Massacre Mafia Style is one of those films that makes for a better Wikipedia entry than actual movie. The product of nightclub crooner Duke Mitchell, Massacre wants to be an epic mafia movie told from a ground-level insider perspective. Instead it ended up as a low-grade exploitation curiosity eccentric enough to have a cult following it may not deserve.
Mitchell wrote, directed, starred in, and did the music for Massacre with that special kind of gusto and confidence that can sometimes grant a filmmaker nutso qualities even where talents lack. The film clearly wasn’t made by someone who knew what they were doing, but it has an infectious “fake it till you make it” attitude further bolstered by a lack of personal restraint on Mitchell’s part. He really thinks he has something important here. He doesn’t, but that conviction is entertaining in and of itself.
For a while, anyway. Massacre Mafia Style tells the story of a guy dead-set on taking over Hollywood’s mafia business using little more than rock solid determination and tons of casual murder. There is supposed to be this real-world perspective at play here, but it’s hard to accept when the film offers so many scenes of Mitchell’s Mimi Miceli and partner Jolly (played by the wonderfully named Vic Caesar) brutally killing dozens of people with no real consequences. They shoot fucking everybody, electrocute poor suckers through an ingenious use of urinals (something Duke Mitchell apparently did once in real life, which kind of ruins my point), hang a guy from a meat hook, and wantonly abduct victims off the street as though they live in a world free of police officers or really any citizens at all who aren’t plugged into the crime world in some way.
This messes with the film's credibility, but also provides the film's big exploitation draw. Mitchell wants the violence to shock us as a point of entertainment and possibly also as macho posturing. And it is kind of fun. The gunshot effects lack the detail required for all this violence to hit super hard, which keeps it just this side of grossly mean-spirited.
When not killing the hell out of everyone, we get scenes of scheming and intimidation, some of which are shockingly racist and mean. Others see Mitchell break into impassioned rants on the state of the world (which also tends to be shockingly racist and mean). A lot of this stuff contains a perverse thrill, but strung together into a narrative, it starts to become a slog long before the film ends (in a laughably self-important, dramatic fashion).
The Blu-ray itself might be more valuable for its special features. The film looks wonderful, but with something like this, outside information and backstory on Mitchell ends up being the real draw. The more you know, the more entertaining the film becomes. The release offers interviews, Duke Mitchell home movies, a nice essay, and a Duke Mitchell concert to help you educate yourself. I just wish the movie didn’t require so much homework to appreciate.