Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

As Cummings detailed, Mitchell (now wearing his own Andy Capp hat) is chauffeuring an old woman who’s picking up her luggage at Cummings’ shipyard. This process is shown in its entirety, from when the car is parked, to a cruise ship employee wheeling out a steamer trunk, to the woman signing for it, to Mitchell putting it in the trunk of his car, to the car driving off. Gotta fill up the running time somehow. Benton, sporting the very worst of 70’s fashions, watches from a phone booth.

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

“Trust the Gordon’s fisherman!”

Cummings, meanwhile, is at home and sitting next to a very bizarre looking lamp. He phones Mistretta and lets him know everything’s going according to plan, oh, and there’s a cop delivering the drugs and Mistretta should kill him. Mistretta yells, “Are you out of your mind?” and in possibly the worst attempt at a clever quip in the entire film, Cummings replies, “No, I’ll be out on my boat.”

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Okay, so Cummings has double-crossed Mistretta, then he double-crossed Mitchell, and now he proceeds to double-cross both of them by calling the police and telling a sergeant about the whole deal. Meanwhile, Mitchell is probably going to double-cross Cummings. Got all that? Good, it took me three viewings. (The things I do for you people!)

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

It’s Joe Don Baker in Driving Miss Daisy 2!

Somewhere on the road, Mitchell stops and opens up the trunk of his car, then breaks the steamer trunk open with a crowbar. (He couldn’t just ask the old woman for the keys?) In a secret compartment, he finds some bags full of white powder, and pulls the old trick of licking some off his finger. Now, I know absolutely nothing about police procedures for identifying drugs, but I can’t believe real cops do this if they don’t want to get high on the stuff themselves. And Mitchell really coats his fingers and takes a big ol’ lick, too.

The old woman gets out of the car and says she didn’t have anything to do with the drugs. Okay, so what did she think was going on then? Mitchell reveals that it’s not heroin, but actually chalk. However, he doesn’t mention who replaced the drugs, how they were replaced, or when.

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

“What the— Where the hell’s my powdered sugar?”

He then tries to increase his likeability by actually showing concern for another human being. Unfortunately, he does it in a totally patronizing manner. He wants to make sure the old woman isn’t caught in the middle of the deal, but he basically just yells, “Walk!” and she proceeds to do so, heading down the street to God knows where. He mysteriously hangs a handkerchief from the car’s gas tank [?] before getting back in the car. Just in case, I guess.

We hear the People’s Court tympani drums and walk-a-chicken guitars start up again as Cummings and Benton get into a two story boat, just like Cummings told Mistretta. It’s unclear where he’s going, and they make sure to act as suspicious as possible while casting off. It’s not the movie’s most believable moment.

Mitchell keeps driving as an odd guy in a suit way, way up on a hill watches him pass. This guy gets on a radio to Mistretta to tell him that the driver’s all alone, and no one’s following. Mistretta then radios some other guy to keep watching to make sure no one else is coming.

Mitchell drives up to Mistretta’s house and gets out. Soon he’s met by Mistretta and some random guy in a paisley shirt. Who is he? No idea.

Mistretta unlocks the trunk of Mitchell’s car and opens up the hidey hole in the steamer trunk to reveal the stuff. He tells Mitchell that he knows he’s a cop, specifically the one who’s been following Cummings. (Not that this wasn’t common knowledge already.) “He says kill you. I think he has a point.” Me too.

But now Mistretta unveils his grand scheme: He’s going to kill Mitchell, put the body on Cummings’ boat, and then call the Coast Guard so that Cummings takes the rap for Mitchell’s murder. How exactly he plans on putting Mitchell’s body on a boat that’s already on the water is left unexplained. Oh, and yes, this is a flamboyantly blatant case of the James Bond Villain Syndrome of “Let me explain my evil plan before killing you, thus giving you time to escape.”

Mistretta tastes the stuff and notices the little chalk switcheroo, so he gives Mitchell a quick punch and kick that really just endears him to me. Mitchell coughs up that the drugs are “in the john” at some gas station. So this means he’s the one who replaced the heroin with chalk, and that he’s now double-crossing Cummings. (Called it!)

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

Mistretta doesn’t know it yet, but we’ve secretly replaced his regular heroin with new Folger’s crystals! Let’s see if he notices the difference!

I’m guessing this is an attempt to make it look like Cummings is double-crossing Mistretta. First of all, isn’t Cummings already doing that? And second of all, how exactly did Mitchell replace the drugs and when? If the cops actually had someone inside Cummings’ port who could do the switch, why couldn’t they have just arrested Cummings by now?

Mistretta has Paisley Guy pick Mitchell up off the ground. Mistretta says they’re going to go get the drugs and Mitchell is coming with them. As Mitchell passes by the rear bumper of his car, he somehow manages to light the handkerchief in the gas tank, and everyone runs away as it instantly blows up. Now, going into this, Mitchell didn’t know that Mistretta was planning to kill him, right? So how could he know to prepare the handkerchief for just this situation? I’m so very, very tired.

