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Mandingo is a 1975 American dramatic film directed by Richard Fleischer, structured around themes of slavery, lust, savagery, and degradation, not shying away from provocative and controversial elements. The film, featuring renowned actors James Mason, Susan George, and Perry King, is set against the backdrop of the antebellum Southern United States, providing a stark portrayal of the immorality and brutality embedded in the institution of slavery.

The story is told through the eyes of the Falconhurst plantation's tempestuous inhabitants who are engrossed in their own world of power and desire. The sultry and verdant scenes of the South serve as the backdrop where the lines between master and slave blur, creating a raucous atmosphere that mirrors the tumultuous times.

James Mason plays Warren Maxwell, the aging and irascible patriarch of the plantation. He runs the daily operations of his cotton plantation with a firm hand, meting out punishments and retaining an iron grip. Mason's solid acting skills build a compelling and revolting character, who is willing to exploit and degrade the people he possesses for his own benefit.

Playing opposite Mason, Perry King shines in the role of Hammond Maxwell, Warren’s son and heir apparent. With boyish looks and a capricious character, Hammond embodies a complicated blend of fragility and remorseless cruelty. His obsession and licentious relationships with slaves show the twisted mentality derived from the institution of slavery, portraying his character's struggle with his moral compass.

Susan George's character, Blanche, adds more color and depth to this intense narrative. She is a perverse Southern Belle whose dangerous infatuation and jealousy precipitate much of the film's conflict. Blanche’s character further intensifies the morally ambiguous atmosphere, with her cunning manipulation and emotionally charged scenes contributing to many of the movie's dramatic high points.

The title character, Mandingo, played by boxer-turned-actor Ken Norton, presents a unique perspective on the narrative. Mandingo, a physically imposing yet soulful slave who's primarily used as a prize-fighting slave and stud, is depicted as powerful yet tragically vulnerable. Norton does an excellent job bringing his character to life, dramatizing the inner turmoil of a man reduced to property and the complex relationships that ensue as a result.

Director Richard Fleischer is known for his forthright storytelling and sees no exception in Mandingo. The film uses explicit scenes to present a raw and moving critique of the regressive plantation culture. Given that the institution of slavery is central to Mandingo’s narrative; its depiction is brutal and barbarous. The film doesn't pull punches when it comes to demonstrating the ruthless, degrading and repulsive acts suffered by the slaves.

The movie’s cinematography stands out as well. Beautifully shot to often juxtapose luxury with destitution, the production design effectively gives a sense of the era. The grandeur of the plantation house, the stately dinners, and the pompous slave-auctions are starkly contrasted with the crude slave quarters and punishing work fields. The contrasting settings and characters intertwine to create a haunting picture of a suppressed period in American history.

Mandingo is also remarkably notable for its absorbing music score, composed by Maurice Jarre. The score's southern gothic tunes accentuate the movie's dramatic elements, creating a chilling atmosphere. Though at times discomforting to watch, Mandingo forces the audience to confront the decomposing moral fabric of the time, showcasing the uglier side of human nature and the gross misuse of power.

In essence, Mandingo is a brutally honest, film, charged with controversial and evocative themes. The performances from the lead actors, particularly those of James Mason, Susan George, and Perry King, are acclaim-worthy. Set in glare of the antebellum Southern United States, the film offers viewers a potent, raw and viscerally impacting cinematic experience. Despite its harsh criticism, it's an important historical film that unflinchingly portrays the oppressive system of slavery, laying bare its many abhorrent facets.

Mandingo is a Romance, Drama, History movie released in 1975. It has a runtime of 127 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.4..

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Where can I stream Mandingo movie online? Mandingo is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Amazon Prime, Kanopy, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD, Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Mandingo for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Richard Fleischer
James Mason, Susan George, Perry King, Lillian Hayman, Richard Ward, Brenda Sykes, Ken Norton
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