“You see these hands? You know what they smell of? Oregano, pasinigol, beautiful herbs! These hands gave you mostaccioli, lasagna, pizza – some of the most appreciated foods in the world! But what did we give her, Chucky, eh? We gave her violence! We gave her death! We gave her dishonor!”
From the mouth of Mimi Miceli, would be Mafia Don, in 1978’s The Executioner – a film that suggests what Goodfellas would have been like had it been directed by Tommy Wiseau.
The Executioner practically defines the term Grindhouse. It’s sleazy, violent, racist, amateurish and wrong-headed. It also lacks anything remotely close to unity or coherency. But like a piece of outsider art, The Executioner rises above and approaches an inexplicable level of incomprehensible genius.
A labor of love for popular nightclub performer (and amazingly, Fred’s singing voice in The Flinstones) Duke Mitchell, (billed here as Dominico Miceli) the film was Mitchell’s attempt to educate the world on what the Mafia was really like after that hack film The Godfather steered us all so wrong. Mitchell wrote the screenplay, directed, produced and starred in the film for which he hoped his friend Frank Sinatra would play a role in. Upon seeing the script, Ol’ Blue Eyes reportedly said “Duke, I love you, but I get paid real money to do real movies.”
To summarize the plot would be rather difficult as the film seems to lack any real connecting thread, but we’ll make a valiant attempt. Mitchell plays Mimi, the son of a Mafia Don who was exiled to the old country when Mimi was young. As he matures, Mimi has a burning desire to avenge the wrongs committed against his father and carve out a bit of a name for himself, so he returns to the States and hooks up with his childhood friend, the Wolfman Jack-looking Jolly.
With a motto of “Tonight we eat, tomorrow we shoot!,” Mimi and Jolly cut a swath of terror and destruction throughout the organized crime world of Los Angeles. Their rise is marked by a propensity to kill anything that moves in creative ways such as impaling rivals on meat-hooks and electrocuting one wheelchair bound foe in a urinal (!) When he’s not killing indiscriminately, Mimi has a propensity to go off on numerous lengthy tangents about the Italian’s plight in America such as the genius “hands” speech above.
But like Prometheus, Mimi and Jolly fly too close to the sun and their rapid rise is followed by an equally precipitous (and hard to understand) fall. Soon Mimi is hitting the mattresses and making porn films. Eventually, Jolly gets whacked. When Mimi discovers Jolly’s poor, lifeless body, he takes Jolly’s own arm to make the sign of the cross.
The Executioner is filled with terribly executed ethnic accents of all stripes – and even more horrendous haircuts and fashions. Mimi stands about 5’2″ and has a proclivity for wide lapels open to his sternum and pants jacked up to his nipples. Seemingly nonsensical Italian words such as “Sazulla” and “Maro-Mamina” are bandied about faster than an antipasto tray at an Italian wedding.
To compound the lunacy, the scenes in Sicily look like they were shot in a backyard in Hoboken. Still, you almost have to admire Mitchell’s hubris. In order to get extras for a wedding scene, Mitchell sent out real invitations. The guests thought they were attending an actual wedding and brought gifts. Mitchell then sold the gifts in order to further fund the film.
The Executioner is crazed filmmaking at its finest. If the abundance of broadly drawn ethnic stereotypes and gratuitous violence doesn’t get you, the songs composed by Mitchell and featuring titles such as “Tic-a-Te” and “Rigatone, Mostacoioli and Spaget” certainly will.
****1/2 (out of five)