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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 21 February 2006
"The wife of a plantation and slave owner is jealous of her husband's extra-marital affairs with a slave woman named Ellen, so she seduces and becomes pregnant by a slave named Mede. But her husband isn't too happy about that.." A simplistic quote about a this 'lurid historical drama.' This a brutal piece of film work. Sometimes it's quaint in it's portrayal of the deep south but, I have no doubt that it shows the worst kind of treatment of one human to another and the true brutalising nature of slavery. I saw it when it first came out and it's abiity to shock hasn't waned.
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on 6 October 2008
Part Harold Robbins and part Euripedes, this film has brutal depictions of slavery, abhorrent language, and extraordinary cinematography by Richard Kline. 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, and makes it memorable years after seeing it. 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.
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on 16 November 2004
A brutal film to watch in our modern PC world, this film does not wash over the issue of slavery. This film shows images others would not dare to do, thus giving the viewer a real insight to the horrors involved in the slave industry. From the opening inspection of the slaves to the violent conclusion, this film is the perfect material for us in the twentyfirst century to visit a time not to distant ago, in terms of years but a world away in terms of attitudes. The attitude of the disabled plantation owners son towards his slaves and his wife. There is a chance of hope for this young man, as you think his attitudedes would change as he seems to love the young black slave girl, but in the end the horror of the his body reflects the horror of his soul, and there is no salvation or remedy for him
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on 30 October 2009
Mandingo is one of those films like Birth Of A Nation, or Triumph Of The Will, in which one is forced contemplate objectionable content all the while reluctantly allowing mitigating qualities. That's not to say that Fleischer's exploitative film, hardly an artistic landmark, is at anything like the same level as those masterpieces, although he had an interesting and varied career. He was responsible for low budget noirs (Armoured Car Robbery, 1950), Disney classics (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 1954), intelligent biblical drama (Barabbas, 1962), war epics (Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1970) as well as science fiction (Soylent Green, 1973) each made with equal professionalism. These are films that are still a pleasure to re-encounter, and continue to hold up as solid entertainment. Mandingo stands out as his most controversial work, and in these politically correct times is seen infrequently, even more so the sequel Drum, 1976 - not by Fleischer.

For those used to the cosy image presented of the old American South, Mandingo will come as a slap in the face. Falconhurst, where most of the action takes place, is far removed from the comforting, romantic world of say, Gone With The Wind (1939). So inflammatory is the subject matter of this film that Fleischer apparently refused several times when Dino de Laurentiis asked him to direct. It is reported that Fleischer finally decided to accept the job only on the basis of his film 'telling the truth'.

With, or without, the salve of supposed historical accuracy, Mandingo was a huge hit when it came out, although few critics liked it and tellingly it was never reissued. It still retains a strong camp reputation, dividing audiences between those who value its revisionism and those who smell exploitation. None of the director's initial hesitation is apparent on the screen, as his work plunges into the excesses of slavery with gusto. On one level Mandingo is a racist, sexist, violent melodrama. But it is also one of the first films supposedly to show the slave-south as it was: as a casually cruel society harbouring an odious institution, one that debased human relationships at every level. (Interestingly, there's an echo of such a slave-based society in Soylent Green, where women are commonly sold as part of a rich apartment's contents and termed 'furniture'.)

Starring as the grouchy patriarch Warren Maxwell, James Mason appears uncomfortable both in and out of character. Playing Maxwell as afflicted with a rheumatic foot, the actor also suffers professionally, being handicapped with a dubious southern accent. More familiar in suave, dapper and civilised roles, Mason here plays a shabby bigot who meets an abrupt end. Although he makes the best of it there is a distinct feeling that he is playing beneath himself, a star at the dog end of an illustrious career, as the opening 'haemorrhoid scene' only serves to illustrate.

