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
The international version of the film (released on PAL region 2 DVD) contains a different cut of the film that runs approx. 5 minutes shorter than the U.S. release but also has many scenes presented in alternate clothed takes. In all 12 scenes were either trimmed or re-edited with alternate shots/angles/takes:
Scene where slave is bent over and inspected for hemorrhoids is cut.
Scene where the wench is being prepared for her deflowering is presented in an alternate take where her breasts are not exposed.
Scene with pregnant wench is shot with alternate angles to obscure nudity. Perry King's full frontal nudity is cut and replaced with a closer shot that reveals he is wearing shorts when he kneels down to pray (It looks like a goof - only a bit of the waistband can be seen at the corner of the frame).
Alternate takes of the slave being strung up to be beaten are used to obscure nudity, and many shots of him being beat and left bloody are cut.
A few seconds where Perry King's cousin rips off a wench's dress and bends her over to begin beating her is cut to remove nudity. The beating is left intact.
The slave market scene is edited to remove the topless wenches on display, and the shot where the German widow sticks her hand into Ken Norton's shorts and "inspects" him is cut short. The second shot with her hand in and then removing it is left intact though.
An alternate take is used with a prostitute clothed rather than nude at the bawdy house.
A few seconds of a prostitute rubbing on Perry King's crotch is cut.
An alternate take is used during the fight at the bawdy house so that a prostitute is seen holding her dress up while she cheers whereas in the original she lets it fall and her breasts be exposed.
The entire scene between Perry King and Brenda Sykes in which she asks him if he'll let their child go free is presented in alternate clothed takes. In the original film they are both completely nude. Even the camera angles and setups are the same, only with clothes in the international version.
In the scene where Ken Norton fights a man to death one long shot where the other fighter claws his back is cut. Also cut is when Ken bites down on the other fighter's neck, is pulled off, and then bites into his neck again. All the close-ups are cut.
The Susan George/Ken Norton love scene is almost entirely missing. Ken Norton's nudity is cut, and then the scene ends in an alternate take when the two go out of frame onto the bed. The original scene went on for much longer and exposed Ken Norton's buttocks and Susan George's breasts. The German theatrical version does not feature any of these alterations and is identical to the U.S. release.
I can see why this was controversial, and no doubt it would be if it were released now (2013). It's stunningly unlike Gone with the Wind. The style is extreme Southern Gothic, (not to be confused with camp). Some shades of Tennessee Williams but goes beyond where he dared. The dialogue is a bit difficult, and DVD has no English subtitles, but you'll be rewarded if you stick with it. (No need to understand every word). I agree that Tarantino was influenced by it but his approach to the subject matter is very different. Mandingo stands on its own as a major work of the 1970s and it's certainly a film that deserves to be better known. Striking photography and music throughout. This film panders to no one, nor does it simplistically tell the viewer what to think about anything. We have the feeling we're on our own with this. Maybe it's no accident that that feels liberating. Fasten your seat belts and see it.
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