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Despite his lack of personal morals in his own life, and his inability to engender anything more than disdain from his fellow coworkers, somehow Baker has acquired a near zero-tolerance for any criminal behavior among other people. He's simultaneously amoral and noble, and we the audience are left wondering why, because the script never manages to explain it for us. There's very little to love about Mitchell, but Baker manages to muddle through the script nonetheless; not an easy job for any actor. Baker should have received an award for tolerating the terribly written script that was given him.
The film is more like a failed pilot for television than an actual silver screen cop action movie. The plot is difficult to describe without the use of censorable and colorful adjectives. There appears to be at least two different plots going at the same time, and the plot with John Saxton in it starts the film but then peters out about halfway through. The other plot involves Baker sitting outside a rich guy's house because he's somehow involved in drug smuggling, and eventually finding himself being beat up and shot at. He's even accosted verbally by a young child on a skateboard. Attempts at humor abound, but nothing seems to really engender a good laugh. Linda Evans uneventfully plays a prostitute who is hired to make love with Mitchell, and for some strange reason falls in love with him despite the audience's inability to comprehend why.
Mitchell features what is perhaps the slowest car chase in the history of cinema, and that alone is worth watching the film for true action flick fans, if nothing more than to see what film makers should never do. Mitchell acquired a renewal of sorts in the form of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the mid-90s, when the film was featured as the form of torture used by mad scientists on an innocent Joel Robinson and his lovable robots. This particular episode of MST3K is the turning point of that series, because it's the one where Joel Hodgson left the series and was replaced by head writer Mike Nelson. So all fans of MST3K hold a special place in their hearts for this, the worst cop flick ever.
Thats a shame because as exploitation films from the 1970's go this one is one of the best. No it won't win an award but its unrepentant trash with sexist remarks and dopey action. Joe Don Baker was never a great actor but he could turn in a good exploitation performance before becoming simply a cartoon character.
If you're in the mood for a good mindless action film give this a try. Its better than you think and certainly better that being near the bottom of a worst film of all time list.
- Over the years I've learned that anytime Joe Don Baker is the "star" of a movie, you know you're in trouble. I don't know what the people behind Mitchell were thinking, but Joe Don Baker cannot carry a movie. He's fine as a goofy sidekick to provide some comic relief, but he just looks silly trying to play an action star.
- The plot really doesn't matter. The highlight of the movie is watching Baker run, drink beer, and recite goofy dialog. One of the weirdest moments in the movie is a scene with Baker and a little boy on a skateboard. The exchange they have is utterly ridiculous and feels like it belongs in another movie.
- I'm not sure what Linda Evans, Martin Balsam, and John Saxon thought Mitchell would do for their careers, but it's certainly a low point. Fortunately for Saxon, he disappears about half way through and doesn't make it to the film's "dramatic" conclusion. I've always looked at Balsam as a fairly accomplished actor. He should have known better. As for Evans, her love scenes with Baker are enough to induce nausea. Hoyt Axton musical ode to Mitchell only adds to the ridiculous nature of the this scene.
- I've seen Mitchell both with and without the MST3K commentary. The preferred viewing is with the commentary. I'm no MST3K expert, but this is my favorite episode that I've seen. Much of it is truly laugh-out-loud funny.
I understand why some people don't like Joe Don Baker movies, but my own judgments of his films are influenced memories of one of my best friends in college (since passed away, alas). My friend was an older ex-Army sergeant who was a lot like Baker in many ways, and who would undoubtedly see a lot of himself in Baker's screen persona. A couple of tours of duty in the Army as an enlisted man and non-com had turned him into a self-described "FFS" (Fat F***ing Sergeant): an overweight, dyspeptic, burned out, cynical, hard drinking sad sack. But if you got to know him and got past the outer shell, he was one of the best friends a person could ask for; intelligent, loyal, generous, kind, and hard-working to the point of being a workaholic.
I think that my friend would look at Baker's character in this film (and in "Final Justice") and see Mitchell in the same way he saw himself: someone who doesn't seem at all glamorous or fancy, but still can do whatever it takes to get the job done.
And that's the whole point of Baker's character in "Mitchell": he doesn't look like anyone's idea of an 'action hero', but underneath the flab and the bad attitude is an incorruptible 'real man' who can kick the pretty boys' butts when the chips are down and who stays the course in spite of every obstacle and distraction that would stop a lesser, 'metrosexual' blow comb user. And if the movie does anything well, it at least gets this point across.
