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Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Mandingo”

(Legend Films. 1975/2008. 127 minutes. Rated R for violence, nudity, adult situations, language. Directed by Richard Fleischer.) James Mason (Warren Maxwell), Perry King (Hammond Maxwell), Susan George (Blanche Maxwell), Ken Norton (Mede), Brenda Sykes (Ellen), Lillian Hayman (Lucrezia Borgia), Paul Benedict (Brownlee). Music by Maurice Jarre.

Another re-release by Legend Films. Not sure what to say about this one, as I was shaking my head incredulously through a lot of it. When it was over, I had to admit that it wasn’t quite as awful as its reputation suggests, but pretty close. A product of the blaxploitation era, it has to be regarded in its 70s context when interracial romance was still more of a scandalous idea. A lot of those pictures made use of former athletes, as their names were known to the public (like, er, O.J. Simpson). An 1840s slave owner (the once-great James Mason in a rent-paying performance) trains one of his slaves (former heavyweight champion Norton) to be a bare-knuckle fighter. (Norton’s physique is jaw-dropping.) Meanwhile his son (King) takes advantage of the young black “wenches” as white plantation owners were in the habit of doing. Dad tells son he has to marry and perpetuate the line, so he makes a suitable match with a local white woman (George). However, he still keeps a black mistress (Sykes), and wifey doesn’t like it so she seduces the black slave fighter. Uh oh. The last scenes are hilarious. The “Southern” accents and dialogue are laughably awful. Where are those Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys when you need them? No extras; you probably wouldn’t want any.