Monday, August 31, 2015

Movie review - "Mandingo" (1975) ** (warning: spoilers)

A film that is much mocked and perhaps deservedly so - the acting is over the top, the plot is melodramatic high camp, and it's an ugly feeling movie. And yet... and yet... it is a rare studio film that tackles the issue of slavery head on in a no holds barred way - there's none of your Gone with the Wind whitewashing here, slavery is brutal and full on.

So sure critics may laugh at the plot which involves Perry King sleeping with his slave Brenda Sykes, and Susan George chewing the scenery with vigor as his wife with a trashy past who gets hot and bothered for slave Ken Norton, not one but two mixed race babies, and Norton winds up boiled in a pot... And they may chortle at the acting - apart from James Mason, no one is really up to their roles.

But it is an indictment of slavery and patriarchy. King is depicted as a nicer slave owner but he still kills his wife and boils his slave. King's father Mason thinks he's nice but is a horrid exploiter. King and Mason both imprison George and drive her to drink. George mainly sleeps with Norton because she's lonely and bored. Norton is betrayed by King as a master and a pseudo-friend. It is a confronting movie and sometimes I wonder if white critics preferred to bag it instead of dealing with the issues it raises.

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