It seems to me that Joel and the gang took any excuse to hammer on Baker when the he and his movie weren't really any worse than most of the stuff that came out at the time. In other words, they struck an attitude and then made up 'straw man' targets to attack to justify their attitude, hoping that the sheer venom of their rhetoric would keep the audience from actually making their own decisions...just like Dennis Miller does in his rants. Baker is somewhat heavy, yes, but he's no Charles Durning or Sidney Greenfield (two actors who you DID expect to have a coronary in any given scene). And his character is somewhat unkempt, but the whole beer/baby oil/revulsion thing they paint for him is at least three notches worse than what the movie presents. You don't believe for a moment that Linda Evans would ever go to bed with Mitchell, but OTOH the results wouldn't be nearly so revolting as Joel and the Bots would have you believe.
So no, not a good film by any means. But approach it with an open mind and you'll have a watchable cop flick with a twist on the usual 'action hero' casting and formula.
UNLESS you are viewing the MST3K version. Then this movie becomes a real laff riot.
1) Burly, bullfrog-faced 70's B-movie icon Joe Don Baker portrays the scruffy, boozy, blithely amoral and thoroughly unorthodox maverick cop Mitchell with an animal passion and charismatic conviction which makes Gene Hackman's overrated Oscar-winning performance in "French Connection" seem extremely bland and superficial. Moreover, the character of Mitchell clearly influenced such subsequent "you gotta bend the law in order to enforce it" fellow iconoclastic rough-around-the-edges police detectives as Nick Nolte in "48 Hours" and especially Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon." 2) The sluggish pacing will give you a profound newfound respect and admiration for the stirring spectacle that is watching grass grow. 3) Both John Saxon as a suavely slimy lawyer and Martin Balsam as a dastardly dope-dealing businessman sneer and leer with a lip-smacking go-for-it panache that's an absolute joy to behold. 4) The adversarial relationship between Mitchell and his huffy disapproving superior boldly explores heretofore untouched terrain in a cop action flick. 5) Linda Evans as a gorgeous high class hooker bears a striking resemblance to Cathy Lee Crospy. Don't miss the post-coital scene which shows Mitchell kissing Linda's bare feet; I'm sure this particular moment is wholly accountable for Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish. Furthermore, the Patsy Kensit gratuitous love interest character in "Lethal Weapon 2" was obviously patterned after Linda Evans' role in "Mitchell." 6) The choppy editing forsakes a steady snappy rhythm for a herky-jerky carelessly slapped together quality that's bound to make you queasy. Kudos are also in order for beautiful cinematography which sharply photographs the picture with a painter's discerning eye for breathtaking poetic imagery. 7) The insanely funky score cuts a righteous get-down groove which makes that over-hyped "Theme from 'Shaft'" sound like insipid elevator music. Better yet, we are further entreated to a couple of wonderfully corny country and western songs which are deftly drawled by the sublime Hoyt Axton ("Hey hey hey my Mitchell"). 8) The infrequent, but nonetheless still thrilling action scenes are staged with a rip-snorting aplomb and consummate expertise that makes John Woo seem dull and uninspired. The guy who takes a spill out of a helicopter and falls all of five lousy feet into the ocean below has to be one of the single most exciting and impressive stunts I have ever had the pleasure to see. All in all, as this illustrious list quite persuasively proclaims "Mitchell" is without a doubt a shamefully unsung and unheralded work of tremendous art that future generations of film fans will watch in total awe and amazement.
The script is pretty flimsy, sometimes with 2 or 3 subplots going their own directions and then somehow overlapping, yet it doesn't quite work. There are so many "bad guys" yet for some reason you can never quite figure out who is crossing whom, and what each person's relation to each other is. Towards the end, it starts to become more apparent, but it's still not that exciting.
Then, Joe Don Baker as Mitchell really does a poor job...I don't think it's his fault..just that the character was not that likeable. I mean, a boozing slob of a cop is not exactly what you think of when you think of great detectives...
I agree that this movie is amusing if you watch the MST3K version of it...in fact it's one of my favorites, just because they jab Joe Don and this movie EVERY chance they can get, and I'd say that it's more than deserving of every single one.
Overall - one and a half out of ten stars.
Still, in this stinker of a film, Joe Don Baker's performance is one of the bright spots. He's doing his best to make something out of nothing.
When Mitchell isn't tailing Cummins, he enjoys the carnal pleasures of a $1000-a-night prostitute (Linda Evans of "Tom Horn")who totes around a bag of marijuana. Predictably, the plot goes around in circles as the characters circle each other. Deaney wants to make a real estate deal with Mitchell, while Cummins uses Mitchell as a body guard against his other unsavory associates. When Mitchell gets in a tough spot and he encounters many predicaments, he shoots to kill without a qualm. He wastes two ruffians with a shotgun, blasting them in the guts and shoots a guy on a motorcycle as the thug roars over a hill. The narcotics narrative is not as interesting as Mitchell's character. He is shown kissing on the hooker's foot after a night in bed and loves to drink beer. One amusing scene has our tough-as-nails cop arguing with a skateboard kid, telling him in no uncertain terms to "piss off."
