Mitchell (film)

Mitchell (film)

Theatrical poster
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Produced by Benjamin Melniker
R. Ben Efraim
Written by Ian Kennedy Martin
Starring Joe Don Baker
Linda Evans
Martin Balsam
John Saxon
Merlin Olsen
Morgan Paull
Harold J. Stone
Robert Phillips
Music by Larry Brown
Jerry Styner
Cinematography Harry Stradling Jr.
Editing by Fred A. Chulack
Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation
Release date(s) September 10, 1975 (1975-09-10)
Running time 97 minutes
Language English

Mitchell is a 1975 film starring Joe Don Baker as an abrasive, alcoholic police detective, released by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation in the USA on September 10, 1975.

Very much an anti-hero, Mitchell often ignores the orders of his superiors and demonstrates disdain for by-the-book development work as well as normal social graces. The film also stars John Saxon and Martin Balsam as the banking criminals Mitchell pursues and Linda Evans and Merlin Olsen in supporting roles as a prostitute and henchman, respectively. Mitchell was re-released by Lorimar Productions in the 1980s.



A trade union lawyer named Walter Deaney (John Saxon) kills a burglar in his house. Only an unorthodox plain-clothes detective named Mitchell (Joe Don Baker) believes that Deaney is guilty of something more than self-defense, but Chief Albert Pallin (Robert Phillips) tells him that Deaney is wanted for "every federal law violation in the book" and is therefore "FBI property."

To keep Mitchell away from Deaney, the Chief orders him to stake out the home of James Arthur Cummings (Martin Balsam), a wealthy man with ties to the mob whose "big scene" is the import and export of stolen merchandise. Mitchell initially is unconcerned with Cummings and focuses primarily on Deaney. But he gets drawn in after Cummings discovers that Salvatore Mistretta (Morgan Paull), cousin of his mafioso benefactor Tony Gallano (Harold J. Stone), is bringing in a shipment of stolen heroin from Mexico without Cummings' consent.

After unsuccessfully trying to buy Mitchell off with an offer of an illicit real estate deal and a prostitute named Greta (Linda Evans), Deaney decides to work with Cummings to eliminate the annoying cop. Deaney is killed shortly thereafter during an attempt on Mitchell's life.

Cummings refuses to let Mistretta use his port facilities to bring the shipment in, earning him the ire of Gallano who begins sending thugs to harass him. Cummings decides that the only ally he still has -- aside from his faithful butler and bodyguard, Benton (Merlin Olsen) -- is Mitchell, because he's no good to the police dead.

Cummings offers a deal. If he is allowed to go free, Mitchell will be allowed to pose as a chauffeur and pick up the drug shipment, putting him in a position to both confiscate the drugs and arrest Mistretta. However, Cummings double-crosses Mitchell by alerting Mistretta to his real identity. He's also double-crossed Mistretta by replacing the heroin with chalk. Mistretta decides to kill Mitchell and dump the body on Cummings' boat.

Mistretta is killed in the subsequent gun battle, freeing Mitchell to go after Cummings, who is attempting to flee the country by sea. Mitchell is dropped onto the boat by helicopter and kills Benton with a gaff hook. Cummings is killed after one final attempted double-cross fails, bringing the story to a close.

Alternate version

In 1980, a heavily edited version of the 1975 film was released for broadcast television, in which most of the violence and all of the nudity and profanity were removed. Several scenes in the film were shot twice for this purpose.

  • Greta writes on the windshield of Mitchell's car with lipstick. In the theatrical release the word written on the windshield is "BASTARD" while in the TV version the word is "JERK."
  • The sequence during the dinner scene with the phony argument between Cummings and Benton was also shot twice to substitute "goddamn awful butler" with "lousy butler".
  • The scene with Mitchell arguing with Greta's son was edited with Mitchell saying "Buzz off, kid!!!" in the TV version instead of "Piss off, kid!!!" in the theatrical release.

Critical reception

Mitchell was generally panned by critics upon its release. In the New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote:

"Mitchell, starring Joe Don Baker as a hard-nosed Los Angeles detective named Mitchell, has a lot of over-explicit violence, some gratuitous sex stuff and some rough language, yet it looks like a movie that couldn't wait to get to prime-time television. Perhaps it's a pilot film for a TV series, or maybe it's just a movie that's bad in a style we associate with some of the more mindless small-screen entertainments. Mitchell spends what seems to be the greater part of the film climbing in and out of automobiles, driving automobiles, chasing other automobiles, parking automobiles, and leaning against the body of automobiles that are temporarily at rest. Once he smashes a hoodlum's hand in the door of an automobile. The climax, for a giddy change of pace, features a police helicopter in pursuit of a high-speed cabin cruiser. Automobiles sink when driven onto water."[1]

Said the Time Out film guide:

"Baker's the big lumpy cop who won't take no and another assignment for an answer when he's told to lay off the gun-happy lawyer (Saxon) he suspects of cold-blooded murder, and to concentrate on the businessman with the coke connection (Balsam). He realises that in such a sparsely-populated cheapie they just have to be in collusion, as he punches and shoots his way to the final credits accompanied by vocal encouragement from one of those country singers with terminal cancer. Balsam and Saxon contribute no more than their required quota of urbane sneers before being bulldozed into oblivion by the golem hero of this irredeemably routine potboiler."[2]

The Internet Movie Database currently gives Mitchell a user ranking of 2.3 out of 10 while the MST3K version holds a much more favorable ranking of 9.0 out of 10.[3][4]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode

On October 23, 1993, the edited-for-television release of Mitchell was featured as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.[5] The film was trimmed by several minutes to match MST3K's format, with the result that John Saxon's character, killed by Mitchell in a deleted scene, simply vanishes from the action, with the reason of his disappearance remaining all but a complete mystery. Joel and the Bots even remark on this lapse: "Wasn't John Saxon in this movie?" Particularly mocked were Mitchell's alcoholism, slovenliness, and uncouth behavior. During the end credits, Servo and Crow mock the theme song by improvising lyrics about food and Mitchell's weight, briefly referencing Shaft.

According to Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide on page 97, actor Joe Don Baker was very angry at the MST3K treatment of Mitchell, and threatened physical violence on any of the cast or crew should he ever meet them in person. This did not stop them from later featuring (and happily mocking) another of Joe Don's films, Final Justice, and hurling even more vicious insults at Baker.[6] Kevin Murphy, who played MST3K's robot commentator Tom Servo as well as serving as one of the show's head writers, later said Baker likely meant it in a joking manner.

The episode is also notable as being MST3K creator-star Joel Hodgson's last episode (save for a cameo in Episode 1001: Soultaker) and the first to feature his replacement, Mike Nelson, who would appear for the remainder of the show's run.


The film's theme song, "Mitchell," was performed by country music singer Hoyt Axton.

DVD releases

  • The MST3K version of the film was released by Rhino Home Video in November 2001 with the theatrical trailer as an extra. As of January 2010, the DVD is now out-of-print on Rhino's official website, and as of July 2010, the DVD is now out-of-print on Mst3k's official website.


  1. ^ Movie Review, Vincent Canby
  2. ^ Time Out Review: Mitchell
  3. ^ Mitchell (1975). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
  4. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000" - Mitchell (1993). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
  5. ^ SEASON FIVE: 1993-1994. Satellite News. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
  6. ^ SEASON TEN: 1999. Satellite News. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.

External links

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