6.3/10
3,190
65 user 51 critic

Mandingo (1975)

An 1840s slaveowner trains one of his slaves to be a bare-knuckle fighter.

Director:

Richard Fleischer

Writers:

Kyle Onstott (novel), Jack Kirkland (play) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Mason ... Warren Maxwell
Susan George ... Blanche Maxwell
Perry King ... Hammond Maxwell
Richard Ward ... Agamemnon
Brenda Sykes ... Ellen
Ken Norton ... Mede
Lillian Hayman Lillian Hayman ... Lucrezia Borgia
Roy Poole ... Doc Redfield
Ji-Tu Cumbuka ... Cicero
Paul Benedict ... Brownlee
Ben Masters ... Charles
Ray Spruell Ray Spruell ... Wallace
Louis Turenne Louis Turenne ... De Veve
Duane Allen Duane Allen ... Topaz
Earl Maynard Earl Maynard ... Babouin
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Storyline

It's the mid-nineteenth century Louisiana. Falconhurst, a run down plantation, is owned by Warren Maxwell, and largely run by his son, Hammond Maxwell, who walks with a limp due to a childhood accident. Hammond is under pressure to get married and produce a male heir to continue the Maxwell legacy before Warren dies. With no experience courting a potential bride - his sexual experiences confined to slaves and whores - Hammond ultimately chooses his cousin Blanche for his wife in what would not be considered a courtship in its true sense. In turn, Blanche agrees to the marriage largely to escape the realm of her sadistic brother, Charles. As his father tells him is custom, Hammond, while on his and Blanche's honeymoon in New Orleans, also obtains a slave as a go to sexual partner, he buying Ellen, who he met when she was given to him in hospitality when visiting who was then her master. Concurrently, Hammond also purchases Mede, a Mandingo, as a slave, something Warren had always ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Expect The savage. The sensual. The shocking. The sad. The powerful. The shameful. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

25 July 1975 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mandingo See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | 4-Track Stereo

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to author James Wolcott, Jim Brown declined a lead role, "sparing himself considerable personal indignity and James Mason's atrocious southern accent." See more »

Goofs

In the final scene, it is evident that sublimating dry ice is being used to simulate steam rising from the "boiling" cauldron. See more »

Quotes

Doc Redfield: Hammond, son, you pleasure her, she'll git better.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC with heavy edits to the fight between Mede and Topaz, the beatings of the slave girl and the suspended male slave, and shots of Mede being prodded with a pitchfork by Hammond Maxwell. The uncut print was again submitted to the BBFC in 1987 for the CIC video release and some cuts were restored, with 47 secs still edited from the two whipping scenes. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Ghost Fever (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Born in This Time
Music by Maurice Jarre
Lyrics by Hitide Harris (as Hi Tide Harris)
Sung by Muddy Waters
[Played during opening title and credits]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Whoops! Thought this was a camp classic.
29 August 1999 | by Don-94See all my reviews

I just saw this film on the big screen (the only surviving 35mm print in the world). I had never seen it on video, so seeing it in a crowded theater was my first experience with the film. As a bonus, the director, Richard Fleischer, the star, Perry King, and Brenda Sykes, who plays King's slave "wench" in the film, spoke before the screening.

The audience alternated between gasping and roaring with immediately regretted laughter throughout the screening. Nobody laughed for a moment at Susan George's supposedly over-the-top performance. And at the climax -- there were astounded gasps all over the theater. Afterwards, once the applause had died down, the audience filed out, stunned. Everyone looked shell-shocked. I wandered around for a while listening to people murmuring: "I told you guys..." "Best I've seen..." "Totally uncompromising..." "That's how it was..." "Didn't pull any punches..." "Amazing..." "Where did you hear about it?..."

We had one big advantage over most people who see the film. Most viewers go rent the tape because they read about it in, say, Edward Margulies' and Stephen Rebello's BAD MOVIES WE LOVE (which is how I knew about it). MANDINGO has a huge reputation as a camp classic, so people seek out the video where it can be found. Then they take it home and watch it alone, or with a friend or two, pre-primed to laugh.

The audience I was sitting with at the American Cinematheque theater had, first of all, read the sober, favorable description in the Cinematheque schedule. Then we'd listened to Fleischer himself talk about how he had refused ten times when Dino de Laurentiis had asked him to film the novel, only to finally accept when he realized how he could do it: "By being totally honest and straight with it." And he was, if you view it without a laugh ready. King and Sykes also spoke calmly and soberly about how hard the shoot was, and how the cast considered it an important film but still had trouble handling the emotions it stirred up.

Fleischer is hardly a symbolic director, although there's a lot of "found" symbolism in 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, for example. But MANDINGO was an obvious statement of the inhumanity of slave-OWNing, and it constantly used the setting and characters to emphasize the moral and physical disintegration of the Deep South under the self-imposed yoke of the slave culture. That sounds pretentious, but in MANDINGO it's totally straightforward. Moral disintegration leads to moral disintegration. The crime is its own punishment. MANDINGO is an antimatter GONE WITH THE WIND.

MANDINGO, as Fleischer pointed out, was a huge hit on its initial release. It was also viciously attacked by all but two critics in the United States. (Fleischer admitted that he saved all his reviews, and pointed out mildly that those two reviewers -- who were the only critics to go into the film in depth -- pronounced the film a masterpiece. "I don't know if it's that," he said, "but those two were certainly a breath of fresh air.")

Because of all the controversy, the film was never rereleased. Nobody at the screening could think of a single time it had been screened between 1975 and August 28, 1999. Perhaps it was screened once or twice, but my point is that essentially no one since 1975 has seen this film with an audience, to feel the reactions of those around the room, to see it on the big screen.

I think it's really unfortunate that MANDINGO has gotten locked into this "camp" label. The film contains so much depravity that I can certainly see why it was selected as a "camp classic". But that wasn't the intent at all. I've heard this film compared to SHOWGIRLS. But SHOWGIRLS was directed by the bizarre Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, BASIC INSTINCT). Of course he was going for camp; he always does camp. But Richard Fleischer? He did 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, MR. MAJESTYK, 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (a real gem), THE BOSTON STRANGLER, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, SOYLENT GREEN. He is one of the most mild-mannered directors alive. He's done bad stuff -- CONAN THE DESTROYER and RED SONJA come to mind -- but in the seventies he was doing his best work. And that would have to include MANDINGO -- to my complete amazement.

I can't believe how different my experience with this film was from its usual "cult" interpretation. Now I wonder if Otto Preminger's HURRY SUNDOWN is as bad as the Medveds said it was in 50 WORST FILMS OF ALL TIME. I'll have to try to see it for myself.


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