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Mandingo

Mandingo (1975)

tomatometer

40

Average Rating: 3.8/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.

audience

66

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 599

My Rating

Movie Info

Richard Fleischer directed this lurid historical drama based on the novel by Kyle Onstott. The story begins on a run-down plantation lorded over by Warren Maxwell (James Mason) and his son Hammond (Perry King). Hammond travels to New Orleans where he buys a top-of-the-line slave, Mede (Ken Norton), at an auction. Hammond is proud of his purchase, hoping to bring in money by training Mede to fight his other slaves. Hammond returns with Mede to the plantation, where he has to contend with his

Jun 3, 2008

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All Critics (16) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (11) | DVD (4)

Until this moment we cannot be certain that the movie is going to employ every cliche of antebellum melodrama.

October 14, 2013 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mandingo is racist trash, obscene in its manipulation of human beings and feelings, and excruciating to sit through.

October 14, 2013 Full Review Source: RogerEbert.com
RogerEbert.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Embarrassing and crude.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Good to see Fleischer returning to the kind of psycho-pathological thriller that he can handle so well.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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One of the most neglected and underrated Hollywood films of its era.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Viewed with fresh eyes, it can credibly be seen as revisionist history of a particularly savage kind.

October 14, 2013 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club

This is a deeply depressing film. The main problem is that shock value is the centerpiece, so the theme of slavery is just a vehicle for horrific gore and interracial sex.

October 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

At least offers no tears for the demise of the good ole days in Dixie.

June 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Mandingo is excessive, yet its excesses invariably reveal the caustic truths of social critique.

June 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

The performances are overdramatized and unbelievable in a script that suffers from the same weaknesses.

December 8, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

[A] hugely entertaining potboiler.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

too trashy to be good drama, but too dramatic to be good trash

February 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for Mandingo

Released near the end of the blaxploitation era, this is one of the few exploitation films of that time that, instead of being a crime drama set in a (then) contemporary urban area, is a lurid melodrama set in the Antebellum Deep South. It's also kinda significant to note that it is a full on exploitation film with a decent budget and full backing from a major studio.

The story concerns the owner of a run down plantation and his son who struggle to keep their enterprise going, and, in the case of the son, also have to deal with romantic feelings. The main theme of this film, besides racism, is that of miscegnation, aka interracial relationships. The material is good stuff for a history-based film, and could make for compelling viewing, but in this film's case, it's a mess.

The film does have a few good moments, and it is great at provoking thoughts, and makes for good discussion and debate material, but the way it is handled is just awful. Rarely do films make me feel scuzzy, but this one did. It's awkward, uncomfortable, and hard to watch, but since it is trying to both be artsy and exploitative, that makes it worse. Had this been a lower budget, and not tried to have merit, I think I could deal with it better. It's one of the early examples (that I'm aware of) of a film addressing the issue of slavery instead of glossing over it like Gone With the Wind, but it doesn't really DEAL with it, instead using the material as backdrop for hollow scenes of shock and awe that have no real weight. There's maybe a few scenes such as a direct camera address that work and have substance, but they're few and far between.

The music is handled by Maurice Jarre with a bit of assistance from Muddy Waters, and, while this helps some, the music still feels a bit out of place and overly dramatic. It's hard to really take it seriously. The acting like most of the rest of the film, is a real mess as well. James Mason is really slumming here, and I feel embarrassed for him. Susan George, my word, is she always this terrible and hysterical? It's almost making me rethink my thoughts on Straw Dogs. Ken Norton actually is okay here, even though the material only gives him so much to work with. Still, he deals with it the best he can.

All in all, I've seen worse, but the film at least tries to be both important and a seedy exploitation flick. Unfortunately, the way things are handled keeps the two parts from really mixing all that well, and it's the over the top exploitative stuff that shines through, and that's probably more detrimental than beneficial. Still though, I'm giving it some credit because I really never found it boring, and, like all films it does have potential. It's actually a rather fascinating film, even though it is pretty awful and trashy. If it were fun, like other black centric exploitation films of the era, then I might have enjoyed it far more. As it stands, I will defend it as something worth discussing, but the more time that passes before I watch this again (if ever), the better.
January 5, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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