Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oh, "Man(dingo)"....

Oh man, is right! This audacious movie, Mandingo (1975), caused a stir in 1975 and continues to startle viewers even now more than forty years later. The poster's primary artwork let audiences in on what they would see in terms of interracial sexuality while the smaller images gave away some (but not all) of the story's more sordid and violent details. (It certainly popped my eight year-old eyes from the pages of a newspaper in all-white Alexandria, KY!) The poster also strives for literary cred by including a copy of the source novel (whose cover screams, "Appalling! Terrifying! Wonderful!")

Regarding that source novel, one that would ultimately lead to a lengthy series of sequels and prequels published up through the late-1980s, I think many of you may be surprised to find out that it was first published in 1957! And people thought 1956's Peyton Place was scorching...! This is as if someone peeled back the enamel of Gone with the Wind and exposed all sorts of festering rot beneath.

The book brimmed over with tales of sadistic sex and violence regarding plantation slavery. Written by Kyle Onstott, a California dog breeder (!), it was considered by many to be more sensationalized and seeking titillation than interested in reflecting on the horrific nature of its subject matter.

This 1958 paperback edition depicts the young male character who would eventually be played in the movie by Perry King. It's almost as if he posed for the artwork, though he was but ten at the time of publication. When producer Dino De Laurentiis sought to produce a film version, his production staff attempted to remain faithful to the material while trying inject more humanity and even, yes, an element of romance to it, though it can be argued that the finished project is still remarkably harsh and unsettling.

Things get underway in a like fashion with the sight of a rather run-down plantation called Falconhurst and a line of slaves being marched up to the front of the house for inspection by a visiting trader.
The trader (played by Paul Benedict) carefully examines several of the potential purchases by checking their teeth, feeling their flesh and - in a demonstration that privacy is something utterly abstract for these folks - examining to make certain they have no hemorrhoids! The men and women are regarded as no different from livestock.

Benedict even tosses a stick for one of the young men, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, to retrieve in order to show how well he movies. Cumbuka is branded with an R on his back shoulder because he'd once run away only to be caught again.

Falconhurst's owner is James Mason, a crotchety, cranky old coot who suffers from intense rheumatism (which he hilariously refers to throughout as "rheumatizz.") His young son and only heir is played by Perry King.

Mason and King are called to the quarters of a young female slave who appears to be ailing. The doctor (who truly acts as if he is a veterinarian in his terminology and treatment) tells Mason that the only thing wrong with her is that she is still a virgin and that she is now "cravin'." It falls to King, as the young master of the plantation, to take care of this "problem" with haste!

Later, in the "air- conditioned" dining room, the gentlemen carry on a conver- sation about the slaves. During this chat and all through the movie, the "n" word is prolific and any number of outrageous utterances come spewing out of the characters' mouths. Mason contends that since slaves aren't human, they don't go to heaven. This is not a film for the sensitive of heart.

Since Mason is stricken with crippling rheu- matism, it is suggested that a Mexican hairless dog might be used to drain the pain from his body. Benedict, however, suggests that a young slave boy would work just as well (!) in absorbing the affliction. He just needs to be sure to press his feet firmly against the bare flesh of the child so that it can transfer away...

Meanwhile, the female slave is being prepared for her deflowering by her mother and the primary house slave Lillian Hayman. She's bathed and drenched in a variety of perfumes and concoctions to make her ready for King.

King was injured as a six year-old child when a horse threw him, then stood upon his kneecap. Thus, his right knee doesn't bend and he must walk with a permanent limp. He needs help removing his boots as well and is often seen in (sexy) repose as in this scene.

While King is doing his duty, a gathering of slaves is taking place in a nearby shack where the trouble-making Cumbuka is chained up. He rails at his peers that in Africa they were all born free and are every bit as human as their white captors.

It seems he has also been teaching house slave Richard Ward how to read, an infraction of the rules that is punishable by anything up to the gouging out of an eye if discovered! And, King, on his way back from the other quarters, does discover it... He angrily informs Ward that he will have to be dealt with in the morning for his misdeeds.

Back up in his room, we have one of the movie's showpieces (the one that drew me to it back in the late-1980s to begin with!) King strips down and heads over to bed to say his nightly prayers stark naked. This bedpost obscures his privates in this shot, but not the rest of the sequence (we do still take a stab at being work friendly around here!) Waiting for him is his "bed-warmer" Debbi Morgan. (Not even Nostradamus could have predicted that Morgan would later go on to a stunning career in daytime TV on All My Children, winning the first Emmy given to a black female for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series among other things.)

