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The big title in this first group is Richard Fleischer s 1975 Mandingo, a back-alley parody of Gone With the Wind based on a lascivious 1957 best seller by Kyle Onstott. All that dewy-eyed antebellum melodramas so carefully repress returns here with a vengeance. James Mason, wallowing in a deep Dixie accent, is Warren Maxwell, the run-down proprietor of a run-down plantation whose two great concerns in life are finding appropriate breeding partners for his prize female slave, Ellen (Brenda Sykes), and his only son, an Adonis with a gimpy leg played by Perry King.
Maxwell s efforts at human husbandry go luridly awry when the partner he finds for Ellen the former heavyweight champion Ken Norton as a fighting slave begins a culturally unthinkable relationship with a not-so-shrinking Southern belle, played by the British actress Susan George. With its scenes of incest and infanticide (at no additional charge), Mandingo can hardly be accused of taking a sober, dignified approach to its subject, but when the historical context is itself obscene, transgressions are justified. That the film is still a hot potato more than three decades after it was made is a tribute to its undiminished power to provoke. --Dave Kehr of The New York Times
Top Customer Reviews
The imagery of Falconhurst, the huge but decrepit plantation of a cruel and vicious man (James Mason in a strange and brilliant performance) is fantastic; with peeling paint and filthy mosquito nets, winding staircases of gleaming wood, dark steamy rooms, and lush exteriors with drooping wisteria.
The score by Maurice Jarre also adds much to the atmosphere, with Muddy Waters singing "Born in This Time".
Perry King is excellent as Mason's son, broken in body, weak in spirit, knowing what is right and often doing what is wrong; as his wife, Susan George is appropriately annoying and trashy, and as his "wench", Brenda Sykes is lovely. Heavyweight boxer Ken Norton, who won over Mohammed Ali (and broke his jaw) in 1973, made his impressive screen debut as Mede the Mandingo.
This film is a mass of contradictions, which is probably what keeps one glued to the screen. It is manipulative yet unpredictable, gratuitous and raw but thought-provoking; some of it might be absurd, but many of the situations shown did happen.
With all the brutality, nudity, incest, and most of all, the repellent language, this is not a film for the young, or anyone squeamish about violence.
Total running time is 127 minutes.
I have to say I was truly shocked at how many viewers responded with derisive amusement, laughter, and even a weird kind of delight to this frankly brutal, harsh, and, yes, often lurid look at the brutal, harsh, and often lurid reality that was the evil institution known as "slavery" -- a system which dehumanized and degraded everything it touched, and which nearly destroyed a nation. (Much as the Nazis' "Final Solution" would do a century later, only with more systematic efficiency, and with global repercussions.)
And this is to be regarded as a fitting subject for MIRTH? Well, perhaps if you lack a modicum of compassion, or even a rudimentary frame of reference with regard to black history. Admit it -- if this film had been about the Holocaust and had depicted the torture and gassing of Jews instead of the beating and lynching of slaves you would NOT have laughed, would you? At least I HOPE you wouldn't!
Face it, this is a particular chapter of history that is simply too close to home and too uncomfortable for many white Americans (which I, also, with some degree of shame, admit to being) to fully acknowledge, much less stomach. Damn right this film is inflammatory, politically incorrect, offensive and salacious. It HAD to be if was to pretend to any level of accuracy with regard to even a semi-objective portrayal of slavery.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
***** A terrible, but historical representation of a horrid time in America's history ...Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer