|The Plot: Mimi lives in Sicily with his father, the leader and fatherhead for much of American organized crime who has been removed from the country and sent back to the old country. When Mimi sees the world starting to change, he heads to Hollywood with his fathers respects in order to tame the wild west and get his own piece of the rackets. Specifically he aims to take back the pimping game from the blacks and take control of all the bookies. However, times really have changed and the strong arm tactics of the past aren’t really in force in this day and age. Looking to bring back a bit of the old days, Mimi and his partner Jolly set off to show these new guys on the block just how dangerous a real criminal can be. However, has the world really changed and will Mimi be able to get his own piece of the pie or is he just a relic of a past no one really wants to live with?|
The Review: It has been roughly a year, but ever since seeing that intro to Massacre Mafia Style (or The Executioner, as my poster art above shows) I have known that I must track this one down. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the set up is two men walk into a office building and work their way into a meeting with some guy in a wheelchair. The guy swears to do right by these two men, but they just grab him and wheel him into the bathroom. There the use an extension chord and electrocute this guy to death using urinal water. After that, they leave the office and shoot the secretary for no reason. What this turns into is a scorching three minute sequence where these two gangsters kill EVERYONE inside the building. At the moment the rampage begins, some chanting but eurphoric sounding traditional Italian music begins blaring over the soundtrack with the only audible noises being the gunshots. It’s one of those moments that come few and far in between with Exploitation cinema. It has that certain layer of “cool”, while also being incredibly ruthless and disturbing in a way. The scene is so well cut and conflicting in feelings that it can be nothing less than a work of art. The use of the music and sound effects – it shows a talent for more, and a flair for artistry. Now I won’t sit here and try and convince you that Duke Mitchell is an auteur for the ages but there’s more than just a little luck behind the brilliance of Massacre Mafia Style. This review, by all means should be me sitting here saying “Oh the action scenes were great! There’s blood everywhere! The funny one liners! Hahaha!”… but there’s a lot more at work here than first appearances would give credence. I just have to say, I’m more than a little impressed with this gem.
The story of this character ‘Mimi’ is kind of an early reflection of the Nicky Santoro character from Martin Scorceses’ Casino in my eyes. He’s that old fashioned style of ruthless gangster willing to do anything that’s necessary in order to get what he wants and when coming to a town where there are no hard men left, he lets his brutality run free reign. What’s more, he actually enjoys it. The more and more vicious he gets, the more his snarl reveals a smile. Yet at the same time this character, during the progression of the film, begins to have conflicting feelings over this hatred. There are several very well written speeches delivered by Mitchell (Mimi) in which his character denounces the violence he causes and hopes for a better future, but at the same time he’s consistently looking to take over this town with his morbid and horrifying violent practices. Without a doubt the character is a complete and utter walking contradiction, but while watching I never got the feeling that Mitchell was making this out of his own ignorance to what his character actually was. In fact, it all feels very intentional. Mitchell takes the film in areas I never would have assumed from the outset. First off, this is actually a pretty faithful attempt at a mafia story. The dialogue and terms used all seem fairly realistic, although there are terms I have never actually heard in any other mob movie so perhaps some of it could be things that Mitchell himself created. It works very well though and comes off as fairly authentic, keeping the movie from being simply a cheesy takeoff on the immensely popular Godfather series. That doesn’t mean it ISN’T a takeoff on that series, because it most assuredly is (including more than one scene directly lifted from those films) but in the context of the story and the overall mood it just works so well that you can’t help but get on board. Especially after the bodies start dropping.
There’s actually a certain amount of racism that plays out as well. As essentially all non-Sicilians are portrayed as being undeserving of the rackets game, but of course African Americans and Jewish communities are the most disparaged. There’s even a black pimp in the film that Mimi gives the nickname of “Super Spook” when he tries to show up a fellow Sicilian. How this affects you as an audience member is going to be entirely based on your ability to tolerate such things. However, I will say this, anyone going into an exploitation flick from the seventies… well, we all have to have some pretty thick skin about this sort of stuff. Granted, such things are mean spirited and hurtful to many, but the entire point for a lot of these flicks is to push the boundaries of good taste. Although such euphemisms probably weren’t as exceptionally taboo as they are now – but I’m sure they were still pretty callous in using with any feature. Although not in the best of taste, the racism does let you into the mindset of the hypocritical and often psychotic mind of this character Mimi, while also playing up the exploitation angle. Another layer to a very difficult film to pin down. Playing with all sorts of storytelling devices, Massacre Mafia Style is an exploitation flick unlike any other. While I can’t sit here an promise you that you’ll sit down at the table, watch the movie and then proclaim the brilliance of Duke Mitchell. Half the cast are made up of non-actors, probably friends of the director. If you’re a fan of exploitation cinema however, there’s just a wealth of interesting things at play in MMS. From the lowest common denominator stuff like the violence and never ending series of shootings, to the actual decent writing from Mitchell and his raspy voiceover monologues. There’s more than meets the eye with the picture is my basic point, but it still remains an incredibly grim piece of exploitation. Fitting right alongside other great pieces of work from the era such as Fight For Your Life. Debuting on DVD this month (October 2009), you can’t go wrong picking up the disc. This review is unfortunately based off of a bootleg, as has been the only real way to see the film up until now, but god knows I’m going to do my best to grab up the really awesome two disc edition being released. It’s a flick we’ve all wanted to see for ages and it’s great that it’ll soon be so readily available abd released by the family of Mitchell. To sort of summarize: gunshots galore, breasts, blood and Super Spook. Why not give this one a shot? It gets a four out of five. Although it did come close to getting a perfect score, I had to scale it back some as it does have its problems throughout. Still, it’s hard to find a more suitable flick to define the “exploitation” genre. A classic piece of grindhouse.