Anyway, right on cue, two cops show up in a helicopter and Mitchell takes off down the street. Another random goon reports this to somebody, and Paisley Guy chases Mitchell and repeatedly shoots at him, somehow missing every time.

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

“Dammit, Mitchell, why’d you buy a Pinto?”

Some other goons run after Mitchell too, but Mistretta gets on a dirt bike because he’s a main villain and needs a more spectacular death than his cohorts. For some reason, the cops in the helicopter don’t help out at all until Mitchell gives them some hand signals, and even then they don’t shoot the guys chasing him, but simply toss down a shotgun [?].

Mitchell dispatches two goons with the shotgun. Then he grabs Paisley Guy’s gun and strikes a pose I can only assume is there purely so it could be put on the posters. When Mistretta rides up, Mitchell shoots him off the dirt bike with Paisley Guy’s gun. Yep, that was a pretty spectacular death.

The police helicopter lands, and as Mitchell heads for it, he shoots some other poor schmuck who just happens to pop up into his field of view. I guess this was supposed to be another one of Mistretta’s goons, but there’s nothing to suggest this. Mitchell orders the helicopter to head for the marina, and the pilot does, no questions asked. Hey, it’s Mitchell, anything he wants to do is fine by me!

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

You can really see why Leonard Maltin said Mitchell contained “slick handling of typical action fodder”.

As the placid disco-lite that accompanied the car chase starts up again, the helicopter searches for the boat. For a while, I considered labeling this the film’s most tedious sequence, but that ultimately went to the dinner scene because more is happening here. Not much more, though. Basically, the helicopter just flies around while we get some tracking shots of boats in the marina, which really adds to the promotional video feel of the music.

The editors try to break up the monotony with shots of Cummings and Benton out on their boat, but nothing is happening there either, so it doesn’t work. Mitchell finally gets the idea to check with the harbor master, so the helicopter lands and Mitchell runs into some building on the dock. He emerges with a description of the boat, but we still have to endure more random marina shots before they find it.

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

“Marina Del Rey… a city on the move!”

The pilot breaks the news that the helicopter will be in Mexican territory in twenty minutes and that they’ll have “no power to arrest anyone!” (I doubt this is how it works, but what do I know?) This means Mitchell will have to take care of things himself. Well, you knew it had to happen somehow. He gets an idea from a yellow flotation device hanging on the side of the helicopter. He prepares to untie it, but another cop volunteers instead. Great action hero, huh?

The other cop has to lean precariously out of the helicopter to untie the floatation device, which requires Mitchell to hold him tightly around the waist in a way that’s just plain wrong. They get it untied, but the helicopter pilot says they only have ten minutes to find the boat because “we’re at the halfway point on fuel!” Uh, so what happened to that stuff about reaching Mexican territory? Personally, I think the pilot is just trying to come up with any excuse to get out of this movie.

Mitchell (1975) (part 7 of 8)

“You know, Officer, maybe this isn’t the right time to say this, but I’ve had my eye on you for a while…”

They spot Cummings’ boat and the big yellow floatation device is lowered, which again requires the cop to lean precariously out of the helicopter (and makes me realize I’m more concerned about this guy I’ve just been introduced to than I am about the title character). They continue flying on while this thing that looks exactly like a big yellow helium tank is dangling underneath on a rope. The Yellow Thing smashes into the top story of Cummings’ boat, forcing Cummings and Benton to take cover.

The pilot seems reluctant to continue carrying around the Yellow Thing for some reason. Mitchell whines at him to turn around, and the Yellow Thing again slams into the boat, taking off another chunk of the flimsy plywood top story. Then, we waste more time watching them come around again and do it a third time.

Down on the boat, Cummings gets the bright idea to go “Inside!” and Cummings and Benton both skedaddle down below deck. Benton comes back out with a rifle and shoots at Mitchell but the helicopter glass is bulletproof. The pilot says they only have enough fuel for two minutes. “Wait a minute,” Mitchell says, pulling out his gun. “Lemme get a shot at him!” Yes, it’s all about you, isn’t it, Mitchell?

Mitchell and Benton trade some gunfire, but Mitchell runs out of ammo. The other cop takes over for Mitchell, and is instantly shot and killed and falls into the water. Bye, sole likeable character! I’ll always remember you! Incidentally, when the cop falls out of the helicopter, they’re very low over the water, but in the next shot they’re significantly higher up in the air. Why have I come to expect this sort of thing?

Ryan Lohner

Ryan lives in Sparta, New Jersey, a quaint little burg without much for kids to do except go to the movies. Thus began a lifelong love affair, as even back then he grew to love examining why a film worked, or didn't. He is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and currently studying for a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. His hobbies include running, piano, and annoying people with that damn lowercase forum user name.

Multi-Part Article: Mitchell (1975)

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