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Robert Allen Schnitzer
Slave owner Warren Maxwell insists that his son, Hammond, who is busy bedding the slaves he buys, marry a white woman and father him a son. While in New Orleans, he picks up a wife, Blanche, a "bed wench," Ellen, and a Mandingo slave, Mede, whom he trains to be a bare-knuckle fighting champion. Angered that Hammond is spending too much time with his slaves, Blanche beds down Mede. Written by
Edwin Edwards, the governor of Louisiana at the time, was cast as a gambler and several scenes were filmed but excised before release. Upon the advice of his public relations staff, Edwards decided the potential damage to his public image when the salacious content of the film was revealed would be too great. See more »
In the movie's first scene, as Brownlee inspects a row of slaves he smokes a cigar which is obviously lit (smoke, ash, etc). But when he clenches the cigar in his mouth and leans in to inspect a slave's teeth, the cigar changes to one that has never been lit. (Maybe a precaution against burning the other actor's face?) See more »
Cousin Charles, What the hell you doing, kissin on the mouth?
[Charles throws Katie to bed, removes his belt, and whips her with it]
What you doin that fer?
Makes a man feel good. She likes it too. Don't you pretty wench?
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In this film, the masterful James Mason plays the plantation patriarch, a Big Daddy you wouldn't want to be owned by. This is undoubtedly THE BEST Film made about the era of slavery in the USA. It puts the sanitised, romantic "Gone With the Wind" to shame. "Mandingo" will make you uncomfortable even in your most comfortable seat. "Mandingo" is a mirror. See your reflection; it will scare the living bejeezub out of you.
This is a film about power. Racism is about power. When some people have absolute power over other people, they become sadistic and sometimes, the objects of their sadism become masochistic. Absolute power is always justified with ideological rationalisations become dogma, in this case the the dogma that black skin makes a person less than human. Power corrupts the individual's sense of morality. With power over others, one becomes more or less immoral, hardened to a subordinate's suffering. Self-esteem is generated by putting down the one perceived to be inferior and slaves were considered less than human, a notch or two down on the food chain. Slaves were treated as objects of power, like the organic results of animal husbandry, like the commodities you purchase and eat: cattle, pigs or sheep. Thus, having sex with a slave for a 'white' male owner was like breeding new animals for sale with a view to profit. 'White' females, of course, were not allowed to engage in this sort of animal husbandry with slaves. The patriarchal whisper one hears in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" becomes a murderous roar in "Mandingo".
In "Mandingo" we see realities of absolute power's affect on the social psychology of a society. Even after more than a century of time, American society, especially the South is still scarred by the psychological damage which simmers under the surface of smiles, whiskey fueled tears and freshly mown lawns.
"Mandingo" is a must see. It's better than "Glory", although "Glory" would be an appropriate second on a double feature bill with "Mandingo". "Mandingo" is even better than "Burn" and much better than "Roots". The acting is superb. The screenplay is magnificent. The cinematography is choice. Yes, this movie is violent; but slavery was a daily violence on the lives of those who suffered it. Face it. Yes, there is sex in this movie: squirm in your seat as you feel a touch of titillation. Yes, there is abuse on all levels from pedophilia to outright murder. But the abusers aren't comic book level bad guys; they aren't Jokers on the set of "Batman". They are the ruling class of the Old South. Sometimes their humanity shows through. Sometimes bad guys are ever so well ensconced in the the rituals of polite society that they come across as the upholders of civilised behaviour. That they are also enmeshed in a daily life organised around the exploitation of those who produce their wealth speaks volumes about the quality of their humanity and our own social relations of power today.
Get "Mandingo" however you can. Show it to your friends. Discuss it after you see it. Get ready for the movie experience of a lifetime. Forget about "Basterds"; forget the demented, ultra-violent comic fantasies of Quentin Tarintino. Forget about the sanitized films of the Antebellum Age. See "Mandingo". See the hard truth about chattel slavery and then do some reflection about how power over others functions to generate a generalised state of dominance and submission in the social relations of the here and now, wherever you live on this planet.
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