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MANDINGO

year: 1975 cast: Perry King, Susan George, Ken Norton, James Mason, Richard Ward rating: ***
What makes this an infamously guilty pleasure, and an extremely politically incorrect movie, might not have been intentional. Perhaps the writers wanted to show slave owners in the deep South exactly how they were, or how they hadn’t been betrayed in other films or TV shows – as completely unapologetic and comfortable with their lifestyle.

For example, James Mason’s plantation owner Warren Maxwell laying his feet on a slave kid’s chest to get rid of his rheumatism. This is but one example of how MANDINGO takes racism to a completely new level: since owning slaves was legal, it’s shown in a workaday fashion.
The recently departed Ken Norton as Mede the Mandingo fighting slave
But after the first fifteen minutes of blunt dialogue there’s a pretty decent story involving Warren's son Hammond, played by Perry King, who reluctantly marries his cousin Blanche, brought to life with vicious melancholy by STRAW DOGS ingĂ©nue Susan George. Blanche is jealous of her husband’s slave “wench” and, basking in rueful isolation within the dilapidated mansion, she throws a violent tantrum that is quite chilling.

The real stuff occurs when Hammond purchases a Mandingo Fighting slave, Mede. Real life boxer Ken Norton proves his worth as an actor and is especially good in the intense fight-to-the-death scenes that make you forget about all the other stuff, unfairly categorized by film historians as camp cinema… Perhaps they were just too stunned to take this seriously, and too ashamed to really enjoy it. Either way, this is a film that could have only come out of the 1970's. That alone makes it truly worthwhile.
As Ridiculously Exploitation as can be... James Mason uses a very weird way to get rid of rheumatism
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