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Nothing But a Man

47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A landmark independent film, NOTHING BUT MAN is one of the most sincere and sensitive pictures ever made about the struggles and hardships of Black life in 1960s America. Lauded by critics at the Venice and New York film festivals when it first premiered

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From the era when American films almost never put black characters at the center of a movie, Nothing but a Man stands like a beacon of intelligence and sympathy. It was shot in 1964 at the height of the Civil Rights movement by two Jewish white men, director Michael Roemer and cinematographer Robert M. Young, who wrote the script after traveling through the South and immersing themselves in African American life. Ivan Dixon (later of Hogan's Heroes) plays a railroad worker who settles down to marry a preacher's daughter (jazz singer Abbey Lincoln), only to find that the system is rigged against him. The film is not condescending or idealizing in its approach; some of the problems of the characters are outside the reality of racism. Aside from its status as a landmark social-issue film, it is good to recognize, 40 years on, what a terrific piece of filmmaking this is, with fine acting (Yaphet Kotto and Gloria Foster are in the cast), lucid dialogue, and a fresh feeling for everyday domestic life. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • The cast and crew 40 years later
  • Short film: "Portrait of Abbey"
  • Extensive liner notes with original stills from the film
  • Cast and crew biographies

Product Details

  • Actors: Ivan Dixon, Abbey Lincoln, Julius Harris, Gloria Foster, Martin Priest
  • Directors: Michael Roemer
  • Writers: Robert M. Young, Michael Roemer
  • Producers: Robert M. Young, Michael Roemer, Robert Rubin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Special Edition
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Cinema V
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002JUX42
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,845 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nothing But a Man" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By TUCO H. on September 18, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Here's an American neo-realist masterwork that captures the temper of black consciousness in the south just prior to the mass upheavals of the early '60s.
Long before Scorsese made "Mean Streets" and "Raging Bull," Michael Roemer had made this great film. No other film dramatizes so profoundly the plight of a man whose basic human pride will not be compromised under any circumstances.
Ivan Dixon as Duff gives one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema and Abbey Lincoln as Josie, the preacher's daughter he tries to settle down with, is just about perfect in control of nuance. These characters are extraordinary "ordinary" people, truly heroic; yet the tragedy that stalks them may or may not be hopeless at this time in history, due to an apparent shift in black consciousness, a general "fed-up-with-it-all" attitude that needs men like Duff to inspire itself.
The entire cast is uniformly excellent and there are too many brilliant scenes to mention here. The film seems cut directly from the fabric of real life in a semi-documentary Rossellini-like style. "Little Fugitive" and "Medium Cool" are the only other pre-70s American films I've seen that feel this real and authentic.
In terms of the subtlety with which racial politics and power relations are exposed through simple gestures and concrete acts rather than rhetoric and melodrama, Martin Ritt's "Sounder" and Paul Schrader's "Blue Collar" are the only films I've seen that come close. Charles Burnett's low-budget independent masterpiece "Killer of Sheep," also comes to mind.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
A film that deserves far more exposure than it has apparently received thus far. There is drama to be found in everyday lives. NBAM is set in a time and place when black survival was so tenuous that its pursuit necessarily involved drama. There is plenty of dramatic conflict in the main character's struggle to find a way to live with himself and those around him. Other conflicts include decisions about romance, parents, children, religion and work. The acting and direction are uniformly topnotch. Abby Lincoln radiantly and subtly portrays faith and dignity. Because so many films about racist and other tragedies use a hammer to drive home messages of injustice, NBAM refreshes. While the narrative is clear, viewers are credited with the ability to connect dots. These are qualities too rarely found in contemporary cinema, although they are richly apparent in the work of directors including Marcel Pagnol, Sagyajit Ray (Sp? - anyway, director of the World of Apu, etc.), John Huston, Jean Vigo, Werner Herzog (in a few of his films), Fassbinder... NBAM provides less of an escape than some of the work just referenced. But its realistic style and well-drawn characterizations made me hungry for at least a sequel. Sidebar: That the story takes place when music like "Heatwave" was popular just provides ironic contrast and a window, for non-black viewers, into the disparity between ebulliant soul hits and early-'60s African American living.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David on June 18, 2006
Format: DVD
I first saw "Nothing But a Man" on public TV about 35 years ago when I was in high school. I never forgot it. I was very happy to learn of its release on tape in the 1990s and now its availability on DVD. Terrific acting, and a tight script. Unlike so many Hollywood movies, you have to pay attention to the details in this one. It's in my personal Top 50 films of all time.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Sohi on March 30, 2007
Format: DVD
In 1964, when "Nothing But a Man" was released, it must have been a shock to see a film that presents a story focused on the lives of black characters, and does so with such vivid and unsparing authenticity. The film's power has faded little in over forty years and remains essential viewing for reasons that far exceed its historical importance. The story of a man who refuses to conform or give in but who breaks a little along the way as he ends up fighting everyone around him is told with such courage and honesty that you are hooked from the opening scenes. The direction is unobtrusive and the script manages to effectively walk the delicate balance between delivering a message without being heavy-handed. The actors in the film don't seem to have a lot of range but what they do, they do very effectively and are completely convincing.

I end up watching this film about once a decade (I've seen it three times). On both occasions as I anticipated watching it again I've thought it's not going to be as good as I remember it being. I've been wrong both times, rediscovering the film's force and seeing even more layers of subtlety as I watched it through the filter of my added experience. I can't recommend this film highly enough.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on January 8, 2007
Format: DVD
Once you see this film you won't forget this! Low budget, but excellent and compelling story of a Black man (Ivan Dixon-best remembered as "Kinch" of "Hogan's Heroes") in the South who faces classism (he is a poor man who wants to marry a middle-class preacer's daughter played by Abbey Lincoln) as well as racism. When the local whites see that Dixon refuses to pay the "Uncle Tom game," the word gets out and he becomes unhirable.

This film examines a lot of issues in between all this, but I will spare all that for the viewer. You really have to see it. Lots of good atmospheric touches that makes the Southern urban ghetto scenery authentic, as well as the R&B and Gospel soundtrack. Look for Esther Rolle (Florida Evans from "Good Times") as an extra in a church scene.
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