As a rule, Grindhouse Releasing is a label devot­ed to cultish cin­e­mat­ic plea­sures — but they’ve tru­ly gone “deep cat­a­log” with their res­ur­rec­tion of Duke Mitchell’s fil­mog­ra­phy. As their recent blu-ray/DVD edi­tion of Massacre Mafia Style proved, they have an hon­est, warts-and-all appre­ci­a­tion for the man’s work and have put in a lot of time to cre­ate spe­cial edi­tions that allow fans new and old to appre­ci­ate the com­plex­i­ty behind Mitchell’s tight­ly-bud­get­ed yet pas­sion-rich films. Their new spe­cial edi­tion of Gone With The Pope com­pletes this jour­ney — and if you embrace the extremes of cult cin­e­ma, it’s a jour­ney you’ll want to take.

GWTP-bluFirst, it must be not­ed that Grindhouse does more than provide a swell trans­fer for this film: Gone With The Pope was a lost, incom­plete piece of work before they took an inter­est in it and a team led by label founder Bob Murawski com­plet­ed the film’s edit and gave it a prop­er sound mix. The results look and sound gor­geous: this film was shot using what­ev­er film was avail­able, includ­ing short ends, but you’d nev­er guess it from the vibrant­ly col­or­ful, rich­ly detailed image you see here. The look is con­sis­tent­ly gor­geous.

As for the sound, you get 5.1. and 2.0 stereo choic­es as well as a gen­uine 1.0 mono mix, all pre­sent­ed in loss­less form on the blu-ray. All options do well with the hasti­ly record­ed sync sound and weave togeth­er a nice­ly-craft­ed sound design, includ­ing a Scorcese-esque use of music, to com­plete the sound­scape for every­thing that was shot M.O.S.

Better yet, there’s a cav­al­cade of extras to dive into once you’ve fin­ished with the film. The cen­ter­piece is a ret­ro­spec­tive inter­view piece called “Gone With The Pope: The Players,” which incor­po­rates input from cin­e­matog­ra­pher Peter Santoro, edi­tors Robert Florio and Robert Leighton, cast mem­bers John Murgia and Jim LoBianco and filmmaker/distributor Matt Cimber.

The results give you a nice sense of how inde­pen­dent film­mak­ers worked on the mar­gins of Hollywood in the ‘70s, focused around how Mitchell applied the off-the-cuff, impro­vi­sa­tion skills he devel­oped as a night­club enter­tain­er to film­mak­ing. There are fun sto­ries of Mitchell’s film­mak­ing meth­ods, includ­ing how he’d feed lines to his inex­pe­ri­enced cast from off-cam­era and how he once stole devel­oped footage from a lab to skip out on the lab bill. Along the way, you get a sense of how Mitchell mix­ture of inde­pen­dence and loy­al­ty inspired his cre­ators to keep work­ing with him, even when the odds were stacked high again­st them.

Two short­er fea­turettes GWTP-04revolve around Santoro. The first deals with how the film was shot, allow­ing Santoro to dis­cuss the equip­ment and tech­niques used to cre­ate a movie-style look on an impos­si­bly tight bud­get: the meth­ods used to cre­ate the illu­sion of shoot­ing in Rome are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. The oth­er is a 3-min­ute piece on the restora­tion of the film in which Santoro reveals how the film’s restora­tion was com­plet­ed and the dif­fer­ent process­es used to clean up the footage.

Next up is a set of sev­en delet­ed sce­nes, offer­ing about sev­en­teen min­utes’ worth of addi­tion­al footage. Highlights include a longer take of a scene pair­ing Mitchell with his son Jeffrey, an extend­ed ver­sion of the “Pope kid­nap­ping” set­piece and the setup for a golf course assas­si­na­tion (!). Thirteen min­utes’ worth of out­takes offer a mix­ture of GWTP-05flubs, often hilar­i­ous pro­fane, and exam­ples of Mitchell’s direc­to­ri­al style, includ­ing him feed­ing lines to actors and hilar­i­ous­ly blow­ing up at inter­rup­tions to takes.

One of the most unique inclu­sions is a brief piece called “Inserts,” which involves Santoro telling a wild tale about Mitchell schemed to shoot porn inserts so he could sell them and raise mon­ey for the film. Said footage end­ed up being soft­core and is pre­sent­ed in this piece, com­plete with a Duke bal­lad play­ing over it. On a dif­fer­ent tip, you also get the full takes of Frankie Carr and the Novel-ites, a lounge act that appears in the film. It’s a fun glimpse into the kind of vaude­ville-derived music and com­e­dy acts that have passed into show­biz mem­o­ry.

A big­ger fea­turet­te pops up in the form of “Hollywood World Première,” a 20 min­ute piece that chron­i­cles the film’s 2010 debut at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater. Much of it is devot­ed to a post-screen­ing Q&A ses­sion fea­tur­ing many of the peo­ple in the “Players” fea­turet­te. However, you also get to see Murawski talk about how Grindhouse end­ed up with Gone With The Pope and Jeffrey Mitchell offer­ing a fond thanks to the film’s fans.GWTP-06

Next up is a set of pro­mo mate­ri­als. The first is the trail­er that Grindhouse put togeth­er to pro­mote the film: it’s a mini-clas­sic that touch­es on every­thing that makes the film such a wild ride. You also get a pair of still gal­leries: “Production Materials” offers a lot of paper­work form the film while “Theatrical Release” includes the film’s excel­lent pro­mo art and snaps from a vari­ety of screen­ings. A Duke Mitchell fil­mog­ra­phy includes a cou­ple of trail­ers and the Grindhouse Releasing trail­ers reel offers all the gen­re diver­si­ty and wild sights that the label’s fans love. There’s also a fun east­er egg tucked away on the extras menu.

The DVD offers up more extras in the DVD-ROM sec­tion. It includes a pair of PDF doc­u­ments. The first is a col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments mix­ing treat­ments, script pages, song lyrics and break­down of how he intend­ed the film’s sce­nes to be orga­nized on each reel. You get a sense of Mitchell put togeth­er his cre­ative ideas: even though they were con­stant­ly revised dur­ing the shoot, his ideas about the clash of the sec­u­lar and the spir­i­tu­al remain con­sis­tent.GWTP-07

The oth­er doc­u­ment is a 20-page the­sis about the restora­tion of the film. Devoted fans will love this because it gets into the com­plex artis­tic issues, name­ly the fine line between preser­va­tion and re-inter­pre­ta­tion, that Murawski and com­pa­ny dealt with in com­plet­ing a film that only exist­ed as a rough assem­bly. The final touch is a lin­er notes book­let with a thought­ful appre­ci­a­tion of the film by nov­el­ist John Skipp.

To sum up, Grindhouse Releasing’s work here has result­ed in one of their finest achieve­ments. They went beyond hon­or­ing a film’s lega­cy here: they actu­al­ly res­ur­rect­ed, restored and fin­ished an aban­doned work. They real­ly earned their tag as “the Criterion Collection of exploita­tion” with this impres­sive set.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Gone With The Pope, click here.