Comfortable and Furious

Mitchell (1975)

It’s a shame Mystery Science Theater wasn’t around when this fiasco was being made. Mitchell was a theatrical flop. If it had been released with the MST3K commentary in 1976, it would have possibly been received positively and became a major hit or at least a cult hit. At least Mitchell could have gotten its money back instead of being one of the ’70’s releases which bankrupted the mini-major studio known as Allied Artists.

Regarding MST3000, the funniest episode with one- liners by the two reviewer/hosts is the episode where they bury the 1975 Allied Artists release, Mitchell. This movie is a mishap of a relentless cop vs. the Mob drug kingpin starring the usually terrific Joe Don Baker. He is an unintentional parody of the title character, a bulky, ham-fisted, hot-tempered, shoot or punch first and ask questions later type of guy.

Mitchell stars Linda Evans, John Saxon, and Martin Balsam and was directed by one of my favorite directors, Andrew V. McLaren. This guy was in his Dark Period, with subsequent effort more and more despairing. I’m referring to his normally jovial, invigorating, directions of early TV Westerns like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and later episodes of Banacek and John Wayne’s McClintock, Chisum, and The Hellfighters, just to mention a few.

Instead of James Stewart ‘s hit movies like Shenandoah and The Rare Breed, he found himself filming debilitating trash like the aforementioned Mitchell. There was the vile, sadistic, and initially X-rated The Last Hard Men, a soulless, by the numbers, exploitative revenge Western, wasting the talents of the legendary director and his stars. The film was universally criticized for its’ gore and panned for its’ machine-like, by the number’s treatment. Winning an R rating after several edits and appeals before the MPAA, the 20th Century Fox release tanked with a paltry $ 600,000 opening weekend.

It was as if the world of humane interaction, high adventure, invigorating action, heroism, and good humor had disappeared for Andrew McLaglen. This world was replaced by a more cynical, selfish and brutal one. His world seemed to evaporate as the great stars he worked with Wayne, Stewart, Peck, Mitchum, Burton, and Moore aged, died or retired.

Mitchell was the R-rated inaugural entry into McLaglen’s Dark Period. With its’ gratuitous sex, rough violence, language, and attitude, it didn’t resemble any picture McLaglen had previously directed. It was a capitulation to a genre which was becoming redundant- the honest cop who has less regard for Miranda rights than his criminal prey and would do ANYTHING to bring in this prey, dead or alive, and preferably the Former. When the Mystery Science Theater crew sink their teeth into Mitchell, the quips never stop, whether they Crack wise about Evans’ pulchritude or Baker’s corpulence, diet, and wardrobe, or plot lines, action, and dialogue.



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