56 - Massacre Mafia Style (1974)
Here at the Grindbin we love ourselves an auteur movie. These one-man efforts can lead to brilliant pieces of cinema or horrible cases of self-indulgence and incoherence. There is something to be said about putting yourself out there and letting your critics know that despite their best efforts, you insist on making your movie, your way.
One one hand you have the Paul Thomas Anderson's of the world - Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, to name a few - and on the other you have your Tommy Wiseau's - the people who should probably never have made a movie but we are glad they did.
On the Grindbin we have encountered quite a few auteur filmmakers - John Rad (Episode 8: Dangerous Men), Chester Novell Turner (Episode 15: Black Devil Doll From Hell and Episode 32: Tales From the Quadead Zone), Joel Wynkoop (Episode 19: Lost Faith), and Y.A. Kim (Episode 25: Miami Connection). Every one of these movies (with the exception of Black Devil Doll) have remained some of our favorite movies we've covered during this podcast; Massacre Mafia Style is no exception.
What makes these movies so watchable? They should be bad, we should hate them, but we can't help but love them. It might be the earnest effort that these filmmakers give to a craft they know very little about that makes it so enjoyable. Anyone who has been to film school or has worked in or around the film industry would tell you that writing, directing, and starring in your own film is a recipe for disaster. It's fun to imagine yourself in complete control of a project but it's not a good idea to actually make it.
Most of the famous auteur directors that made great films (Stanley Kubrik, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Lynch) wrote and directed their own movies but they would never star in them. It takes a certain type of hubris to put yourself in front of the camera and still consider yourself in charge of the production; it honestly takes a madman. These successful directors would also never copy better source material and try and it make it their own, they have a vision that they believe only they can tell and it's a story they need to create on their own.
Duke Mitchell wanted to be a star. He had a comedy duo that was sued by Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin for trying to copy them. He performed in Night Clubs around New York, Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, and most famously Palm Springs (which he would eventually self-proclaim himself the "King of Palm Springs") trying to emulate more famous acts like Frank Sinatra. Eventually Duke found a home in Palm Springs and stars would come to his shows (including Sinatra) on their weekend vacations to the area. Despite this modicum of success, Duke wanted more, he wanted the spotlight.
Being influenced heavily by another piece of superior art (Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather) he decided to make his own version and use personal stories he heard on the road performing in front of mobsters. The only problem was, Duke had no idea how to make a movie, and he certainly had no idea how to act. Did this stop him? Hell no.
Massacre Mafia Style is a glorious mess of a movie. It's plot is loose and confusing, the script is offensive and nonsensical, the acting is atrocious, the direction is haphazard, and the editing is borderline unacceptable. Despite all these flaws I would highly recommend this movie to fans of this show; you will absolutely love it.
The one thing you can say about all these Grindbin auteurs is that they don't suffer from laziness. Movies like Stewardess School and Tentacles suffer from a total lack of drive and interest. These films are horrible because nobody involved in the process of making them cared. They would get paid, the film would bomb, they would move on. It's never like this for the Grindbin auteurs, they pour their entire lives into making their movie and even if it doesn't turn out how they hoped, it still turns out like a genuine piece of art. They tried their best and that's really all any of us can ask for in life.
And as for Duke, I think this movie inspired some great art that came a couple decades later. Can you draw any comparisons?
Next Week's Film
Raw Force (1982)
Director: Edward D. Murphy
Writer: Edward D. Murphy
Stars: Cameron Mitchell, Geoffrey Binney, Hope Holiday