Mandingo – *

Posted: March 3, 2013 in 1975, Drama, Historical, USA, X

It’s clever of the Saturn multimedia store to sell the dvd of Mandingo for 5 euro, while Django Unchained is still scoring at the box office. It’s a fair price for an old movie that probably would never ever sell if it weren’t for the success of Tarantino’s latest masterpiece.

Mandingo was made in the mid seventies before Roots and long before Amistad. It was apparently the first time that a movie showed the atrocities of slavery and didn’t try to glamorize them like other movies did. It was quite a success back then and quite a shocker too. After all, the atrocities are really cruel and all the white men (and women) are mean. Now, some critics praise the movie for having changed the image of slavery in Hollywood, others just call it racist. I just call it a bad movie.

It starts of really bad. The acting, the dialogue, the soundtrack, the editing, the directing of the action scenes… it’s really tough to persevere. Aside of all the technical failures, there’s also the unsettling tone of the story. The main characters treat the slaves as animals. I’m sure that’s what some slave owners did, but i prefer to get a more nuanced look at things. When Tarantino makes it so grotesque that it becomes funny, it’s also unsettling, but at least you understand that he means to be critical. In this movie however, the acts of abuse are shown without any form of cynicism and sarcasm and it almost feels like the director is supportive of it. The main reason for that is the lack of strong black characters. This Ken Norton was a professional boxer at the time of the movie’s release, so he wasn’t an actor and it shows. You can’t root for them, because you can’t really care for them.

The dvd synopsis mentions that this is a movie about mandingo fighting, but there’s really only one scene that shows an actual fight. And yes, it’s very identical to the mandingo fighting scene in Django Unchained. The rest is just a very silly story about the son of a plantation owner who gets married, finds out his wife isn’t a virgin during the wedding night, decides to buy a black bed wench that he starts caring for more than his own wife, also buys a mandingo fighter, who ends up having (involuntary) sex with the masters wife . And in between all that you see some shocking treatments of slaves. There’s this one scene where a doctor tells a small black boy to sleep at the end of his masters bed like some kind of kitten and then tells the master to put his feet on the belly of the kid, because it will cure his arthritis. Now even if that may have occurred, it’s still very silly to show it in a motion picture. And bad.

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