John Saxon plays a sleazy bad guy who kills prowler in the opening scene and then plants a loaded gun by his corpse. Mitchell, who is riding with the uniformed cops when they respond to the call, takes one look at the crime scene and knows that the prowler wasn't tall enough to have retrieved the loaded firearm from a gun cabinet. McLaglen stages an interesting helicopter versus a boat scene. Mitchell catches a ride in a chopper and purses Cummins and his chauffeur out to sea. They are making a run for Mexico and Mitchell rigs up a battering ram. Mitchell orders the chopper pilot to attack the yacht and they smash the elevated steering tower. Eventually, Mitchell uses the battering ram as an anchor to slide down the rope to the boat. He dispenses with Cummins' bodyguard Benton and shoots the villain between the eyes with an M16 when Cummins tries to make a deal with him. The Linda Evans hooker is used as comic relief. Mitchell busts her twice for simple possession of marijuana.
"Mitchell" is not as bad as everybody claims, just an ordinary cop potboiler with lots of automobile chases. Again, the lead character is more interesting than the story. Joe Don Baker does a good job playing a blue-collar cop who rents an apartment without a dish-washer and sleeps on a fold-out bed. You wouldn't see Dirty Harry in these domestic circumstances.
WHAT A PIECE OF CRAP!!!!! If it wasn't for the Mystery Science Theatre rendition, the cast and crew of this movie would/should be unceremoniously rounded up, tortured, and shot! I have been working on my bedroom technique of picking up the six pack with my toes. I know how women love classy moves, and I bow before the King of classy moves: Joe Don Baker. If you watch the movie, bow in the presence of the King. He evidently was Gary Busey's idol.
Take all that, add a lame, one-dimensional bad guy and equally as weak supporting characters, a bland "been there too many times, even for the '70's" plot, and an unforgettable theme song "My, my, my, my Mitchell", and you have this movie. Joe Don Baker's cinematic opus.
Yet this film makes me laugh every time. Simply put: This movie is a hoot.
Then again, I could never watch this film without the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" treatment. Even I don't have that much self-loathing. I could see why Joel would jump ship after this one. It's a completely ridiculous film, but it remains in my video library. Maybe it's the Johnny Mathis look-alike villain, maybe because it's the bane of all that is considered good taste. One of the few films that I can somehow manage to simultaneously almost kind of recommend, yet warn people to stay away from like the plague. That's the kind of movie "Mitchell" is. Check it out for yourself. Or not.
Here's the thing - Joe Don Baker is like the Energizer bunny, he just keeps on ticking. Would you rather have a dull, boring cop without charisma, or a dull, boring cop without charisma but wearing all those groovy plaid sport coats? I can't remember the last time I saw one of those, but I might have had one back in the day.
Anyway, there's some kind of heroin deal going on, and Mitchell's assigned to the case, more or less to keep him out of the trouble he'd get into by tailing a well connected socialite gangster (John Saxon). But he tails Saxon anyway, along with drug kingpin Cummings (Martin Balsam), who's taking HIS orders from a couple of other higher ups in the heroin chain. You can't fault Mitchell for his inventiveness, I particularly liked the 'smash the goon's hand in the car door' trick; that looked pretty painful. And if I ever see another picture that features a death by dune buggy, I'll know the inspiration was born here.
Apart from Linda Evans' hooker falling for a guy like Mitchell, the way he scrapped vehicles like old pairs of socks, and the picture's goofy 'Mitchell' theme song, you know what really freaked me out? How did old Mitch know which switch in the electrical panel would have operated the front gate at the beginning of the story? Then he did it again by hitting the right one to close down the swing doors in Saxon's hallway. I open my panel about once a year when I have to shut something down, and it'll take me a few minutes just to figure out the right one.
Fairly invigorating action scenes (a dune buggy chase, a pursuit on the open ocean between a boat and a helicopter) are outweighed by the extreme silliness of the script by Ian Kennedy Martin, a veteran of TV series such as 'Juliet Bravo'. However, the very inanity of the dialogue and characters helps to make "Mitchell" entertaining in a train-wreck sort of way. Most of the actors do manage to keep from looking too pained, with Balsam a standout. Other familiar character actors like Morgan Paull "Blade Runner"), Harold J. Stone ("Spartacus"), Robert Phillips ("The Dirty Dozen"), Rayford Barnes ("The Wild Bunch"), Jerry Hardin ('The X-Files'), and Sidney Clute ('McCloud') round out the cast. Football star Merlin Olsen has a substantial supporting part as Balsams' none-too-bright lackey.