The next morning is time for Ward's punishment. He is strung up by the ankles, nude, and paddled by a fellow slave for learning how to read. King watches for a time, but begins to feel uneasy about it and heads to the side of the barn out of sight.

Just then a fancy-dressed visitor appears and informs the paddler that he's not doing it right (even though the paddling has already drawn blood!) The man grabs the paddle and begins to seriously whack a screaming Ward until King darts into the barn to stop him.

Turns out that the visitor (Ben Masters) is a cousin of King's, come to call on Mason. He and King had been friends as children, but plenty of time has passed since that. As we'll find in time, Masters and King couldn't be more different in several ways.

Mason is on the porch draining his rheumatism into one of his boy slaves (a boy, by the way, who is savvy enough to play along, knowing that the whole thing is lunacy) while King comes hobbling out chewing a piece of meat on a bone. It seems that Masters is there because his father needs money and, in return, King can have the hand of his sister, a well-bred young lady on another plantation. Mason wants a "human" heir instead of the offspring that King's philanderings have wrought.

King is paralyzed with fear at having to bed a white woman, claiming he only knows how to do it with the slaves. Mason informs him that he'll need to keep most of his clothes on because white women shouldn't have to bear the sight of a naked man and also states that he may keep his bed-warmers since white women don't care to be "pestered" very much anyway!
On their way to Masters' plantation, the young men stop at a halfway point for the night (seeking a certain slave who is no longer there) and are given two bedmates to keep them company. After pawing them both, Masters determines that one of them is a virgin and "too much work" so he gives her (Brenda Sykes) to King and keeps the other for himself.

King is staggered that Masters kisses his "wench" (to use the movie's term) full on the mouth and is then horrified when Masters removes his belt and begins savagely beating the young girl with it, claiming that "they" like it and it makes him feel good!

Retiring to the other room with Sykes, King treats her with great tenderness and is beginning to see that this young lady is more than just an object for his use. As their interaction continues, he experiments with kissing her and finally the two have practically consensual intercourse together (he offers to let her leave and she chooses not to go.)

This is not in any way, shape or form an inexpensive movie and this next sequence demon- strates a bit of the work that went into setting the stage. The men head to a slave market, which is populated with hordes of extras and period detail.
Here, we finally get a glimpse of the title figure, a 6'3" Ken Norton, playing a particular type of African called Mandingo, superior in body to any other. And Norton unquestionably makes a physical impression immediately. Mason has been looking for a Mandingo male to mate with the female he has on his plantation and wants King to acquire one.

Trouble is, a German widow also has her eye on Norton and hungrily leaps atop the auction block to check him out for herself. When I say check him out I mean check ALL of him out - carefully! When questioned about this, she exclaims that she can't very well buy "a pig in a poke!"

King is appalled that a white woman would do such a thing and beside himself when he hears that German widows often buy a male slave for use as sexual partners. He bids on Norton not only because he wants to own a Mandingo, but also to prevent the widow from having him!

King does outbid the woman and is ecstatic to now own Norton. Norton gives King sidelong glances when he isn't paying attention and likely isn't sure which result would have been worse, him or the widow!

Masters' family estate is a dream compared to Falconhurst. It's bright and big and beautifully manicured. (Mandingo benefits from location shooting in Louisiana and never at any time looks like anything was shot on a soundstage or studio.)

His sister is portrayed by Susan George, a fluttery belle attempting to appear coy in front of potential husband King. Her parents are eager to pair her off with the young man, knowing that their pockets will be full after the dowry.
Masters startles everyone with an outburst that the marriage will not be taking place, however, to the particular distress of George who erupts into a tantrum. Up in her bedroom, we find Masters threatening to tell King the truth, that George is not a virgin. Her first lover was her own brother!
She's not having it, though. Virgin or not, she's going to land King and get the heck out of the place. She "accidentally" stumbles upon him outside and they take a romantic walk in the garden. Even though he has his own set of trepidations, he takes her for his wife and heads to New Orleans for a honeymoon.
The following morning, King, who has been deflowering virgins as a rite back at Falconhurst, can tell that something - white woman or not - was wrong about their lovemaking the night before. He leaves the marital bed and contemplates the situation on their balcony.

