Well, here’s something a little different for you. This is the one sheet for a never released until now 1970s gangster flick that has been making the rounds on the festival circuit thanks to the efforts of Grindhouse Releasing, the self-proclaimed “undisputed leader in quality exploitation”.
Now, unlike the other movies I’ve mentioned on Things To Come in the past, there’s a good chance I’m not even going to watch this when and if it ever makes it to DVD. In fact, the trailer up on YouTube is so full of profanity and nudity that I’m not even comfortable linking to it here. So why bring it up at all? Well, for a few reasons.
First off, the movie was written, directed by, and stars Duke Mitchell, whom you might remember as the crooning half of the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis lookalike duo from Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla. How you go from aping Dean Martin to helming flicks like this one and Massacre Mafia Style (which is noted as a direct influence on Quentin Tarantino) is a story I’d like to read sometime.
Then there’s the plot descriptions I’ve read which are so ludicrous that it’s fun just talking about the film, even if I never do see it. The main storyline revolves around the efforts of ex-con Paulie and three of his prison cronies who sail to Rome with the intention of kidnapping the Pope, partly for the money and partly as revenge for the past crimes of the Church. They manage to do so, but while being held captive, His Holiness succeeds in converting Paulie’s three pals, and then talks Paulie into just letting him go. The movie ends with Paulie lighting a candle in a church on Christmas Eve at the Pope’s request, and experiencing some kind of supernatural event which may or may not signal his redemption. All of that actually makes me want to watch the movie, but alas, some of the questionable subplots I’ve read about, including one involving the world’s most obese hooker, will probably keep me away. Still, it’s interesting that the movie appears to, in it’s own sleazeball way, acknowledge the saving grace of God. Just imagine if Scorcese ever had the guts to to make a mob movie like that.
And finally, there’s the whole conceit of the ransom which Paulie demands. For the safe return of the Pope, he wants one dollar from every Catholic in the world (although he’s willing to drop it to fifty cents so as not to burden all of the impoverished Chinese). That’s almost brilliant. In the latest edition of the Annuario Pontificio, or pontifical yearbook, which was released in February 2011, the Vatican estimates that approximately 1.18 billion people (1 out of every 5 on the planet) are members of the Catholic Church. So even if you only collected half a buck from each Catholic, you’d still be set for life. Sure, it’s a ridiculous plot premise (how in the world is one lone criminal supposed to collect 50 cents from 1.18 billion people anyway), but it does point out some of the potential power inherent in the Church. Just think about it. 1.18 billion people with the combined capacity to change the world, not through acts of violence, but through the active turning of their wills towards the good of their fellow man, a good accomplished mostly through service. It’s really breathtaking when you take the time to mull it over.
Now if only someone could figure out how to get those 1.18 billion people to actually do that all at once. Probably easier to collect the 50 cents.