Mitchell is a 1975 cop film staring Joe Don Baker and John Saxon. It was made in the height of the 70’s Cop genre, which kicked off with The French Connection (1971), and Dirty Harry (1971), and continued with films like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three in (1974), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) among many other. It is within reason that after the success of films like these, that any film studio would want to get in on a trend like this.
Allied Artists is one of these studios. Mitchell is one of these film.
Mitchell is as basic of a plot as it could be. A cop investigates a murder, and eventually goes after a crime syndicate. It’s very by the numbers in its structure, but it’s ok to have a plot structure like this, as long as the characters are interesting. The problem is that I don’t remember anyone in this movie, except for Mitchell. Part of it might be the fact that there are multiple villains, or maybe it’s the edited for tv version of the movie which cut out a couple characters deaths (including John Saxon, who just disappears from the movie), but honestly, it’s just the movie itself. It never lends any of it’s boring characters anything interesting to do. It’s violent but without purpose, nonsensical (Mitchell probably should have been fired a long time ago), super misogynistic, and it thinks it’s more charming than it is. It’s all around a bad movie.
Everything that I just said about the movie, that goes with the titular character as well. Joe Don Baker’s Mitchell is the least likable hero I’ve ever seen. Even if a character is unlikable, and suppose to be a protagonist, usually they have a redemptive ark (Guardians of the Galaxy, Christmas Carol) or at least go deeper into their deplorableness (Breaking Bad, Nightcrawler), but there is no arc with Mitchell. It is a straight line of a character. He never learns anything, he never changes, and he is just not charming at all. I like the idea of an antihero, someone who goes against the rules, and cause trouble. But the good thing about antiheroes is that they usually have a heart which makes them do what’s right at the end of the day. If Mitchell wasn’t a cop, he’d be a drug dealer, probably a good one. I don’t know how else to explain my distaste for Mitchell, so I’m just going to move on…
… Oh, he’s also super sexist, and a huge shi…
The riffing is fine in this one. It’s the very last Joel episode, and they pulled out the stops as much as they could, but there wasn’t anything that was particularly memorable in the episode, with the one exception.
Now, it could be construed as problematic, the amount of fat jokes and out of shape jokes that are made at the expense Joe Don Baker’s Mitchell character, and being an out of shape person myself, there were a couple lines there that made me think “Yea, I should probably go out for more runs.” These jokes may be problematic, but at the same time I can’t help but laugh every time I see Mitchell run, and one of the crew makes the out of shape breathing sound that I’m far to familiar with. Joe Don Baker is not a standard action hero. His character is suppose to be an alcoholic, and I feel like Joe used the opportunity to be a method actor.
Am I still dunking on Joe Don Baker even after switching topics? Yes I am, because it’s easy to do. It’s an easy joke, and sometimes you just got to take the easy joke! Anyway, he’s some of the best lines.
Mitchell: (after spilling beer on Greta) Sorry, the beer got a little excited.
Crow: (as Greta) That’s okay. We can just cuddle.
Servo: Who’s the puffy guy who’s a big blurry sex machine?
Joel, Crow: Mitchell!
Servo: That Mitchell is one fat s—
Joel, Crow: Shut yo’ mouth!
Servo: I’m just talkin’ ’bout Mitchell!
Hoyt Axton: [singing] My my my my Mitchell, what would yo’ momma say?
Crow: She’d say, “He’s not mine! You can’t prove it!”
Servo: Wasn’t John Saxon suppose to be in this movie?
Crow: The inspiration for “Cop and a Half.”
And the utter frustration from the scene that comes out during the scene between Mitchell and the kid.
The Host Segments
The first bit is a clever scene, where Joel builds a replica of the Monticello built with toothpicks. The bots see it and immediately want to destroy it, but when they find out that that’s exactly what Joel wanted them to do, they loose interest… for a moment.
Next, we find out that the Mad’s are being audited by the Fraternal Order of Mad Science, and a temp named Mike (the next host, but we don’t know that yet), is doing the auditing. My favorite bit, other than the multiple easter eggs of the series laced around the set, is when Dr. Forrester is trying to describe this week’s movie, he describes Mitchell as a “super secret spy… uh, has a motorcycle… marooned in space… meets… Hercules… or not… uhhh…” before giving up and telling him to, “watch it and weep, Joel-Prole-Mole!”
The Mad’s start getting annoyed by Mike, so they devise a plan to terminate him… indefinitely. Gypsy overhears this (in a funny HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” sort of way) and misunderstands it to assume that Joel is the one that they are going to kill. Gypsy then starts planning a rescue for Joel. She asks for help from the Bots, and Joel, and get nothing whatsoever.
So she asks Mike, and after a bunch of troubleshooting, they find out that there is an escape pod in a box of humdingers called the “Deus Ex Machina” (classic). Mike then tricks Frank into helping him activate the escape pod.
Finally, Joel is able to escape, and everyone is sad for a moment, and then panics. It’s not a particularly sad scene, or a happy scene, but it’s as emotionally investing as it probably needs to be. There a lovely plaque with a quote from The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao on it, and he’s gone from the show, and immediately the Mad’s decide to use Mike.
Overall, for a lot of people, it’s a classic episode. I don’t know if it’s actually one of the best, but it’s pretty important, and I think that might by why it keeps coming into the conversation of the best episodes. I don’t quite get the laugh riot that I do of other episodes, but it works as well as it should.