George asks him what is wrong and when he tells her she heads into one of her tantrums. George, in this movie, periodically hurls herself into screaming fits that come dangerously close to putting her in Mommie Dearest (1981) territory as far as cinematic meltdowns go.

King does the only logical thing a man can do who has just discovered his wife wasn't pure. He heads to a brothel...! There our old pal Benedict is holed up and also partaking of the various lovelies on hand.

After taking a seat on the circular settee, King is approached by a particularly interested lady of the evening who seems grateful to have a potential client who isn't old, overweight or ugly. She can't keep her hands off of him (and as you can see below, she takes hold of the situation very directly!)
Unfor- tunately, her blonde curls hit just a bit too close to home to King, whose wife has a similar look and he loses interest quickly. Get a load of Benedict in-between them though ("tintype-bombing?") He takes the young whore for himself once King has excused her.

Out back, Norton has been waiting patiently for King to emerge, but a misunderstanding between him and one of the slaves at the whorehouse leads to a knock-down drag-out fight between the men. Norton handily defeats his opponent as a crowd of on-lookers gathers along the balcony.

One of the men there bets King that his own slave can best Norton in a future match and puts up an offer that King cannot refuse. He'll return for another bout with this new opponent after a period of time. Also on the way back to Falconhurst, King stops off at the same place he stayed before in order to buy Sykes for himself. He wants her for his new bed-warmer since Morgan is, as they say, "knocked." George is angrily skeptical over his new purchase.
Returning home, King is able to present Mason with not only a new lady of the house, though King wants nothing to do with her now, but also prized Mandingo Norton. You can see below the difference in quality and atmosphere that Falconhurst has to George's prior home.
King informs George that they will have separate bedrooms. He's disgusted that she'd been with another man prior to her wedding night and furious when he finally realizes who it was. She almost instantaneously begins to soothe herself with hot toddies, becoming a lush in the process.

Outside, Mason is thrilled to finally have a Mandingo among his other possessions. (It should be noted that his plantation is principally a breeding enterprise. There are no crops to speak of. It's primary purpose is to generate more and more slaves, making money from their sale.)

Mason looks Norton over and wants King to assure him that he hasn't been "ruint" i.e. -neutered! King assures Mason that not only is Norton whole, but "big enough to tear the wenches." King tells Hayman to fill him up with food and Mason tells King he wants to toughen up the slave's skin so that he'll be ready for the upcoming fight. To this end, a gargantuan vat is filled with brine and heated over a wood-burning fire.
Norton is then forced to shuck down (as King can't help but marvel at him) and soak inside this scorching water! King, ever resistant to the rather savage ways of Mason, nevertheless makes certain that Norton stays in the scalding water. (Earlier, Mason had instructed King to treat Ward's paddle wounds with a mixture of hot pepper, lemon and plenty of salt so that the scars would heal properly!)

George continues to come unglued over her inattentive husband. She throws herself at him to no avail while he enjoys quality time with Sykes. Sykes has a bit of news of her own, though. She's pregnant! She asks King if he will allow her child to be free when it's born, which outrages him at first, until he eventually relents. He's developing true feelings for Sykes.
The shots of King and Sykes in the insets of the previous photos have them both completely nude. For the inter- national version of this movie, most nudity was excised and this scene was replaced with one of them wearing clothing as shown here. Clearly, since we don't believe that King should have been allowed to wear clothing on film, period, we prefer the U.S. version!  Ha ha!

Norton is now in full-on training for his fight (in real life, Norton was a boxing heavyweight champion.) Ward taunts him for being an obedient pawn to the white man's game, though he certainly is no different, as Norton points out. (Though Ward demonstrates at a couple of points in the film that he is far brighter than his owners give him credit for.)
Cumbuka, who'd earlier been sold to Benedict, has killed his white owners and run away again and now a posse is in hot pursuit. King takes Norton along to help and he winds up catching one of his own, to the obvious and understandable disgust of Cumbuka.
Mason and King head off to the big fight and it's a doozy. The crowd is foaming at the mouth as these two giants go at it savagely. Before long, they aren't just punching and wrestling, but biting each other. (Did Mike Tyson rent this movie over and over as a kid?!) In fact, the punishing battle is won when Norton bites open the neck of his unfortunate opponent.

Meanwhile, things are getting very ugly at home. Intoxicated George summons Sykes to her room. Before Sykes arrives, she takes a riding crop and begins whipping it around violently in preparation. And she doesn't even know the baby news yet! Once, she does, she comes totally unglued.

