MANDINGO: (Full Length Feature Film 1978)
Mandingo is a 1975 film, based on the novel Mandingo by Kyle Onstott and upon the play based thereon by Jack Kirkland. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and featured James Mason, Susan George, Perry King, Lillian Hayman, boxer-turned-actor Ken Norton, and bodybuilder and pro wrestler-turned-actor Earl Maynard.
On Falconhurst, a run-down plantation owned by the widowed Warren Maxwell (James Mason) and his son Hammond (Perry King), a Mandingo slave Ganymede, or Mede (Ken Norton), is trained to fight other slaves. Hammond neglects his wife Blanche (Susan George), whom he rejects on their wedding night after discovering she was not a virgin. Hammond instead ravishes his slave Ellen (Brenda Sykes), while Blanche seduces Mede. These various, conflicting affairs all eventually come together causing the film to end tragically.
Upon its release in 1975, critical response was mixed although box office was strong. Roger Ebert despised the film and gave it a “zero star” rating. Richard Schickel of TIME found the film boring and cliche-ridden. The movie critic Robin Wood was enthusiastic about the film, calling it “the greatest film about race ever made in Hollywood.” Quentin Tarantino has cited Mandingo as one of only two instances “in the last twenty years [that] a major studio made a full-on, gigantic, big-budget exploitation movie,” comparing it to Showgirls. In Leonard Maltin’s annual publication “TV Movies,” the film is ranked as a “BOMB” and dismissed with the word “Stinko!”. Some prominent critics hail the film, including the New York Times columnist Dave Kehr, who called it “a thinly veiled Holocaust film that spares none of its protagonists”, further describing it as “Fleischer’s last great crime film, in which the role of the faceless killer is played by an entire social system.”