Mitchell – 1975 / Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

You know when you just can’t be bothered to do something? Well, this film feels just like that – no one seems to get out of first gear. This is a film which features John Saxon in a dune buggy trying to run over a fat cunt and it STILL isn’t very good. Just like  John Sturges’ Joe Kidd (which wasted the stirring sight of Saxon and Clint Eastwood ramming a house in a steam train), Mitchell is that most terrible of things: mediocre. The star is Joe Don Baker as Mitchell, a -shock horror – unconventional, slobbish cop who gets the job done, who gives one of the most irritating performances you’ll ever see. To say Baker is on a different wavelength to everyone else is an understatement. Unless I’m mistaken, he seems to be playing it for laughs – he spills beer over a prostitute’s knees, picks up six packs with his toes (during sex) and so on. The rest of the cast seem to think they’re in a 70s cop thriller – okay, none are trying too hard, but at least the tone is right.

The story opens with a latin-looking burglar making the massive mistake of breaking into lawyer Saxon‘s house. The guy must be hard of hearing, because he misses four people enter the house, chattering away so Saxon can trap him with a nifty-looking automatic door affair and shoot the fucker dead. The cops arrive, and so does Mitchell, who proceeds to ignore all forensic protocol and blunders straight into the crime scene, randomly picking up stuff without wearing gloves. Mitchell seems to divine that Saxon murdered the poor slob, but is warned off by his boss and given a chump’s assignment to watch a drug dealer, Cummings (a criminally half-hearted Martin Balsam), 24/7. He does this by walking right up to the guy and introducing himself before fucking off and sharing a couple of cringe-makingly awkward scenes with Linda Evans, who plays the prostitute love interest. I’m not going to dwell too much on their scenes together but, Jesus, they’re masterpieces of duff dialogue and even worse delivery. Evans peruses a copy of Playboy while Baker licks her feel, and we’ll leave it at that.

Mitchell and Cummings sort off team up against some dastardly Mafia types, who are keen to ship in a load of horse. Mitchell applies the softly softly approach by shooting a guy who may be a villain in the leg and taking him in for questioning. I’m not a legal expert, but I’d imagine a fucking big law suit coming the Police Department’s way in real life. Saxon has a few good moments as the dastardly villain. He’s not on screen anywhere near enough, but he lokks to be loving being behind the wheel of the dune buggy before he meets his maker in the feeblest crash you’ll ever see. His vehicle must be made of nitroglycerine – it gently rolls onto it’s roof before exploding like Hiroshima.

Mitchell was pilloried by MST3K, but that was unfair. Despite Baker, this is just routine stuff. Badly written and performed, yes, but there’s a lot worse out there. With a different lead, this would have made a reasonable TV show – in fact, writer Ian Kennedy Martin wrote pretty much every British TV show in the 70s and 80s, from The Sweeney, through The Chinese Detective to Juliet Bravo. Mitchell‘s main problem is the uneven tone – the lightweight main theme from Hoyt Axton would be better suited to something like The Dukes of Hazzard, but the violence is straight out of Dirty Harry. Watch is for Saxon, sure, but burn it afterwards.