She begins viciously whipping Sykes with the riding crop across her belly and on her back, over and over, until Hayman bursts in to try to stop it. However, in her haste to get away from George, Sykes and the deranged woman tussle at the top of the stairs and Sykes takes a mean fall all the way down them.

A victorious, but badly beaten, Norton is brought home by King and Mason, who've raked in a substantial take thanks to his efforts. When Mason gets home and finds out what George has done, he threatens Sykes never to breathe a word of the truth to King or else he'll sell her.
He then goes to George's bedroom and, in front of King, demands that the couple start behaving like husband and wife and generate an heir to his estate. (Yes, sir, Big Daddy...)
 
Mason, in an effort to make King's marriage work, had presented King with a gorgeous and expensive ruby necklace and earring set. George is thrilled with the necklace and he makes love to her finally, but she is unaware that he's held back the earrings for Sykes! Sykes idiotically wears them while serving supper and this sets George off again.

King has to take a long chain of slaves to the market and opts to take Sykes along with him. Again, showing a twinge of humanity in an utterly inhumane setting, he prevents Morgan's baby from being sold away from her and tells her to take it back. He sets off with his best girl behind him in the cart.
  
This latest ignominy pushes George to the limit. Drunk as ever, she sends for Norton to come up to her room. The bewildered slave has no option but to obey.

Next she begins to spin a sordid tale of how she was walking along the grounds one day when he suddenly attacked her. She threatens to blackmail him with this concocted story unless he does what she wants. But what does she want?
That becomes pristinely clear as she plants a kiss on his mouth and then proceeds to undo his pants. She is the aggressor for a little while, but after some initial resistance, the tide turns and Norton is then all in, as it were... Their lovemaking is brief, though George is in ecstasy, and Norton is visibly moved as well.
King is back and is told that Norton and his mate have given him the first Mandingo baby born on site. He's thrilled and proud about this, but Norton is strangely reticent. (Below is a between the takes shot of King cuddling the baby used in the movie as Sykes looks on admiringly.)
Back inside, George has experienced a noticeable renewal in looks and demeanor. She happily fills the gentlemen's glasses and flits around in her best gown and headdress. She then announces that she is with child, which pleases both Mason and King.

Later, though, when the baby arrives (delivered by none other than Irene Tedrow, Miss Lucy Elkins of the sitcom Dennis the Menace!), things take a turn. Tedrow, the (mid)wife of the family doctor is positively staggered to see that the newborn baby isn't white!

If she's distraught, you can imagine King's reaction when he finally gets a look at the poor little thing. I will desist from revealing the ending to this film, but you won't be surprised at all to hear that it doesn't end happily for several of the characters.

Mandingo is a movie that happened to interest one-time video clerk turned director Quentin Tarantino (who later incorporated certain elements of it into Django Unchained, 2012.) Back when he first saw it, on dim, grainy, pan & scan VHS, the movie surely seemed even more confirmed, gritty and depraved. A widescreen, quality print viewing reveals at least some degree of beauty in the settings. It was photographed by Richard H. Kline, who was Oscar-nominated for Camelot (1968) and King Kong (1976.)

He, however, was far from the only person of caliber on the staff. Director Richard Fleischer could be described as an Oscar-winning director (albeit for the 1947 documentary feature, Design for Death.) He directed such films as The Vikings (1958), Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Soylent Green (1973) to name a few. The atmospheric score was by Maurice Jarre, a multiple Oscar nominee and three time winner (for Lawrence of Arabia, 1962, Doctor Zhivago, 1965, and A Passage to India, 1984. It paid to work for David Lean, obviously!) Production design was done by multiple nominee and one-time winner (for West Side Story, 1961) Boris Leven. Costumes were designed by Ann Roth, who would go on to win an Academy Award for The English Patient (1996) and accrue other nominations. So its not like the crew was filled with hacks.

Some of the performances are ripe (a few overripe to near spoilage!), but there isn't one person in a principle role who isn't obviously giving 100% to what he or she is doing, good or bad. Top-billed English actor Mason (hamming with abandon) claimed he took this part due to owing alimony to his ex-wife Pamela (whose $1 million settlement in 1964 turned her attorney Marvin Michelson into a go-to man for celebrity divorce cases.) He was approached for the part when Charlton Heston (rather wisely) turned it down.