Less can be said for Susan George, called upon to play a frustrated and vengeful wife. For those with a nose for such things, her eventual dalliance with Mede (pronounced 'meat') is an all too-predictable event, their climactic miscegenation amongst the most exploitative elements in the film. George pouts and plots appropriately, but her sensuality is overwhelmed by the brutality that surrounds her and her nudity is mild.

Perry King, who plays Mason's son Hammond, had a brief career in films before he disappeared into anonymity and television in the 1970s. Interestingly, in the same year he also appeared in another cult flick, The Wild Party. In the present film as the conscience-stricken offspring, he manages competently enough, without making much of an impact. Impaired by a limp, his physical handicap suggests something of his inner doubts - although in terms of sexual morality, at least, he is as hypocritical as everyone else.

As Mede, the 'mandingo' in question, ex-boxing champion Norton is at the centre of the film, brooding darkly at the injustices around him. Is he secretly hatching plots against his white masters we wonder? For a long time his motives and potential are in doubt. At first, the humiliation he experiences at the slave market (the old lady scrabbling in his loin cloth a defining moment) and later his involvement with the secretly literate blacks suggests that Mede is a dynamic character, even a black Spartacus. He takes obvious pride in the fighting skills, which allow him a limited sense of independence, although his self-contained rage and violence is continually understated. Even when upbraided by Cicero for "killin' another black man" he seems more sheepish towards his accusers than angry at the system. His continually postponed revolt is what gives the film much of its tension. It is unfortunate then that Mede's ultimate "No, Masser." at the end, although expected, is less a long-awaited declaration of rebellion than a resigned withdrawal from service into self-defence. The older Cicero, a supporting character, is noticeably angrier and more radical. One need only recall a film like Schepsi's The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith, where the revolt of the repressed is made explicit, to see how restrained the lead in Mandingo is. Mede's final violent acts, done almost in sorrow at his master's failings, are ultimately much less cathartic than natural justice and the audience demands.

In short, Mandingo posits a society worthy of overthrow and then denies the audience the satisfaction of seeing it effectively opposed. While this allows scope for exploitative images of lust, humiliation and punishment, the final result is curiously inconclusive and gives the film a disturbing nature. One is left with a rush of dead and dying bodies, resolving nothing outside of plot strands. The big boiling cauldron into which Mede topples, pierced with a pitchfork epitomises his constant agony. It also stands as representative of the hell the film has represented so excruciatingly for its participants, while offering no immediate prospect of salvation. Mandingo's audience are left contemplating the need for real justice, or face having blithely enjoyed the degradation on its own account. No wonder this uncomfortable film is rarely seen today.
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on 6 March 2014
This is an interesting take on slavery though now outdone and outclassed by 'Twelve years a Slave'. See them both and then find an American University which will welcome your thesis on the slave trade.
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on 6 October 2009
It says on case running time 131 minutes actually 118 minutes.Such a great film on cinema and video has been totally ruined for me with this heavily censored version.Any nudity has been totally blocked out.Waste of time buying this version of the film,wait until the uncensored version comes out on dvd,if it ever does.If this dvd had been the full version of the film i would have awarded it 5 stars.
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on 15 June 2013
i think this is a good movie and i would recommend this film to anyone who likes historical movies and stories about the deep south in americait also has a good cast in it which also enhances the film great stuff
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on 21 November 2012
An unusual foray into the truth of the source of the present-day wealth of White culture. Although a soap-opera in structure and acting style, that is just a skeleton for revealing the awful truth about the parasitic nature of Whites and their need to steal from others rather than create for themselves.
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on 23 August 2013
firstly this is not just a region 1 got it from U.S.A. seller took a chance it would play on my blu ray region 2 and it did, so might be multi region....quality not brilliant but very exceptable..as far as I can make it out to be uncut version
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on 26 May 2013
This film is as much about race in the 1970s as it is about Antebellum slavery. It's a shlocky 70s exploitation film but still has much to say that is intriguing and challenging, clearly this is the film referenced in Django.
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