Gone With the Pope Reviews
"Gone with the Pope" is full of performances that range from being as wooden as tree bark to being just downright terrible (the main exception being Duke Mitchell himself, who is actually pretty good -- for this sorta thing); The direction of the movie is haphazard and erratic, even going so far as to pretty much abandon its essential plot about and hour into it. The script and the dialogue aren't half as bad as they are just flat-out bizarre and awkwardly overwritten. Duke Mitchell grabs rambling monologues out of the ether, railing obsessive diatribes against the Catholic church and organized religion that go on for at least several minutes a piece several times through the film - usually with no clear prompt-to or set-up (the 82-minute film was cut down from a nearly 4-hour rough cut -- had it been left in its original format I'm certain these soliloquy's would have rivaled Molly Bloom's closure to "Ulysses"). And even if you ignore the ineptitude and awkwardness, there's still plenty of scenes that reach beyond just being old fashioned "off-color" humor, they're downright mean-spirited and offensive. Need an example? Be sure to catch the scene where Duke Mitchell's character propositions a black prostitute. With Mitchell's poetic Nabokovian commentary on her pubic bush ("look like brillo") and his financial advice for her to spend his money investing in "fried chicken and watermelon" I begin to wonder if this scene could possibly be worse than William "Larry from 'Newhart'" Sanderson's dialogue in "Fight For Your Life" (probably the best "Last House on the Left" rip-off; I recommend all fans of exploitation movies to see it, if they haven't already). "Nah," I say, "It can't be worse than that." -- And then comes the counter-argument and defense, straight from the lips of the hooker herself: "Have you ever fucked a nigger?" -- Yep. It's worse.
And in an age where striving for a safe standard of solid, forgettable mediocrity has become the standard (I speak of this in every cinematic circle -- Independent, Foreign, Arthouse, just as much as in Hollywood) I don't think I could have been more thrilled by all of this. "That's horrible!" you say? I'll extrapolate in my last paragraphs.
Try to imagine a mob movie as directed by John Waters, and you still won't have anything like this -- but it's a start in the right direction. Mitchell's movie is hilarious in a myriad of ways. You've got the physical, and slightly unsettling, absurdity (the prelude to a double-teaming with a nude 400 pound woman), and the bizarre dialogue matched with the stilted, nearly deadpan delivery ("I promise to kill 100 priests for every Jew that died in the holocaust." -- Actually, much of the misplaced diatribes against Pope Pius [played here by a Jew from Brooklyn with the worst fake Italian accent I've ever heard] deal with his failings to intervene with Hitler -- a little misplaced, maybe? Definitely, but I'd hate to see anything rational, reasonable or sane interfere with this movie).
With only a few explicit scenes, it may not be as outwardly violent as its predecessor, Mitchell's only other film "Massacre Mafia Style," but its insanity works in other, more subtler (relatively speaking) ways. If "Massacre Mafia Style" is Klaus Kinski, this is surely Werner Herzog -- something that may appear to be slightly more relaxed and slightly more logical (again, relatively speaking) in its demeanor... until you start actually listening -- this is a madness more organic, and ostensibly more "mad", than the white-haired lunatic on the other corner of the room proclaiming to be Jesus Christ and demanding the peons to lick his ass.
"Gone With the Pope" is a batshit insane film, mostly through its dialogue. The question is: Was Duke Mitchell even aware of what he was creating? Based on Mitchell's former profession as a lounge performer, Occum's Razor may seem to indicate that he was in on the joke the entire time... But delve a little deeper, and things become quite a bit more blurred and insane (the heavy dialogue/ranting scenes I'm pretty sure were meant to be a serious moment). And even the majority of comic scenes don't work on their own merits -- the jokes are either too nonsensical or forcefully offensive to take seriously on their intended value-- but instead transform into, well, a legitimately fucking hilarious ironical meta-joke. And then there's more scenes that I just can't even tell what the hell is even going on, or why...
Part of the real joy of the "good" exploitation films is the level of pedestrian psychology that the viewer begins to examine while watching them. Robert Rodriguez or Tarantino or Eli Roth can rave and reminisce about the days of the grindhouse all they want, but I just don't think they have what it takes to make a truly great exploitation movie (and they have yet to make a semi-decent one). Throw all the tits, gore, machine guns, machetes, jump-cuts, fake missing reels, fake grain, fake color de-saturation in it you want. None of these gimmicks mean anything if the audience is all too aware of your intentions and motivations. The sane man will use the insanity plea and pretend to pull out his hair in front of an audience to illustrate just how crazy he is. The legitimate nutcase will deliver a heartfelt, articulate rant to a completely barren room. Maybe it's a barely sensible analogy (I'm not sure if it makes any sense myself; it's 4 a.m and I'm not all there myself right now), but this is an organic unpretentious madness, the kind that can not be generated by someone that probably isn't a fucking lunatic to begin with.