels appear inky and visible.  Bearing an absolutely filmic quality and striking detail, Gone with the Pope’s transfer is dynamite!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Gone with the Pope generally satisfies with efficient dialogue levels that only encounter brief instances of muffled quality.  Delighting with a mix of orchestrated horns and rocking guitars, its score is a more solid example of the track’s finest aspects.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included.  Grindhouse Releasing once again rolls out the red carpet for another splendid array of special features including, Gone with the Pope: The Players (66:52), Shooting Gone with the Pope (23:18), Restoring Gone with the Pope (3:14), seven Deleted Scenes (17:18), Out-Takes (12:41), Inserts (6:11) prefaced by Cinematographer Peter Santoro, Frankie Carr & The Nove-Eltes Live in Vegas (8:15), Hollywood World Premiere (20:48) from March 12, 2010 with a cast and crew hosted Q&A.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:00), two Still Galleries consisting of 69 images in total, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Grindhouse Releasing Prevues, an Easter Egg Interview (2:25) hidden in the Set Up section of the disc joined by Linear Notes by John Skipp with a reversible poster and DVD edition of the release wrap up the supplemental offerings.

    For what seems like an eternity of anticipation, Grindhouse Releasing’s exceptional care and preservation of Duke Mitchell’s final curtain call has been well worth the wait.  Wonderfully restored and boasting a variety of audio options, the expansive special features only enlighten and increase the appreciation of its source material.  Unlike most other exploitation offerings, Gone with the Pope combines crime elements and friendship with religion and faith to deliver a one of a kind gem only a Duke could produce.  If there’s one cult discovery well worth praying to, it’s Gone with the Pope.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Gone with the Pope can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Massacre Mafia Style (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Massacre Mafia Style (1974)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Louis Zito & Cara Salerno

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A jack of all trades, Italian-American actor and nightclub singer Duke Mitchell would write, direct, produce and star in his response to The Godfather.  In Massacre Mafia Style, Mitchell portrays Mimi Miceli, the son of a mafia kingpin determined to carve a name out for himself by embarking on a bloody crime spree through Hollywood.  Low-budget and intensely violent, Massacre Mafia Style promises “more, guts, action and dynamite” than Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed gangster opus.

    As a noted nightclub singer who would transition to film with such appearances in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Duke Mitchell would graduate to producing his own feature ingrained in his Italian heritage.  Following the massive success of 1972’s The Godfather, Mitchell found a low-budget mafia picture a natural fit to spread his creative wings, wearing several hats on the production including, directing and starring.  Opening with an office building massacre at the hands of Mimi Miceli (Mitchell) and his associate to the upbeat tunes of Mitchell’s own recordings, Massacre Mafia Style makes firm on its promise of more violence than its Academy Award-winning predecessor.  Deported back to Sicily following his rampant crime activity in America, mafia kingpin Don Mimi (Lorenzo Dodo) is confronted with his son Mimi’s desire to reenter the mafia underworld.  Intent on relocating the action of New York City to Hollywood, Mimi travels to sunny California to rekindle his friendship with bartender Jolly (Vic Caesar, Alice Goodbody).  Joining forces with the former drink pusher, Mimi rattles the chains of west coast mob bosses by taking one ransom and wooing the girlfriend (Cara Salerno) of another to prove he means business.  As his notoriety rises, Mimi focuses his attention on bringing down Superspook (Jimmy Williams, Cockfighter), a noted pimp claiming ownership of prime real estate in the city.  Unwilling to easily surrender his turf and women, Mimi is at odds with his violent rise to power and may have bargained for more than he can handle.

    Unquestionably produced on a lower scale than Coppola’s masterpiece, Massacre Mafia Style pushes its exploitative nature of rampant shootouts and over-the-top bloodshed, juxtaposed with jovial music to delightful measure.  Independently funded and shot over the course of weekends in Los Angeles, Duke Mitchell embodies a captivating presence as a ruthless crime boss with a genuine knack for earnest mafioso speech most notably, during a sequence where Mitchell explains how men like himself have disgraced their Sicilian heritage.  Underneath its undeniable cult appeal and entertaining performances, Massacre Mafia Style injects a genuine context for fathers and sons that elevates the picture from other exploitation cash-in attempts.  A goldmine discovery for cult enthusiasts, Massacre Mafia Style stands as a testament of Duke Mitchell’s uncorrupted vision that takes gangster pictures to bloody, fun heights.

    Grindhouse Releasing presents Massacre Mafia Style with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Painstakingly restored, Duke Mitchell’s directorial debut bursts onto high-definition with excellent clarity putting to shame hazy VHS releases from yesteryear.  Appearing near immaculate with only scant traces of scratches, Massacre Mafia Style dazzles with warm skin tones and crisp detail in facial features.  Colors pop magnificently with bright red bloodshed bursting off the screen and black levels in top shape with no crushing on display.  A labor of love, Grindhouse Releasing’s transfer is the definitive statement on this cult favorite.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the digital restoration of the original soundtrack keeps dialogue audible and clear with climatic gunshots and Mitchell’s songs packing a solid punch while, hiss is kept at bay and never intrusive.  Overflowing with impressive bonus content, special features include, Like Father, Like Son: Duke and Jeffrey Mitchell (43:33), an in-depth featurette detailing the relationship between the film’s star and real life son as well as Mitchell’s career highlights.  Also included, Matt Climber and Jim LoBianco Interviews (10:11), Duke Mitchell Home Movies (52:00), a Theatrical Trailer (2:18), five Radio Spots, five Still Galleries consisting of over 200 images, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Cara Salerno Filmography and Grindhouse Releasing Prevues.  In addition and most excitingly, a bonus feature film, 1952’s Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (74:19) is included along with its Theatrical Trailer (2:10) and Still Gallery (34 in total).  Plus, a bonus TV special, An Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante (37:05), accompanied with Durante 16mm Dailies (6:31), a 10-page booklet with an essay from David Szulkin and a DVD edition of the release round out the grandiose supplemental package.   

    Also known as Like Father, Like Son and The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style’s appeal has grown increasingly through theatrical revival screenings and steady word of mouth.  After nearly 20 years of tireless labor and dedication, Grindhouse Releasing’s Bob Murawksi and the late Sage Stallone’s efforts have paid off in spades with one of the finest treatments and restorations granted to a nearly forgotten gem of cinema.  Exploding with bloodshed and action, Duke Mitchell’s vision of mafia lifestyles and criminal activity unloads a firestorm of exploitation greatness that will easily appease the most casual of cult enthusiasts.  If you’re not in with Massacre Mafia Style, you’re in the way!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Massacre Mafia Style can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.