He did enjoy a bit of career renaissance with 1978's Heaven Can Wait and The Verdict (1982), which scored him an Oscar nomination (which went to Louis Gossett Jr. for An Officer and a Gentleman.) He'd been nominated twice before for A Star is Born (1954) and Georgy Girl (1966), with the statuettes going to Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront and Walter Matthau in The Fortune Cookie. Mason was still working regularly when a heart attack claimed him in 1984 at age seventy-five.

George, also English, had toiled on British TV and in movies from the early-1960s until making a splash in 1971's Straw Dogs opposite Dustin Hoffman. After the drive-in hit Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) and this film (which was a box office hit), her career continued to dwindle somewhat. Partaking in this role was a rather daring decision considering that Stella Stevens had caused a stir (and received hate mail) following her love scene with Jim Brown in Slaughter (1972) only a few years prior. After marrying Simon MacCorkindale in 1984, she no longer worried about maintaining a cinema career, but did plenty of television. His shattering death from cancer in 2010 at only age fifty-eight dealt quite a blow, but she has recently begun to work again at age sixty-six.
King has his own tribute here, in which you can chart his career and admire his finely chiseled looks. Prior to this movie, he'd appeared in Slaughterhouse-Five and the controversial The Possession of Joel Delaney, both in 1972, along with The Lords of Flatbush (1974) and The Wild Party (1975) as Raquel Welch's plaything. (His role was reportedly declined by Timothy Bottoms, Jan Michael Vincent and both Jeff and Beau Bridges.)

King is lit and photographed so beautifully throughout Mandingo that it was hard not to make every image in this post one of him. He also gives the best overall performance in the movie, attempting to find an arc of emotion and growth within the sordid plot line. Now sixty-eight, he's still devilishly handsome and continues to act.

Ward had spent a decade as a New York City police detective before turning to acting in the mid-1950s. He worked on several key 1970s series such as Good Times (playing John Amos' father on three occasions), Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and others (including portraying Captain Dobey in the Starsky and Hutch pilot before Bernie Hamilton assumed the role.) He'd begun to work in more features (such as The Jerk, 1979, and Brubaker, 1980) when a heart attack took his life in 1979 at age sixty-four.

Sykes onto TV in the late-1960s and quickly segued into movies such as The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970), Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971), Black Gunn (1972) and Cleopatra Jones (1973.) She also worked on the daytime drama One Life to Live. In 1978, having continued to act on TV, she married for the first time and left the business, becoming a mother in 1980. Though that union ended in 1987, she wed again in 1995 and has not returned to the screen. She is sixty-seven at present. She is one of three actors who returned for the sequel to Mandingo, Drum (1976), but as a different character.

Noted boxer Norton had famously beaten Muhammad Ali (breaking his jaw, in fact!) for only the second time to that point and had been dabbling with bit roles in movies (including playing - surprise - a boxer in The All-American Boy (1973) with Jon Voight. Though he did, like Sykes, come back for the sequel (and as the title role in) Drum (1976), he only acted sporadically over the following decades.
His life in satin shorts no doubt prepared him for the physicality and lack of covering in Mandingo, though he clearly was not a professional actor. Never- theless, a shortage of lines and a firm commitment to what he was doing kept him from embarrassing himself in the film. He passed away in 2013 of heart failure at age seventy.
Benedict had been working in movies like Cold Turkey (1971) and Jeremiah Johnson (1972) since the mid-1960s. By the time Mandingo was released, he'd already been appearing as the jovial neighbor Mr. Bentley on the highly-popular and long-running sitcom The Jeffersons, so his callous presence in the film must have come as a real shock to viewers! He continued to work in movies like Waiting for Guffman (1996) Isn't She Great (2000) and A Mighty Wind (2003) until his death from a brain hemorrhage at age seventy in 2008.

Hayman, a considerable physical presence, took home a Tony in 1968 for her work as Leslie Uggams' mother in Hallelujah, Baby and immediately led to a lengthy role on the New York based soap opera One Life to Life (which also, for a time, included Sykes in the cast.) She only worked elsewhere intermittently such as here and in Drum (playing the same role) until 1986. That's when she, the longest-tenured actress on the series, was leaving work one day and was informed by an assistant producer in the parking garage that she was being let go from the show and was not to return. She suffered a heart attack in 1994 and passed away at age seventy-two.

