Massacre Mafia Style (1974)
By: Stuart Giesel on August 6, 2015 | Comments
Grindhouse | Region Free | 1.85:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 1.0 | 82 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Duke Mitchell
Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Lou Zito, Cara Salerno
Writer: Duke Mitchell
Country: USA
Massacre Mafia Style truly has to be seen to be believed. And by that, I mean the opening ten minutes, which surely rates as one of the most amazing opening scenes ever filmed. It's shocking, tacky, brutal, idiotic, appalling and absolutely astonishing. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can't hope to live up to it, but it sure tries its best.

The film quickly introduces us to two ageing wiseguys, suit-clad gangsters Reservoir Dogs or, indeed, Pulp Fiction-style: Rizzo (Vic Caesar) and Mimi Micelli (Duke Mitchell). Mimi, son to a once-legendary crime boss who has been exiled back to Sicily, is in L.A. trying to reestablish control of the "family business" – you know, the usual: drugs, prostitution, drinking, gambling. Mimi makes quite the impression, pissing everyone off including the local mafia and a famous pimp named Sugarspook with his brazen and callous display of violence. Recruiting old buddy Rizzo, Mimi cuts a bloody swathe through L.A., earning more enemies than he does respect. And, er that's about it as far as the plot goes.

Nightclub singer turned actor-writer-director Duke Mitchell probably hoped that this low budget gangster picture would make as much coin as The Godfather, as this is a pretty transparent cash-in on Coppola's masterpiece. Yet, interestingly, it dares to shit in its own bed, so to speak, by trying to shame that Oscar-winning masterpiece for apparently painting a picture that all Sicilians are Mafia goons. That's a bit rich, coming from this sleazy, gory exploitation film that focuses around a wretched, violent thug who excuses his disgusting behaviour by explaining that he's a fish out of water, a man from a different time who's going the way of the dodo. I call bullshit. Massacre Mafia Style wants to be all high-minded whilst at the same time wallowing in gore.

This is such a silly movie. It's wonderful. "That's his finger alright," says a goon, remarking on the supposed validity of a severed finger belonging to his boss, "I've seen it on him a million times". Yes, this is an actual line in the film, a line that was deliberately written, filmed and edited into the final cut.

The sets are sparse and cheap, camerawork is a little wonky, but that all adds to the charm. The acting is pretty stilted if you compare it to a legitimately great gangster film like Goodfellas orCasino, but contained in its own weird little world isn't as terrible as it could have been. Presumably there wasn't the money for multiple takes.

Massacre Mafia Style (also going by the less exploitative title Like Father, Like Son) is the sort of film set in an alternate universe where the "hero" – who is a sleazy, ageing bastard, who's hardly Brad Pitt, mind you – can crash the wedding of a mob boss's son (yes, the boss he just kidnapped and severed a finger), raise a glass, feel up a busty young girl he just met and worm his way back into the boss's good graces — because that's the sort of guy he is.

But that opening scene. Beautiful. Do yourself a favour, don't watch the trailer beforehand, as it is essentially the entire scene beat for beat. But just to give you a sense of the insanity on display, we're introduced to our heroes as they accost a wheelchair-bound man (who is able to noticeably move his legs on more than one occasion!) in an especially creative manner, before gunning their way through an office like complete psychopaths. They wind up in a lift and Mitchell seems unable to keep his hands of a black kid who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the film just gets weirder from there. Add some awful stylised credit titles, gory violence with bright red blood straight out of Dawn of the Dead and a cheesy Italian tune and you have a true winner.

Mind you, it's not as retarded as The Room. Mitchell knows how to stage a scene and keep the pacing on target. It's apparent that budget was the primary limitation on this production. But that still doesn't mean it isn't endearingly and entertainingly misguided. As mentioned, this being a vanity project, Mitchell is fond of breaking into long monologues about Italians having lost their way and blah-de-blah – a futile attempt to instil some depth in between the gore and violence. His final monologue goes on about how the world is changing, how the mafia is being kicked out of prostitution and drug rackets by more ruthless criminals and how their way of life is being parodied and insulted (all together now – aaawwwww). Yeah, whatever. Tell that to the fiftieth person you've shot in the face, champ.

Come for the opening scene, stay for the bloodletting and cannoli-infused silliness. Duke Mitchell presumably hoped for a thoughtful and provocative Godfather-alternative. What he delivered was worth treasuring more: a violent, misguided film of idiocy that occasionally, and accidentally, slips into competence.
The Disc
Many more films of far grander quality than Massacre Mafia Style have suffered inferior Blu-Ray releases. Grindhouse Releasing has done a superlative effort with Duke Mitchell's enjoyably daft magnum opus.

Though the movie's low budget origins shine through, from the cheap sets and staging through to the bargain basement costumes, sound effects and lighting, the picture and audio quality are both far grander than the biggest fan of Massacre could have hoped for. Colours are especially strong, making the picture look appropriately garish at times, what with the outdated design. There are some artefacts here and there, but overall Massacre Mafia Style looks as handsome as Mitchell's coiffured hair. Dialogue remains clear throughout, and the horrendous opening song, along with the rest of the soundtrack, is punchy and as bold as the crayon-red blood.

The Blu-Ray (and bundled DVD) is packed with features. "Like Father, Like Son: Duke and Jeffrey Mitchell" sees Duke Mitchell's son Jeffrey talk about his father's singing and film career, following in the man's footsteps, how his old man got into fights (which happened a lot, apparently) and other stories. A second feature has interviews with Duke's friends Matt Cimber and Jim Lobianco (also a costar in Massacre) who talk about filming the gangster pic, the impact that The Godfather had on Mitchell, Massacre's (at the time) outrageous violence and marketing the exploitation film. Unfortunately we don't get terribly much about the actual filming of Massacre Mafia Style itself, nor many behind-the-scenes goodies.

"Duke Mitchell Home Movies" has twelve of Duke's home movies, which are about as exciting as you might expect, but it's nice they're here if you're one of three people obsessed with Mitchell's career. Packed into the disc are also radio spots, still galleries, filmographies, and that legendaryMassacre Mafia Style trailer (the original trailer that solely uses footage from that amazing opening scene). There are also previews for other Grindhouse Releasing discs, including Duke Mitchell's Gone With The PopeCannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox and I Drink Your Blood.

For Mitchell obsessives, the complete film Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla that starred Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo as a kind of poor man's Martin and Lewis is also included, along with that film's theatrical trailer and still gallery. And "An Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante" sees Mitchell made up as Durante, doing his shtick.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
"The most violent picture ever made!" crows the publicity on the back of the Blu-Ray case. That's hardly accurate, though Massacre Mafia Style still packs plenty of bloody squib-work and gory bloodletting into its relatively compact 82 minutes. It's a truly goofy movie in that pure grindhouse style, with delusions of grandeur as it lambasts The Godfather for painting Italian-Americans in a bad light yet at the same time having its protagonists commit some truly appalling acts that would make the Corleones shit their pants. Duke Mitchell has crafted a wonderfully batty and unique mobster picture that deserves to be remembered for more than it outstanding opening scene of chaos.
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