Mandingo (1975)

Mandingo (1975)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

This film is the soap-opera story of a plantation clan. The clan's patriarch is intent on making money from a slave who is an incredible boxer, while the son finds love with one of his father's slaves. The film was the first of two movies adapted from Kyle Onstott's novels.

Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Romance, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Kyle Onstott, Jack Kirkland, Norman Wexler
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 3, 2008
Paramount Pictures


as Maxwell

as Blanche

as Hammond Maxwell

as Mede

as Agamemnon

as Lucrezia Borgia

as Doc Redfield

as Charles

as Brownlee

as Wallace

as Le Toscan

as Babouin

as Mrs. Redfield

as Big Pearl

as Madame Caroline

as Maj. Woodford

as Le Toscan

as Blond Girl

as Black Mother
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Mandingo

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (6)

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

Full Review… | October 14, 2013
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 14, 2013
AV Club
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | October 14, 2013
Top Critic

Embarrassing and crude.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the most neglected and underrated Hollywood films of its era.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A much more intruiging story than I thought it would be. Roots it is not, but this was quite a decent film.

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