Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mitchell

1975's MITCHELL is unfortunately not quite as awful as hoped, as its reputation has suggested.  Even Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured/destroyed it (I've yet to catch that episode). For years I've read about the movie's ineptitude on all fronts.  I happen to love bad '70s pics,  when the mood strikes.  So satisfying are cheesy, morally dubious genre pics with hilarious music and clumsy edits.  MITCHELL has this, but does in fact show some evidence of coherency.   This leaves me only to report that this low grade actioner is mostly just boring, albeit with some (unintentionally) laugh out loud moments.

Joe Don Baker, best known perhaps for his portrayal of baseball bat swinging lawman Buford Pusser in WALKING TALL, plays Mitchell, yet another slovenly cop whose insubordination puts him at odds with his superiors.  But there's only a moment or two when he's arguing with the chief.  The Dirty Harry films (which MITCHELL sorta resembles) have far more such moments.  It's a cliche in these movies for bachelor cops to live in filthy apartments strewn with porno mags and a frig in which only a can of beer and expired Chinese takeout is to be seen.  Mitchell's pad is certainly drab and tackily decorated, but surprisingly orderly.

This might explain why Greta (Linda Evans), a prostitute who knocks on his door one night doesn't leave right away. Well, Mitchell does spill some beer on her leg, which Greta asks if her oafish host might enjoy licking off.  Most real life (and even filmic) alcoholic slobs don't have ($1000 a night!) ladies of evening just showing up looking for action, unless they've been hired by some wealthy creep like Deaney (reliable B-movie maven John Saxon).  Mitchell has been watching the trade union lawyer closely after a burglar turns up dead in his mansion.  The cop rightly doesn't buy his self defense plea and wants to bust him, but the FBI is already after the guy for a multitude of Federal violations.

There's also another wealthy older dude named Cummings (Martin Balsam) who has mob connections and apparently a large debt to be repaid to the "family". He also has a surly butler/bodyguard named Benton (L.A. Rams defensive tackle and future Father Murphy star Merlin Olsen) with whom MItchell has a few scuffles.  The plot will further involve a shipment of heroin.  Yawn.

Andrew V. McLagen, who often worked with John Wayne, directed MITCHELL.  This would explain its barest glimmer of professionalism. Barest. The action scenes are somewhat competent.  For the most part, the movie plays like a rejected television pilot, complete with standard crime drama scripting and scoring and a howlingly funny opening title credit sequence in which Mitchell's face is shown in freeze frame with periodic slow mo as he is hoisting something over his head; it turns out to be a large rock in a scene from later in the movie.

There's also a silly argument between Mitchell and a kid on a skateboard. But the comedy centerpiece surely must be the lengthy sex scene between Mitchell and Greta ('"Hey, watch my ribs!") while the theme song sung by Hoyt Axton drones on. How many romantic interludes have you seen where the guy grabs a sixer of beer with his foot while getting it on?!  To call this sequence unarousing is pure understatement; it's the cinematic equivalent of saltpeter.

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