(director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: Norman
Wexler/based on the
novel by Kyle Onstott; cinematographer: Richard H. Kline; editor: Frank Bracht;
music: Maurice Jarre; cast: James Mason (Maxwell), Susan
Perry King (Hammond),
Richard Ward (Agamemnon),
Brenda Sykes (Ellen),
Ken Norton (Mede),
Lillian Hayman (Lucretia
Cumbuka (Cicero), Ben Masters (Charles), Paul Benedict (Brownlee); Runtime: 126;
MPAA Rating: R; producer: Dino De Laurentiis; Paramount
"At least offers no tears for the demise of the good ole days in Dixie."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Richard Fleischer ("Armored Car Robbery"/"Narrow Margin"/"The Vikings") directs this lurid trashy melodrama regarding slavery in the Old South. It's based on the novel by Kyle Onstott, and is crudely written by Norman Wexler. The unpleasant film is dreadful, but in all its perversity and absurdity it leaves no room for romancing the sicko pre-Civil War Southern slavery system as something nostalgic as it shows this evil system for what it is and how the slaves were not considered human so they could be abused.
In 1840 the cranky widowed bigoted
Louisiana plantation owner Warren Maxwell (James
Mason) of the
rundown Falconhurst, who became wealthy as a slave-trader, orders
his son Hammond (Perry King) to
travel to New Orleans to wed a white woman and give
the family heirs. The bride is the deceitful Blanche (Susan George), who disappoints Ham
greatly when on their wedding night he discovers she's
not a virgin. While in town Ham also buys the
physically imposing slave Mede (Ken Norton, pro
boxer), a Mandingo and trains him to be a fighter.
Back home Ham buys the slave-girl Ellen (Brenda
Sykes) and uses
her as his bed "wench," finding he has more feelings
for her then he does for his wife. The horny Blanche
goes in heat over the stud slave and to get revenge on
her gimpy hubby for treating her so coldly, she
seduces Mede. It results in her giving birth to Mede's
mulatto child. This doesn't sit too well with the
crazed racist Ham, who poisons his wife, slays the
child and then turns his attention to Mede.
It's a poor man's version of Gone With The Wind, where everyone is in heat, master and slave relations are over the top, and the plantation owners are mercilessly depicted as despicable cads. The grim pic is an exploitation movie, which for all its faults at least offers no tears for the demise of the good ole days in Dixie.
REVIEWED ON 6/26/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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