Review: ‘The Pope Must Die’

Say no prayers for The Pope mus t Die, a barbed comedy about an honest goofball who boots the mob out of the Vatican when he's mistakenly made top banana.

Say no prayers for The Pope must Die, a barbed comedy about an honest goofball who boots the mob out of the Vatican when he’s mistakenly made top banana.

Scots comic Robbie Coltrane toplines as a priest who doubles as a car mechanic and rock musician in a rural Italian orphanage. When the pope kicks it in Rome, Father Dave Albinizi’s name comes up thanks to a clerical error, and next thing he’s riding around in the popemobile and dispensing blessings.

First to hit the cobblestones is the finance director (Alex Rocco), mob boss Herbert Lom’s main inside man. But when Coltrane’s ex-g.f. (Beverly D’Angelo) turns up and reveals they have a long-lost rock star son (Balthazar Getty), Rocco and his accomplice (Paul Bartel) inform the press.

Loosely based (like The Godfather Part III) on the Roberto Calvi banking scandal, yarn broadens out into a breezy satire of mob pictures and religious pics. Coltrane is solid (and physically right) as the ingenuous lead, but pace slackens when he’s left to make the running. Rest of the cast play it in the fast lane.

Pic lensed in Yugoslavia under the dummy title Sleeping with the Fishes. End roller includes the blithe note: ‘Filmed entirely on location in Europe, not far from the Vatican.’

The Pope Must Die



Palace/British Screen. Director Peter Richardson; Producer Stephen Woolley; Screenplay Peter Richardson, Pete Richens; Camera Frank Gell; Editor Katherine Wenning; Music Anne Dudley, Jeff Beck; Art Director John Ebden


(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 97 MIN.


Robbie Coltrane Beverly D'Angelo Herbert Lom Paul Bartel Salvatore Cascio Alex Rocco
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