12/22/06

512 Mitchell

(1975, Crime Drama, color)

I can’t imagine why Mitchell 2 never came out.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A slovenly alcoholic cop repulses the bad guys into submission.

Summary:

Joe Don Baker IS Mittens.Crooked union lawyer Deaney (John Saxon) comes home one night with a business associate and a pair of painted ladies to find a Johnny Mathis impersonator stealing his silverware. He pulls a gun, lures the burglar into the hallway and shoots him.

Our hero (Joe Don Baker as Mitchell) arrives on the scene a short time later—shirt untucked, hair askew, and still groggy from sleeping in the back of a patrol car. He prowls the house, insults Deaney and his guests, and generally makes an ass of himself.

Next day in the precinct, the chief gives him a stern dressing-down about his behavior and tells him to watch a suspected drug importer named Cummins (Martin Balsam). Apparently he’s just supposed to sit outside Cummins’ house until he cracks, confesses, or kills our hero.

Mitchell plays along, demanding Cummins’ confession by day and breaking into Deaney’s house for evidence of wrongdoing by night. After a couple of days of this, a woman of ill repute (Linda Evans) shows up at Mitchell’s apartment. They exchange awkward dialogue, and he spills beer all over her. Somehow this leads to the most unappealing intercourse ever captured on film, set to old-fashioned mountain music. He celebrates the afterglow by arresting her for possession of marijuana.

Mitchell perseveres through car chases and random beatings until his efforts finally pay off in the form of bribe attempts from both Cummins and Deaney. Deaney admits to hiring Mitchell’s pet prostitute, and offers him money in a complicated real estate scheme. Cummins, who has a better understanding of Mitchell’s character, just offers him cash. He rejects both bribes and doggedly continues to pursue both in spite of his chief’s rather reasonable objection that the FBI is already hounding Deaney for other, more serious crimes.

A few scenes were cut here, but if you listen closely to the car radio the last time Mitchell pulls up to Cummins’ house, you’ll hear a report that Deaney died in a dune buggy accident. Cummins offers him a deal. He’s having trouble with the local mobsters, who are trying to move some heroin through his port facility against his will. He offers Mitchell the chance to grab the heroin and the mobsters, leaving him untouched. Mitchell accepts.

Cummins double-crosses Mitchell by telling the mobsters that he’s coming, triple-crosses the mobsters by telling the police what Mitchell is doing, and quadruple-crosses everybody by substituting the heroin with chalk and running to Mexico in his boat. The ever-suspicious Mitchell discovers the substitute immediately but goes to get the mobsters anyway. The mobsters are on to him, but luckily he’s rigged the car to explode in case of trouble. A police helicopter shows up and throws him a shotgun so that he can mow down everyone in sight.

With the help of his helicopter cronies, Mitchell takes off over the Pacific to catch Cummins before he can cross into Mexican waters. They find the boat and use a pontoon as a wrecking ball to slow it down. With the craft partially disabled, Mitchell jumps on and eviscerates the heavy butler (Merlin Olsen) with a boat hook. He lures Cummins out on deck and shoots him in the head.

He finds the hooker waiting for him at home. Even though there are no bad guys left alive to pay her, she’s still rather fond of Mitchell and the drunken abuse he heaps on her. He finds an ounce of marijuana on her and arrests her again.

Introduction:

What kind of person's favorite movie is The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao?Using a nickel as reference, Joel has built a scale model of Monticello out of toothpicks. Tom and Crow come to admire it with a flamethrower and fire axe. Joel stands back and tells them to go ahead; they overcome their momentary guilt to begin demolition.

Host Segment One:

Joel and the ‘Bots have invented the Daktari Stool, which is a zebra-striped, three-legged stool that’s probably a reference to something or other. Deep 13 is being audited to see if they’re really “mad enough.” The Mads have hired a temp named Mike Nelson to help them get ready. He finds and catalogs such items as Frank’s old head and the double butt graft (the butt of a dog grafted onto the butt of a cat). He also finds the movie.

Host Segment Two:

Joel takes Tom and Crow on an Outward Bound adventure, where they must dangle into the load pan bay while they field strip and reassemble themselves. After they leave, Gypsy overhears Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank talking about that “jumpsuited fool” and their plans to kill him. They obviously mean Mike, but Gypsy thinks they want to kill Joel.

