While this film remained the only official directorial credit for Mitchell for decades, he actually did shoot another feature in 1976. Written and filmed under the title Kiss the Ring, it was the story of a quartet of ambitious hoods who decide to kidnap the Pope, leading to a personal epiphany for the leader, played by Mitchell again. However, editing was never completed on the film, whose raw elements and sole work print remained on Mitchell’s property after his death. These assets were used to assemble a completed version under the title Gone with the Pope, which theatrically debuted from Grindhouse in 2010. With his cult following steadily building on what seems to be a daily basis, one can only wonder how far and wide the legacy of this entertainment jack of all trades will go.
While not necessary, it is helpful to have an understanding of Duke Mitchell as a person and an entertainer to fully appreciate Massacre Mafia Style. Duke was a lounge singer, and a damned good one. He was friends with Sinatra, he was Mr. Palm Springs, and in the 50’s he was part of a Martin & Dean styled comedy team that starred in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. He was also a proud Italian-American, and it came through in his work.
PLUS: Cassavetes’s Husbands airs afterwards, around 4 am ET.
The reviews were divisive. Time Magazine reviewer Jay Cocks proclaimed: “Husbands may be one of the best films anyone will ever see. It is certainly the best movie anyone will ever live through.” Rex Reed, by contrast, dismissed it as “a laborious, humorless, banal and downright deadly little bore” and Pauline Kael eviscerated the film in her review for The New Yorker. Audiences were appalled by the vomiting scene in the men’s room and the bullying of certain characters in the barroom singing scene, both of which provoked walkouts. (Not coincidentally, those were the scenes that Columbia edited down in their unauthorized recut.) Cassavetes touched a nerve and made audiences very uncomfortable with the behavior of his characters. Things haven’t changed much in the decades since its release, but Husbands is undeniably a personal, provocative and uncompromising vision and a daring journey into the psyche of American men.