Masters is just nothing short of a bastard in the film, but he does it with remarkable effectiveness. This was his big screen debut following some TV roles on shows like Kojak and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Masters worked steadily through 2008, including a lengthy, highly colorful turn on the quirky daytime soap Passions, but never became a particularly well known actor. He is currently sixty-nine.

It may come as quite a shock to many that the material of this incendiary book and provocative film was mounted as a Broadway play in 1961! No less than Franchot Tone (in the Mason role), Brooke Hayward (in the George role) and Dennis Hopper (in King's part) took part in it, though it folded after only eight performances. Hopper is shown here with Maurishka Ferro (in Sykes' role) and the title character was essayed by Rockne Tarkington, who was recently featured here in a post about bathing. (Ferro later appeared as a very glamorous ensign on the "Operation-Annihilate!" episode of Star Trek.)

Mandingo is unques- tionably not a film for everybody. The language alone would be enough to turn some viewers away immediately while the violent and inhumane aspects might disturb others. But it retains a fascination for its stark, blunt depiction of one of America's easily most horrifying chapters. It's almost unreal to think that roughly 150 years ago, one human could literally OWN another one and do with him or her precisely as he pleased.  And, yes, there are also liberal servings of sex, camp and unintentional humor to be found. I daresay that under any circumstances one isn't likely to forget it after viewing it.

12 comments:

Gingerguy said...

Oy! this one is a real cesspool. I haven't seen it in years but went through a Blaxploitation phase and covered the dubious slave genre in that period. Fascinating that the book had been around for so long, though I can't see this movie being made in the 1960's. Besides the horror that is human slavery, the titillating and exploitive side of this movie seems to focus on stereotypes about penis size (or is that just me?) and the perceived fear of eventual destruction that comes from mixing the races. I can see where Quentin Tarantino could use it as lurid source material to examine violent themes.
Ken Norton is just gorgeous. I remember his name but thought he was a football player. I always think it's a shame when fighters are handsome as they literally take such a beating.
Falconhurst reminds me of the creepy mansion in "The Beguiled" another disturbing movie about the antebellum era.
This movie reminds me a lot of "Black Snake". Another charmer about slavery and sex set in Barbados. Directed by Russ Meyer (and there goes any credibility) it's pretty filthy in every sense. The lead, Anouska Hempel, eventually became a LADY and bought back the film rights, and it isn't shown on British television. I bet James Mason wished he could do the same with "Mandingo". Thanks for this Poseidon, this is tawdry but a real time capsule.

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

The only thing I know about this is that I was desperate to see it as a teenager when it came out. Of course I wouldn't have been allowed to see it, but I tried to work every angle, i.e. sneaking in, or going to a different drive-in movie and watching a different screen. :-)

Now I don't think I could take it. The beauty onscreen would come at the cost of the ugliness onscreen.

petercox97 said...

As a person of color, I have pronounced ambivalence about Mandingo, but it occurs to me that Ben Carson based on his recent cringeworthy comments may watch it without batting a lash since first and foremost no male on male couplings transpire amidst all the taboo probing. I think the movie mostly rides the crest of the wave from notoriety of the source material. Yes, violence galore in all of its lurid spectacle dominates the movie, but sexuality, certainly black male sexuality, is rather muted. Ken Norton is overdressed on the auction block. The movie does not flinch from gratuitous violence, but male sexual objectification is sparse. Even the much ballyhooed scene with Norton is ultimately tame. I giggle at the thought that the producers had the brassballed temerity to approach Muhammad Ali for the titular role even though during that time he was under the vicelike influence of the Nation of Islam. Ali's casting would have been incredulous and ironic simultaneously. For some reason, I also could see OJ Simpson in the role of Mandingo. OJ certainly was not shy about accepting the role in the Klansman. It would have taken very little coaxing to convince him to roll around on top of a pretty naked white woman. Truth be told, Simpson did get his shot at inhabiting the loincloth of a mandingo when he appeared in the tony Roots ratings juggernaut a year after Mandingo was released.

The even more wretched sequel to Mandingo, Drum, half-heartedly flirted with the idea of male on male sex, but retreated early in the film. Norton's fabulous physique is even more shamefully squandered in Drum although Roger E. Mosley gets to drop trou in a full frontal. Unfortunately, I've had more imaginings about Tom Selleck naked than I ever harbored about Roger E. Mosley. Another interesting tidbit about Drum is the fact that John Derek nixed his wife Bo making her screen debut in the film due to his adamant aversion of her being featured next to a male actor of color. Of course, I understand Derek's reticence to have his wife sexually exploited onscreen before her demure, Oscar worthy turns in Ten, Tarzan the Ape Man, and Bolero.

