Femmes Fatales Aug 6 2023
DESPERATELY SHOOTING SUSAN
Susan George demonstrates the Fright or fight reflex.


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. 

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Femmes Fatales Jan 19 2019
VENUS IN FURS
Prepare yourself for a Sykes-a-delic experience.


Above is a rare image of U.S. actress Brenda Sykes, who appeared in cinema and on television during a relatively brief ten year acting career from 1968 to 1978. She's pretty well remembered for someone who had such a short run. Some of this is due to her being one of the era's most beautiful performers, but she was also in cult classics like Cleopatra Jones and Mandingo, as well as on television shows like Police Woman. This shot is from a 1975 issue of Playboy Japan. We've cropped it above, and uploaded the full image below.

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Sportswire Sep 20 2013
MORE THAN A MAN
American boxing great’s legacy includes seminal film about the antebellum South.

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.

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Femmes Fatales Apr 27 2010
SYKED OUT
An alpha female in b-movies.

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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2009
BIRTH OF A NATION
Black is the color of my true love’s skin.

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.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
February 19
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
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