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The Pope Must Diet (1991)

The Pope Must Die (original title)
R | | Comedy | 30 August 1991 (USA)
2:03 | Trailer
A less-than-qualified and far-from-perfect priest is mistakenly named the new pope. As the pontiff, he must deal with Vatican corruption, the Mob and the reappearance of his old lover.


Peter Richardson


Peter Richardson (screenplay by), Pete Richens (screenplay by)
1 win. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Robbie Coltrane ... The Pope
Adrian Edmondson ... Father Rookie
Paul Bartel ... Monsignor Fitchie
Damir Mejovsek Damir Mejovsek ... Drunk Cardinal
Bozidar Smiljanic Bozidar Smiljanic ... Cardinal Spott
Salvatore Cascio ... Paulo
Alex Rocco ... Cardinal Rocco
Annette Crosbie ... Mother Superior
Marc Smith ... US News Reporter
Peter Richardson Peter Richardson ... Bish
Ranko Zidaric Ranko Zidaric ... Father Santini
Dani Segina Dani Segina ... Old Cardinal
William Hootkins ... Cardinal Verucci
Niall Buggy Niall Buggy ... BBC Reporter
Robert Stephens ... The Camarlengo


A less-than-qualified and far-from-perfect priest is mistakenly named the new pope. As the pontiff, he must deal with Vatican corruption, the Mob and the reappearance of his old lover. Written by Michael "Rabbit" Hutchison <rabhutch@spacestar.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They chose him by mistake, now they want him dead. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and sensuality | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 August 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Pope Must Diet See more »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£534,614 (United Kingdom), 27 June 1991, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$264,147, 2 September 1991, Limited Release

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When ABC, NBC, and CBS refused to air ads for the film because of its original title, Miramax Pictures hired civil rights activist Alan Dershowitz to appeal the refusal. See more »


Vittorio Corelli: NO MORE MR. NICE POPE!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Filmed entirely in Europe, not far from the Vatican. See more »


Referenced in The Comix Scrutinizer: Skull #3 (2014) See more »


Baby Please
Performed by Mike Sanchez with the Big Town Playboys
See more »

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User Reviews

Has the potential for great religious satire but eventually falls flat
20 February 2018 | by The-Last-PrydonianSee all my reviews

Religion has always been a contentious subject, and yet one ripe for satirical comedy which has been the subject in more recent years with, Kevin Smith's Dogma and Four Lions springing readily to mind. It was one however, that writers Peter Richardson and Pete Richens had failed to tackle on the small screen with their anarchic and predominantly satirical, The Comic Strip Presents...series of short films. Choosing to satirize Catholicism with their third full length feature film after, The Supergrass and Eat the Rich, and having frequently collaborated on together with the results being decidedly hit and miss, but when they really hit at times they really could hit. It's with some semblance of good will that I approached, The Pope Must Die with some semblance of good will, hoping that it might be rewarded.

With Robbie Coltrane, in the title role as the eponymous now pope, C. David "Dave" Albinizi, a dedicated priest who before his appointment to pontiff works in a Italian orphanage run by Nuns, and who's unconventional methods raise the ire of the Mother Superior (veteran actress Annette Crosbie of, One Foot in the Grave and Dr. Finlay fame). A clerical error upon the death of the last Pope, finds the small time priest in the hallowed position, which proves timely as he was given his marching orders by his boss. Meanwhile, head Italian mafioso, Vitorrio Corelli (Herbet Lom) who has insinuated his influence in to the Catholic Church, which has become rife with corruption and wants to see the new Pope, "taken care of", is enraged that the wrong man has been given the role, having his eyes set on another to fill the vacancy. There is at the heart of the film, the potential for some great satire and with Coltrane who as he invariably does, making for a likeable leading man who brings considerable warmth and conviction to Albinizi. It does indeed get off to a promising start, with the early scenes being fairly engaging and the absurdest nature of it's humour, which was a often a mainstay of, Richardson and Richens work with, The Comic Strip team (which Richardson was the founding member) working well, and it does raise a few chuckles. As a biting satire on the inner workings of the Vatican, and allegations of corruption which have dogged the institution for decades, and which ranks as only just one of it's misdemeanors over the years, it feels like something of a wasted opportunity.

While there are early hints at the biting edge that we've come to expect, it proves to later be decidedly unfocused, and rather shallow as if they're holding back which gets in the way of the political and social commentary. Comically over the top characters that permeate the films narrative although initially raising a smile do begin to wear pretty thin, as does the plot which just goes from absurd to plain ridiculous with it's plot developing in to a bit of a contrived shambles in it's final act, by which point it feels like it has descended in to a one joke concept that has ran out steam. Not even the scene's involving John Sessions and Steven O' Donnell as two bungling hitmen, sent to carry out Corelli's dirty work, despite the efforts of both actors do much if anything to raise laughs, with any attempts at doing so feeling forced. All the while, Adrian Edmondson, who a Comic Strip regular and writer along with Richardson and Richens feels underused and wasted as a hardd of hearing Vatican Priest who delivers some of the movies few laughs. With Paul Bartel and yes, Peter Richardson (who makes more of an effort on screen than he clearly has on the paper) doing the best they can to strain laughs from the flimsy script but it's ultimately a losing battle.

The Pope Must Die, although not the worst of the movies that both Richardson and Richens cinematic collaborations with, their later attempts at satire proving even less successful with, Churchhill: The Hollywood Years which bombed at the box office thirteen years later proving to be arguably the nadir of their respective careers. It does after all benefit from the reliable presence of Coltrane as it does the rest of it's strong cast, but even they cannot prevent it from being something that could have been so much more than it is and lacks the innovative, searing wit that was better served on the small screen than it was on the big.

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