I have avoided Quentin Tarantino's Django like the plague. The only movie I can stomach by Quentin is Reservoir Dogs and that's because despite the ultra-violence, Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth are just so damned appealing. Oddly enough, James Mason's onscreen abuse of young boys in Mandingo presages his role of chickenhawk pimp for his undead master in the CBS horror miniseries, Salem's Lot. In his prime, David Soul was almost as beautiful as Perry King, but King is a silver daddy nonpareil. I will never understand how some intrepid photographer never scored thousands of rolls of nude footage of King before he made his theatrical debut. What a waste. Poor Brenda Sykes. She was treated far better as Perry King's mistress in Mandingo than she was in real life by Jim Brown who Sykes accused of tossing her off of a balcony. Debbi Morgan seems scandalously too young to have been old enough to be featured nude in Mandingo. Then again, Mario Van Peebles made his nude debut at eleven in his father's feature film. Come to think of it, Haywood Nelson of What's Happening fame was featured nude as a youth from a movie scene on the now defunct Campfire Video site a decade or so ago.

I sometimes wonder how i would cast Mandingo if it were ill-advisedly remade today. I think in the titular role I would choose NFL player Tyrann Mathieu or Dwayne Johnson; Charlie Weber for Perry King; and Julian McMahon to spice up James Mason's role. What the hell, why not have three or four gorgeous leads of color portraying Mandingo in the buff?

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, I didn't really sense TOO much about penis size other than the one comment that King makes and the fact that the German widow is checking Norton out with relish, but as far as the "fear of destruction" thing, I'd say yes, but only when it comes to black men/white women. King has sired all sorts of kids in the movie! I agree very much with you about good looking boxers! Save it for the fuglies! LOL I have never seen "Black Snake." I can only imagine....

Dave, I understand completely. We each have our own threshold for what we can tolerate viewing and listening to. I don't know about everyone, but I can say for myself that over time I have become desensitized to things - meaning, things I saw as a youth that deeply bruised my psyche or scorched my corneas I can now take with more ease. Not sure that's a good thing!! (Although even now I have not seen and will not see such things as "Saw" or "Hostel" or any sequels of them.) I can also tell you, fairly off topic, but maybe not entirely, that I have made a personal decision not to watch any more seasons of "American Horror Story." As much as I enjoy the acting on the show (very much at times!), I just can no longer reconcile sitting down to an evening's "entertainment" of slicing, dicing, gore, impaling and - more importantly - an overall atmosphere of extreme cruelty for no real reason or purpose other than to shock. I just don't need anything like that in my life at this stage.

Petercox, I really appreciate your commentary, insight and responses to this subject. I didn't know about Ali (and could totally see O.J. doing this!) As for Bo Derek, I howled at your assessment of her accomplishments. I watched "Django Unchained" a few years ago and remember being very captivated by it while it was on, but am ashamed to say I recall almost nothing at all about it now save Jamie Foxx's "Bonanza" inspired clothing!! It definitely didn't stick to the ribs the way so many other things I've seen did. And, yes, young David Soul was an angel. But he turned rather unappealing after a while (and my mother forbid his name to be mentioned in our house, calling him a "wife-beater!") Debbi Morgan was indeed about 19, so you were on to something there!

One thing, though. It was not Brenda Sykes who accused Jim Brown of tossing her off a balcony. They did film "Black Gunn" together and did have a relationship, but the only "scandal" between them was him finding her on the floor of her living room almost dead of a deliberate overdose. There was a model named Eva Bohn-Chin who fell from a his balcony and it was suspected that he pushed her, though he said she fell running to escape the room when the police were called over their arguing. There was also a Brenda Ayres (age 18!) who accused him of assault and of fathering her child. God knows he had several accusations and incidents (and did admit to slapping various women), but none that I know of with Brenda.

Poseidon3 said...

Shoot! I meant to add, but forgot, that if anything good came out of films like "Mandingo," "Drum" (which I haven't seen in ages) and "Goodbye Uncle Tom" (which I've never seen), perhaps it is that they sparked an interest in the subject matter which then helped pave the way for more insightful and legitimate projects like "Roots." (Even if some of Alex Haley's novel was - by his own admission - plagiarized and fabricated.) So many people sat and watched that miniseries goggled-eyed with horror and I know that many of them had no real idea at all beforehand how abjectly cruel and awful it was to be a slave. They'd been so used to decades of more genteel cinematic depictions which appeared more like servants and maids. So there's that, at least, anyway.

petercox97 said...

