Company: Olive Films
Starring: James Mason, Susan George, Perry King, Ken Norton, Richard Ward, Brenda Sykes
My Review and Thoughts:
I was super excited when I learned this was coming to Blu-ray by Olive Films. I have often felt this was an overlooked little gem. Most critics hated it, and still hate it but I find myself liking it in all it's mela-drama. I feel there is great acting and direction along with a story that stands out, and ultimately sends you the viewer into a deep time period of race, and history. All one has to do is look at the reception that critics gave it, how they loathe it, and despise it which in my viewpoint makes one want to see it more. I personally can understand all the hatred toward it, it's a raw, dark and disturbing film at times.
Olive Films has lovingly brought this film out on this blu-ray for a new generation to experience its sociological storyline of human actions, and racial moments in history.
Starring a phenomenal actor, Perry King as the character of Hammond Maxwell. The plot to the film is set in the South. It’s during the time when slavery was. Your main focus is a plantation ran by Hammond but owned and operated by his father Maxwell. Hammond and his friend enjoy going to brothels and having sex with virgin black girls. Hammond has sex with a black slave named Ellen. Hammond under his father's wishes, marries Blanche who is becoming a social prominent lady. Hammond ends up buying Ellen as his slave, and turns her into house slave. Through this process, Hammond ends up growing fond of her, and in some ways in love with her. Now the basis of the film is to have two slaves that are Prize-fighting slaves known as Mandingos to battle it out. Hammond purchases a Mandingo named Ganymede. Through Hammond’s brutal actions, Ganymede is hardened into a skillful fighter. The movie mixes the hardened time period of disturbing actions against Africans, and the brutal treatment of slaves through many means of hatred, and actions that are displayed in vivid ways.
This movie mixes a sense of history and social elements. It displays itself as a dramatic tale that explores the recesses of a grind-house exploitation film. It mixes elements of sexual meanness around a brutality of violence. It’s a film both disturbing, and yet both brilliantly told through a tough story, and acting by a wonderful ensemble cast. As mentioned Perry King. The amazing one of a kind performer, James Mason plays Maxwell, Hammond’s father. Mason is one of those actors that needs no introduction. If you’re a movie lover then Mason is known. From such powerhouse performances in, The Desert Fox, A Star is Born, Lolita, North by Northwest, and so many others. There was only one, James Neville Mason. He was an actor that gave the cinema world a fine excellence in performances. The beautiful Susan George who plays Blanche Maxwell gives a true performance of a haunting emotional personality in Mandingo. George is one of the shinning characters through her performance that lingers long after it’s over. The brilliant Richard Ward playing the part of Agamemnon. Ward was a performer that I feel never got the limelight he deserved. Sadly he passed away at the very young age of 64. Ward left a wonderful career. He was a huge stage actor and displayed his talent in many roles in Television, and film. He was an actor that deserved accolades, and awards. Also starring the beautiful and amazing Brenda Sykes in the character of Ellen. She gives a gifted and haunting performance as a slave. She owned the part, and created a situation that made you feel her pain, suffering and also her everyday plight to survive in this setting. That is what is so amazing about this film is the actors, and actresses own their parts, and bring them to life in vivid detail.
I have to mention the main character Ganymede played by the wonderful sports icon turned actor Ken Norton. Who sadly is no longer with us, he passed away in 2013. He left a career of sports and acting that remains important. Mandingo, would not be the film it is, if it was not for Ken Horton. He made the part, and created everything about this film. For sports fans, he was a boxer that has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He fought alongside Muhammad Ali. He was WBC World Heavyweight Champion from 1977 to 1978. He won against the great Muhammad Ali in the fight in 1973 where he and Ali lasted 12 rounds. Now he not only played the main character in Mandingo, but he went on to play the main character in Mandingo’s squeal, 1976’s Drum. If you ever get a chance pick up his book, Believe: Journey from Jacksonville. Also a little trivia for you, his son Ken Norton Jr. was a very talented and successful NFL football player. Went to the Super Bowl three times, coached the Seattle Seahawks and currently as of this writing works as the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. Ken Norton left a career of boxing, and cinema for all generations to experience, and Mandingo is one of those films.
Mandingo is a brutal, and very disturbing film at times. It showcases sadistic violence towards slaves, and the African people. Mandingo is set during a time of a horrible reality in history when people were tortured, and treated like garbage. This movie might turn many people off, but it’s a films that expresses in detail the plight of individuals and personalities.
This is based on the novel by the same name written by Kyle Onstott. The book was taken and written and turned into a play by the same name, written by Jack Kirkland. The movie is based on the play, which is based on the book.
Olive Films has given another wonderful example of treating a film with care. I feel this is a must see film for any film lover. It’s harsh, brutal, and brilliant all at the same time. Directed by one of my personal favorite directors Richard O. Fleischer. He was an Academy Award winning producer. He was a director of Feature Length films, documentaries, and Shorts. He directed one of my favorite childhood films, and grown up films, Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Also the greats, Fantastic Voyage, Doctor Doolittle (1967) and Tora! Tora! Tora! His other important works that are truly cinema gems, 1959’s Compulsion, 1968’s The Boston Strangler, and a personal sci-fi favorite, 1973’s Soylent Green. His career was grand from high budget, to action yarns, he displayed his wonderful talent in showcasing memorable cinema, and Mandingo is one of them. I think something else that makes this man so great is he was the son of one of the greatest animators of all time, Max Fleischer. So Richard followed in his father’s footsteps to create memorable films. His father’s studio giving birth to Betty Boop, Koko the Clown, Popeye, Superman in animated form, to he himself, creating magical moments of fancy in 20,000 Leagues and Fantastic Voyage. Like father, like son, both made their mark. Richard was a gifted, and extraordinary director at no matter what he was directing. No matter Walt Disney, or the controversial disturbing Mandingo, he was a master either way.
Screen: 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio.
This was released on Blu-ray before by Legend Films. It also can be bought currently on DVD and Blu-ray by Legend Films. I thought this was kind of strange because Olive Films, tends to pick films not available on Blu-ray yet. I own the Legend Films Blu-ray. I compared the two and thought the picture quality of both seemed a little the same, but I thought Olive Films version was a little better. Both are great, but I felt the imagery was crisper, and more vibrant, that is just my viewpoint. Either way Olive Films did a great job in transferring this film. Olive films is also releasing it on DVD.
A dark, raw, disturbing film. A controversial imagery, and experience of a darkened time period in American History. Solid acting, direction, story. A wonderful product. Mandingo has never looked any better. Olive Films has another winner. Mandingo is a must see film, and now has a new lovely blu-ray.
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