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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
Even some thirty years after its release,the motion picture Mandingo is mainly but not to be compared with films like Birth Of A Nation,or Triumph Of The Will that be contemplate objectionable content of the material while reluctantly allowing mitigating qualities relating to the vast subject matter and to this day,it still gives shock value. In spite of what some may say about Richard Fleischer's exploitative film,since it is still hardly a artistic landmark,and it not on the same level as his other masterpieces,although he has a brilliant career as one of Hollywood's most talented directors. This was the man who was responsible for some of the greatest films ever to be released from Hollywood. He was responsible for crime dramas(Armored Car Robbery,1950) (The Don Is Dead,1973),psychological thrillers(10 Rillington Place,1971) (The Boston Strangler,1968),Disney classics(20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,1954),historical dramas(The Vikings,1958),(Barabbas,1962),and the dramas that inflict the horrors of war(Tora! Tora! Tora!,1970),westerns (Between Heaven and Hell,1956),(Bandido,1957),(Che!,1969),musicals (Doctor Dolittle,1967),(The Jazz Singer,1980),and well as science fiction,(Fantastic Voyage,1966),and (Solvent Green,1973). Each of these movies were made with great professionalism since these films are still a pleasure to encounter and still holds up and some of the best entertainment value anywhere. However,Richard Fleischer's most controversial work,Mandingo still holds the title some 30 years later and still is as shocking as ever.
Mandingo is very much a pulpy,lurid antebellum potboiler that really turns the fantasy world of a classic romanticized film like Gone With The Wind inside out,and to put in bluntly a slap in the face. For those used to the cozy image presented of the American South,this wasn't a Garden of Eden before the fall,but this was a nightmarish version of slavery that at the time audiences never seen,and the horrors of cruelty and in treatment of human beings became one of the most graphic and tarnished chapters in American History. Here this is a version of the Old South,which is nothing more than a turn on,where everybody seems to be sex-starved,slightly mad or depraved,or sometimes just plain knuckle headed. James Mason,in the nasir of his career,is a campily eccentric white massa,a slave breeder determined that his handsome randy young son(Perry King)settle down and provide the family with a new heir. King's got other things on his mind though,mainly a pretty slave wench(Brenda Sykes),his one true love. But he must contend with his daddy's wishes and soon courts and weds Southern belle Susan George,who is not all she seems,having very early on been deflowered by,of all people,her brother.
When King turns a cold eye to his new bride,the lady seeks vengeance by lending to her bed to a good,faithful Mandingo slave(Ken Norton),who in fact has been so good and so faithful that he is now rewarded with the Old South's most prized possession:this blonde,light-eyed white woman! During the seduction scene,director Fleischer works hard at heating up the audience which the infamous sex scene was the center of the entire movie in which the scene almost became too close to an "X" rating at the time this film was release. This was in the year 1975,were the envelope was pushed into even deeper depths here,especially in a movie where the majority of the subject matter was presented. Later on in the story,the bride bears Norton's child,who is promptly done away with. Then Norton,young master King's favorite(on the plantation,Norton's a fighter of uncommon strength,a winner of all of the matches the master sets him up)receives yet another reward for his handiwork once his paternity is revealed(and this is towards the end of the movie):he's thrown into a huge caulderon of boiling water,then has a pitchfork shoved into him! These are but a few of the horrors in this gaudy terror of a film. There are several scenes that were shocking to watch:there's lynching and incest and molestation,blacks treated like animals by their white counterparts,in the depiction of slave auctions,since life on the plantation wasn't easy....it was living hell. Let's not forget lots of interracial sex,and the film had as many nude black women as the envelope was pushed even further into detail. Also to look out for,actor Paul Benedict,aka Mr. Bentley from The Jeffersons as the slave trader. Even,after thirty years after its release,its still shocking entertainment and very well politically incorrect,and for the year 1975,that is a lot to say about a movie that really angered a lot of its audiences-mainly African-Americans,who went to see it.
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