Poseidon, thanks for keeping me honest.

Kevin Keane said...

I recall seeing this in a packed theater in Omaha Nebraska summer of 1975. When Susan George came on screen and began speaking someone in the audience said "whats wrong with her teeth ?" and the whole theater cracked up laughing. She looked very snaggle toothed in the movie and had a lilting British accent on and off in the movie as did James Mason. The sight of Ken Norton and Perry King made me feel funny in my underwear. But Susan George made me sick to my stomach, she was just awful.

petercox97 said...

@kevin. made me feel funny in my underwear. i remember that sensation as a kid when i first saw lloyd bridges in reruns of sea hunt. it was the first time i had seen an almost naked man on tv and i couldn't understand how they could show an almost naked man everyday in the afternoon, but i enjoyed it.

Poseidon3 said...

Kevin, Susan did have very unusual teeth (which I opted not to zero in on in this lengthy post!) The front ones were not really curved, but almost straight across, making the side ones look protruded by comparison. Hilarious that someone felt the need to blurt out their reaction that way in a crowded theater. But I must also say that while watching this recently, Perry's teeth were fine, but not altered the way virtually all celebrity teeth are now. Just normal teeth with little spaces/imperfections while not everyone must have zoom-bleached piano keys in order to nab a leading role!

My "funny in my underwear" guy was Lee Majors on "The Big Valley" and "The Six Million Dollar Man." Loved hearing yours and petercox's remembrances.

One other thing I meant to mention in this huge post, but didn't, is that the movie was nearly 4 hours long when put together and so it was then cut by close to half for release!! It would be amazing to see more of the scenes that got snipped. Of course, it also might have reaalllyy dragged at the longer length rather than having an epic sweep sort of feel.

petercox97 said...

@poseidon. if any of that two hours of deleted footage is perry or ken naked, i am all for it. i wish i could access all the extraneous footage that is shot when there is male nudity on set. it was only recently that i discovered that often copious amounts of male nudity is filmed even if it's never used in the movie when it's released for distribution. one movie that comes to mind is altered states. there was far more nude footage of william hurt than what we saw in the film. also there was more nude footage filmed of david mcnaughton in an american werewolf in london than what we saw in the finished product.

you mentioned lee majors. i still can't believe that lee affirmed as recently as two years ago that he was eager to play the jon voight role in midnight cowboy. lee was in his prime in 1969 and it would have been a treat for the ages to see him pulled out of a pickup truck bare-assed naked. i admit the thought of lee getting gangbanged doesn't thrill me, but i would have loved to have seen him in a homoerotic relationship. well, maybe not with dustin hoffman, but definitely with someone like al pacino or robert deniro.

one last note, i had no idea there was a film that featured motown's marvin gaye and lee majors as best friends adjusting to life after vietnam. lee is pretty good in the movie, but as much as i love him, marvin is so stiff and he seems really afraid. lee does his best to carry him, but marvin seems to have the worst case of stage fright which is so odd. did i also mention that agnes moorehead is also in the movie as lee's almost mother-in-law?

Poseidon3 said...

Yes, petercox, I agree of course! And so often that footage is incorporated into the film in a way that just skirts actual nudity or cuts away in the dick, er, nick of time! LOL Oh, to have been an editor... And I have seen "The Ballad of Andy Crocker!" I got it on a $1 DVD over a decade ago. I remember Agnes skeet-shooting during her one cameo scene (and her daughter was... Joey Hetherton!!) Thanks!

Kevin Keane said...

I have to say seeing "Mandingo" on the big screen is a completely different experience than seeing it on television. Ms George's teeth were 6"-8" each on the big screen and very visible, (So was Perry King's penis). The theater that played "Mandingo" was an older downtown theater that had once screened "The Ten Commandments"in its first run. None of the local multiplexes or fancy theaters would show "Mandingo". In the 70's it was unusual for a movie to play in a first run theater longer than 2-3 weeks. Mandingo played for almost the entire summer. With midnight shows added on the weekends that were mostly sold out. Also after seeing "Mandingo" again when Legend put it on DVD the acting (except from Ms George) was very well done including and especially the supporting players.