e-mail:Smokey X. Digger
1975, Dir. Andrew V. McLaglen
(Tip o' the hat to Tim and Henry Skel who convinced me to watch this one.)
Possibly Joe Don Baker's finest hour, Mitchell sees the estimable Mr. Baker stretch his thespian talents to portray a renegade cop. Not exactly Dirty Harry though, more like Slovenly Harry. He's fat, unkempt, drinks Schlitz, sleeps with hookers, and dresses like a slob. Not to mention his clothes look like they came from the Big and Tall section of the Ralph Furley Fall Collection. Mitchell is rated #38 on the IMDb's Bottom 100. Watch this and you will realize why. Watch the MST3K treatment and you will believe that you can rupture internal organs with laughter while watching a movie. Everything about this movie is half-assed, particularly the performances. Baker, Martin Balsam (of Psycho fame), Linda Evans, and even his holiness John Saxon are perfectly underwhelming; but special mention must be given to Merlin Olsen. If his insistence that he is not "a goddamn lousy butler" in the dinner scene doesn't provide you a new low, I suggest you stop watching bad movies for at least a week. You may be in over your head.
Mitchell isn't a film as much as it is a series of vaguely connected storylines. Mitchell tries to get Walter Deaney (Saxon) for framing a burglar, but is warned to stay away from him. He is assigned to watch mobster James Cummins (Balsam) who is to recieve a shipment of heroin. A hooker (Evans) who won't reveal who's paying for her falls in love with Mitchell. The FBI is after Deaney. Cummins is under pressure from mob bosses. Cummins tries to bribe Mitchell. Deaney wants to kill Mitchell. Cummins is crossing the mob bosses. Mitchell busts the prostitute for pot. I'm sure if you look close enough the meaning of life is in there somewhere but honestly it's not worth searching for it. Just sit back and revel in one of the most mock-worthy movies ever committed to celluloid. Learn from Mitchell's unorthodox police techniques. For example, the first thing you do on a stake out is run up to the house and introduce yourself to the person you're staking out. "Ding-dong-ditch" and breaking and entering are acceptable methods of investigation. (Conveniently, the very rich use aluminum foil to cover up broken panes of glass.) And when your boss tells you that he wants a suspect brought in on some charge for two weeks, you shoot the suspect in the leg.
In addition to badass Mitchell who only plays by his own rules, there's sensitive Mitchell. Cringe as "romantic" scenes that test the limits of human endurance demonstrate the blossoming romance between Mitchell and Greta, the prostitute who falls for him. Feel your stomach churn during Mitchell's foot fetish scene, laugh hysterically as Mitchell reaches for a sixer of Schlitz with his foot during a romantic encounter, and scream as Mitchell delivers the single most horrifying line ever uttered on the silver screen:
"Want me to take my clothes off?"
Apparently the Makers of Framed were the only ones to say yes to that question. If that's not enough you can yawn your way through the least exciting car chase in movie history, and maybe wake up in time to see Mitchell evade two dune buggies that are trying to run him over in a scene that will make you wonder; "Where did this guy play football?" You can wonder why people just don't like Mitchell, a fact that is emphasized by his boss, again by Cummins, and yet again by the little kid from the infamous "Piss off!!" scene whose mother doesn't like Mitchell. I mean, what's not to like about this guy?! But let's see what else is there ... oh yeah. The horribly edited fight sequences, Merlin Olsen's acting, the hilarious dialogue of the dinner scene, you should be able to find something to laugh at in every frame of this flick.
IN CLOSING: All that remains to be asked is; "Why?" Why make Mitchell? By 1975 Shaft and Dirty Harry had proved that renegade cop movies could be sucecssful and spawn sequels, and in 1974 Death Wish was released. Perhaps the makers of Mitchell were trying to cash in on this phenomenon and realized that not every movie watcher could identify with the badassness of John Shaft or Harry Callahan, and needed someone a little more down to earth. I can only come to this conclusion because it's absolutely impossible to believe that someone would have thought that Mitchell could have been a success on its own merit; and therefore it must be a reaction to similarly themes films that preceded it. Great art cannot be created in a vacuum, and neither could Mitchell.