I spell joy W*O*R*K*
Mitchell (1975): 6 out of 10: Joe Don Baker puts the slov in slovenly as the anti-hero plain clothes detective Mitchell. In today’s episode (sorry movie) Mitchell investigates the shooting of a burglar by John Saxon and then tracks an unrelated stolen heroin shipment due to arrive in Mexico being facilitated by Martin Balsam. Meanwhile, he has an affair with a hooker with a heart of gold (Linda Evans) which steers the movie into science fiction territory.
The Good: That is a very generous 6 out of 10 I awarded up there. One of the biggest criticisms of Mitchell is that, for all intents and purposes, it resembles a seventies TV pilot with some gratuitous violence and nudity thrown in. One of the things I like about Mitchell is that it resembles a seventies TV pilot with gratuitous violence and nudity thrown in. Mitchell is like a slightly worn pair of slippers. True comfort food.
The other real strength of Mitchell is John Saxon and Martin Balsam. Two actors I can watch in almost anything and they are great here. Martin Balsam in particular is so much more likable and sympathetic than Mitchell you can’t help root for him to win at the end.
The Bad: Maybe it’s my admiration for John Saxon, but I don’t find myself completely on the not shooting the intruder side of things. I also like his taste in women and home decor. Joe Don Baker, on the other hand, is a complete total ass and honestly an abusive policeman. So once again, I’m on the side of the bad guys at the beginning of the movie.
The other “bad guy” Martin Balsam is also much more lovable than our titular character. (Not the highest of bars, mind you.) He even tries to give Mitchell some good quality life advice, such as being nice to people you want information from instead of shooting them in broad daylight in a public park while they are fleeing from you.
The Ugly: An easy, cheap shot would be the sex scenes between Linda Evans and Joe Don Baker. We could also bring up the television cut (Featured on MST3K) that inexplicably disappears John Saxon’s character halfway through the movie.
Honorable mentions include Mitchell’s infamous “I know you are, but what am I?” argument with a child on a skateboard that really has to be seen to be believed. As well as some of the sloppiest police work this side of Chief Wiggum.
Special award for inappropriate seventies music in a seventies film
I need to give this award a catchy name. Maybe the TOS’s after The Touch of Satan with its slow mellow homicidal Burt Bacharach style sound scape. Mitchell, on the other hand, ignores the funk one might very well expect for such a film in 1975 and introduces a whole new audience to Hoyt Axton. Who sings his Mitchell theme at some of the most inappropriate times. (Example the Linda Evans sex scenes)
My my my my Mitchell
What do your Mama say?
What would she do
if she knew you
were fallin’ round and carryin’ on that way…
Crackin’ some heads, jumpin’ in and out of beds
and hangin’ round the criminal scene…
Do you think you are some kind of a star like the guys on the movie screen…
Well oh my my my Mitchell
What would your captain say?
If he knew you was hangin’ round
Eatin’ with the crooks and shootin’ up the town
Know you been out there, roundin’ up the syndicate
succeedin’ where the others have failed
Oh my my my Mitchell
You shoot ’em just to get ’em in jail
When they take a look in the record book, they’ll find you got a lot of class…
The whole shebang, arrestin’ painted ladies for a little grass
Oh my my my Mitchell!
In Conclusion: Mitchell is a strange egg. It takes the Dirty Harry anti-hero style cop and replaces the charismatic sociopath played by Clint Eastwood with an everyman slob played by Joe Don Baker, and the results, to use a term Joel from MST3k might use, are wacky.
The movie almost reads like an expanded absurdest sketch by Monty Python. There are so many elements that are just a little out of left field or just a little wrong. This somehow makes the piece as a whole work. Paste Magazine, in their review of Carnival Magic, (Which they should have rated higher BTW) states the following
“in a tale of a rinky-dink carnival that is saved from the brink of collapse by a cut-rate magician’s talking chimpanzee act. Sounds like some sort of lighthearted comedy, right? Nope! The movie veers in a completely different direction than any sane screenwriter would possibly recommend, into a den of sleaze, sex and the threat of vivisection for our talking ape friend, Alexander. The choice of how to portray the chimp’s vocalizations—grunted out in barely legible sentence fragments, rather than the witty banter that any audience member would be correct to expect—is a mystery to which there is no reasonable answer.”
Mitchell does things no sane screenwriter would ever do. And we are all better for it.
Mystery Science Theater 3000:Mitchell (1975) Episode #512 Review
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode #512: 10 out of 10: This is Joel’s last episode and so there is certainly a sentimental sheen to the host segments. They do the task, but I confess I am not as enamored with them as some are.
Let us also get this out of the way. This is the edited for TV version of Mitchell which not just understandably edits out nudity, profanity and violence but cuts out entire scenes and significant plot points. One of the worse hatchet jobs I have ever seen. And I saw the ABC version of Scarface.
Okay, all that aside, this is one of the best riffing jobs done by Best Brains bar none. They pull out all the stops for Joel’s last episode and it shows. There is not a dull moment and Mitchell provides plenty of material for the boys to work with. Mitchell simply never stops being funny. And that is what makes it one of the best MST3K episodes ever.