Archive for the ‘Don Rickles’ Tag

Gone With the Pope (1976)   6 comments

Criterion 14mm BD case wrap

A quartet of slow-witted ex-cons plot to kidnap the Pope and demand a dollar from every Catholic as ransom.

creepy pope
Creepy Uncle Pope.

That sounds spectacular. It isn’t. Letterboxd and imdb list Gone With the Pope as a 2010 film because Grindhouse Releasing restored and released it theatrically in that year after someone found a work print of it in a garage. Perhaps they should have left it there. It was made in 1976, no doubt to celebrate the bicentennial. I’ve heard the un-pc quality of this film compared to Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite or The Human Tornado. In that they are both films made in the 1970s, I’ll buy it. Of course using that rationale I Spit on Your Grave is comparable to Pete’s Dragon.


I digress. The Human Torpedo has something Gone with the Pope doesn’t, a script, heart, characters you give a crap about, and some semblance of onscreen talent. Rudy Ray Moore is funny. His stand-up style resembles that of Don Rickles. He abuses the audience and they eat it up. He has great comedic timing and a charismatic presence. The other actors playing with Moore are pretty good too. They at least can have a conversation on camera. In Pope, I wondered if any of the, um actors had even seen a movie. Just godawful.

sitting around
Do we act now?

Also, I think there was something wrong with the cameraman. The framing of the shots was obscenely bad. Often, in close-ups, the frame consisted of one and a half of a person’s eyes. I mean, the guy left out half an eye. It reminded me of those skits on “The Benny Hill Show” in which they show a film with the continuity all messed up. The camera shows an actor, then moves off him and when it shows him again, he has a mustache or a different shirt. I like when I see Benny Hill do it. Here, not so much.

benny hill

Then there’s the music. In Moore’s films, the action moves to a funky soul and R&B soundtrack. Soul Train’s Don Cornelius chose the music for Dolemite. In Pope, writer/director/star Duke Mitchell sings lame, off-key lounge lizard songs as he shoots people.

I wish.

Between scenes of murder and degradation, Mitchell shows romantic montages of he and his girlfriend riding merry-go-rounds and lighting each others’ cigarettes. Sigh.

“I’m sure cotton candy’s good for them, honey.”

There are also scenes in clubs in Las Vegas and Lake Arrowhead, California. Terry Gilliam could easily have used footage of these acts in nightmare drug sequences in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

bad band
Show business!

Finally, there’s the incredibly tasteless and offensive narrative in Gone with the Pope. No group escapes Mitchell’s abuse. He denigrates pretty much everyone he comes across. I don’t think you can watch exploitation films, which I like, and expect them to conform to modern sensibilities. That said, wow.

Did he really say that?

I’ve seen racial or sexual humor in this type of film and, if it’s funny, I laugh. Gone with the Pope isn’t funny. The racial and sexual humor doesn’t work. It’s mean-spirited, lazy, and poorly done. I’m not sure who the intended audience was for this film because it’s hard to imagine anyone finding anything to like about it. I’m glad I saw it and I think it’s important to show films like these just because they are bad and do offend people. After all, it’s hard to rate films if everything you see gets five stars. I won’t say it’s a time capsule because I don’t believe the views expressed speak to the times as much as they do to the tastes of a small group of odd people. I just like seeing what different people do with a vanity film.

duke gun

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