The movie isn't necessarily badly made, with attractive photography and some decent location work, but it's all negated by the silliness on display. The worst moment (or best, if you totally dig "so bad they're good" movies), is the WTF, totally out-of-nowhere exchange between Mitchell and a young boy.
It's entirely possible that this was meant to be a parody of cop thrillers with tough guy heroes, so it may help you in your enjoyment if you think of it that way.
Five out of 10.
After a reported burglary at mob lawyer Walter Deaney's mansion a cop squad car, with what looks like a strung out Mitchell in the back seat, shows up finding the burglar shot and killed by Deaney. Mitchell a bit groggy but awake enough to get on his feet feels that it wasn't self-defense on Deaney's part but murder.
Back at the police station Mitchell is told by his boss to stay away from Deaney and stake out James Commings a top west coast mobster who's suspected in smuggling a load of heroin into the country via Mexico. Mitchell despite orders from his boss not to bother Deaney goes out on his own to get him on a murder charge in the killing of the burglar. By doing that he opens up what becomes a drug connection between Deaney Commings Mafia boss Tony Gallano and head of the Califiornia crime syndicate Salvator Mistretta.
Unbeliveably complicated and totally ridicules movie with Mitchell doing his thing which is making a complete fool of himself yet coming out on top by doing in everyone who he's up against. In the end Mitchell even runs in Greta, a $1,000,00 a night call-girl, for smoking pot after he has a romp in the hay with her.
You wonder what exactly is going on in the movie with both Commings and Gallano since Gallano seems to be working for Mistretta. Mistretta for some strange reason want's Commings to use his mob connections to ship in some heroin, that's small enough to fit into a car trunk or glove compartment, into San Pedro Harbor. Were made to believe that Commings is a has been in the California crime syndicate and doesn't have the clout he used to have. Why then is it so necessary for big mob boss Mistretta, who must have hundreds of hoods working for him, to have Commings do the job which he can so easily do himself?
Mitchell meanwhile on a mission to get Deaney for murder is later blackmailed by him in having $1,000.00 a night call-girl Greta spend the night with him, all expenses paid, courtesy of Walter Deaney. Being too dense to get the message Mitchell has Greta run in for having a small plastic bag of pot on her which by doing that he's also implicating himself in a crime for accepting a hooker to spend the night with him!
The movie "Mitchell" now goes full-throttle with Mitchell doing in Deaney and one of his men in a mindless and a crazy dune buggy sequence where Mitchell on foot single handedly unseats Deaney's partner and then cracks his skull open with a bolder. Mitchell now behind the wheel of the dune buggy dives it like a man who completely lost his mind. Mitchell has the terrified embarrassed and stupid Deaney, who could have so easily gunned down the big and deranged guerrilla Mitchell, try to make a run for it as he flips over on his buggy landing on his head and burning himself to death.
Going after Commings Mitchell makes a deal with him to ship in the heroin but secretly plans to get to big mob boss Mistretta by doing it and then take care of Commings for all the trouble he gave him. The heroin is replaced with worthless white powder but were not quite sure, the movie never bothers to explain, exactly who did the switch Mitchell or Commings?
When Mistretta, after getting the car with the hidden drugs by Mitchell, finds out the drugs are worthless chalk powder he goes crazy and orders Mitchell to be knocked off! The cunning Mitchell, who knew that the drugs were fake, has plans of his own and ends up doing in both Mistretta and his hoodlums making it now possible for the movies grand-slam final. Mitchell commandeers a helicopter and goes after Commings who's yacht, together with his butler Bolton, is heading straight to the safety of Mexican waters with the $1,000,000.00 that Mistretta paid him for the phony heroin.
The movie "Mitchell" gets more and more ridicules as it goes along and by the time it's over you wonder if it's just you or something you drank or smoked that made you see what you just saw on the screen. The ending with Mitchell battening it out with both Commings and Bolton in an out of a helicopter and on Commings yacht has to be seen to be believed and ever after seeing it you still don't believe what you just saw.
Mitchell still has to run in poor and abused Greta, who for some strange reason seems to never have enough of the big lumbering lug, for a second time just to show her and the audience how cool, and stupid, as well as what a big he-man he really is. This after again finding a joint on Greta while spending the night with her in his apartment as the movie unexpectedly winds down to an end.
P.S The annoying and equally dinky movie theme song "Mitchell", with the person who's singing it sounding like he's drunk, pound it's way into our ears as "Mitchell" goes into freeze frame as the film finally come to a merciful end.
They wrote this script as if the main character never actually finds a lead by himself, but rather gets lucky enough to stumble on to several. Mitchell is a film celebrating a more realistic American cop. A corrupt, lazy guy who gets lucky enough to solve a case and sleeps with hookers, then arrests them for it.