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 W. Edwards (Governor of Louisiana at the time) was cast as a gambler and several scenes were filmed but excised before release. Upon the advice of 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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Excellent disturbing film that violently polarizes audience
This is an underrated, truly great film on the subject of slavery, sexual hypocrisy and the haunted, hothouse atmosphere of generations of white bad karma in the 19th century deep south. There are some who've commented here who get it, others who don't want to get it because it's just too truthful and disturbing. These folks undoubtedly would prefer a TV sanitized version of slavery as in ROOTS. It's a testament to Richard Fleischer's integrity that he was able to pull this off. All performances are excellent (well, that's not strictly true as Ken Norton stumbles his way through but Fleischer, through his direction and editing gets an adequate job from him), including superb James Mason (one of his most brutally fearless roles as opposed to the nadir of his career as one IMDB commentator puts it). One of the things that's most disturbing about the film is the depiction of the consequences of slavery, racism and hypocrisy on the white race, how it warps son, Perry King's natural tenderness towards Brenda Sykes into a horrifying insecure paranoia that evolves into aberrantly exaggerated jealousy and sexually motivated violence by the climax. And poor Susan George's character is driven totally mad by her husband King's neglect and jealousy and the semingly contradictory tender erotic ministrations of slave, Norton. Mason reaps what he sows at the end and King's upbringing (and inferiority complex) is ultimately too much for him in the end, taking him down the same road to hellish oblivion.
If one wants to see a truly lurid, exploitive treatment of the same subject (although very entertaining also with a great cast -- Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Yaphet Kotto, et.al.) one should look no further than MANDINGO's sequel, DRUM. However, MANDINGO is different. It does contain some lurid, super charged sexual images and shocking cruelty and violence -- but Fleischer's treatment is matter-of-fact, in-your-face and ultimately totally unpretentious. It walks a tightrope but courageous director Fleischer never stumbles. The gritty, extremely realistic location and production design add to the disturbing ambience. Unflinching, beautifully shot (I saw this in the theater when it was released and at a rare revival screening in 2000) and undeserving of it's pariah reputation.
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