Host Segment Three:

Gypsy asks Joel, hypothetically, how would he leave the ship if his life were in mortal danger? He replies that he would never leave his robot friends. She tries to confide in Tom and Crow, but they’re too busy singing old TV themes while riding pogo sticks. Gypsy panics and falls over.

Host Segment Four:

Gypsy recruits Mike to help her. He reads the Satellite manual and discovers the existence of an escape pod, hidden in a box marked “Hamdingers.” He borrows Frank’s keys to give Gypsy control of the pod. Frank comes over and wants to know why Mike needed his keys. Mike replies that his lights were on. Frank doesn’t have a car, leading Mike to ask why he gave him his keys. Frank apologizes and leaves.

Host Segment Five:

Joel tries to read a letter while Gypsy counts down and warning lights flash. Joel asks her to stop about the time she reaches zero and he’s sucked down into the escape pod. He calls them up on the Hexfield Viewscreen to say his goodbyes and give them a plaque with an inscription that quotes The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. His signal breaks up, and the abandoned ‘Bots panic. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester and Frank try to bring him back, but it’s too late; Joel has already landed safely in Australian Outback. They wonder who could possibly take his place, and then laugh maniacally when Mike asks them to sign his timecard.

Stinger:

Mitchell screams at a little kid.

Thoughts:

Our hero drunkenly struggles with an orange peel.After watching this episode and/or reading this review, you may well be asking yourself, what about the missing scenes? Or, as Tom puts it near the end of the film, “Wasn’t John Saxon in this movie?” A bit of research reveals that, about two thirds of the way through the film, there’s a scene where Mitchell chases Deaney (the John Saxon character) down the beach in a dune buggy, at the end of which Deaney somehow gets killed. Considering that Mitchell also uses this opportunity bash a man’s head open with a rock, it’s easy to understand why Best Brains cut that particular sequence. Other cuts spared us another nauseating session of muskrat lovin’ with Linda Evans, in which she confesses that she’s being paid to service him. Speaking for myself, I’m just as happy I got to muddle along without those particular plot points.

Joe Don Baker was rumored to be quite upset at the abuse the MST3K crew heaped upon his character during the film segments, and uttered dire consequences against the show’s creators should any of them have the misfortune to meet him in person. I’m not in a position to say whether or not this is true. For all I know, Mr. Don Baker might be a sweet, loving person in real life. All I can say is that he imbued Mitchell with an aura of utter redneck loathsomeness that I have never seen matched in any other cinematic character—hero, villain, or otherwise. To be honest, I’m not really sure why would anyone want to make a movie about him. It can’t be that he’s a wronged man out for justice. I never saw him get a beating in this film that he didn’t go looking for. It can’t be that he’s nasty but morally impeachable. He refuses monetary bribes, sure, but he’s willing to sleep with a hooker paid for by the mob and break into houses for legally useless evidence. Not to mention the fact that he shoots, bludgeons, and eviscerates his enemies with far more gusto than I ever saw in any of the film’s antagonists. At the end of the last fight scene he shoots a supposedly unarmed man in the back of the head. Bravo, Mitchell. Bravo.

The host segments make this one of the most important MST3K episodes you can watch, especially if you want to understand the show’s continuity. The tale of Joel’s escape and Mike’s conscription is crucial if you want to know why some episodes are hosted by that one guy, and others by that other guy. It helps that they’re well done, too. I especially liked the ‘Bot’s response to Gypsy’s panic and Mike’s ingenious method of obtaining Frank’s keys. The confetti standing in for static was a funny touch as well. For the rest of this story, it’s also important to watch the next episode, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, to see Mike’s inauguration as that other guy on the satellite.

The film segments hurt to watch, but not for lack of trying by the Satellite crew. After a few scenes of watching our alcoholic hero in action, Joel says, “Mitchell: Even his name says, ‘Is that a beer?’” When all the bad guys are dead, Tom suggests, “It’s about this time in any killing spree that you really ought to turn the gun on yourself.” In the closing moments of the film, Joel wonders, “He’s only got a few more minutes to be likable. Do you think he can pull it off?” It’s a funny episode, provided you go in knowing that you’re about to watch the MST3K canon’s most repulsive protagonist in action.