|Aug 6 2023
This fraught photo features British actress Susan George, who's not discussed today as much as she should be. She was a bold performer who appeared in movies too envelope pushing for at least 90% of actresses of this day and age. Several of her films are routinely described as controversial. The efforts we're thinking of are Straw Dogs, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Mandingo, and A Small Town in Texas. Not all of those were top notch, but they were all uncompromising. The above photo comes from her also intense 1971 fight-or-flight thriller Fright. We'll get back to George soon.
|Jan 19 2019
|Sep 20 2013
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
|Apr 27 2010
American actress Brenda Sykes, who appeared in blaxploitation flicks such as Cleopatra Jones, Mandingo, and of course, the unforgettable Honky, seen here in a promo photo made for the 1971 movie Pretty Maids All in a Row.
|Aug 15 2009
Mandingo has a reputation as a piece of campy blaxploitation, but we just watched it today and it’s clear that reputations and reality sometimes don’t connect. The film has its flaws—some of the acting is less-than-scintillating, and ex-heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton is ponderous as the lead character Mede—but overall Mandingo is a serious and realistic depiction of the antebellum American south’s slave culture. The provocative poster you see above was produced for Mandingo’s West German run, and it’s a stunning piece of art.
Mandingo tends to polarize audiences, but those who hate it generally cite its upsetting language and subject matter. While those are legitimate reasons to refrain from watching a film, they aren't valid artistic criticisms of a movie's content. It's about slavery. You know going in it isn't going to be nice. We recommend the movie, but we warn you it’s no Gone with the Wind—it’s a lot more historically accurate. Mandingo, with Norton, James Mason, Perry King, Susan George, and Brenda Sykes, premiered in West Germany today in 1975.