Category Archives: Film

“VOLLEY”— New Year’s Eve with Friends

volley correct poster


New Years Eve with Friends

Amos Lassen

Nicholas, Pilar, Cata, Belen, Manuela and Nacho are friends since adolescence. They are all near or in their late twenties or early thirties and they seem to have more differences than commonalities. They are spending New Year’s Eve together at a summerhouse and are hosted by Nico (writer and director Martin Piroyansky). Nico brings his ex-girlfriend Pilar (Inés Efron) with whom he just had a one-night stand. But, Nicolas hits on every other girl including the brooding Cata and the voluptuous Belén. When Nicolas unexpectedly falls into bed and then into love with the high-strung Manuela who also happens to be his best friend’s girlfriend, the last laugh is on him.


Nicholas is what we might call a player— an ardent follower of any theory that is opposed to monogamy. He feels that love does not exist and man is made to satisfy his sexual desire with as many women as possible. Nicholas was not the only one, however, who broke the rules of friendship.


Each of the characters represents more or less identifiable archetypes— the alpha male, the user, the bossy, the childish, the intellectual and the cutie. Like a volleyvball team that rotates, they shift their lovers. There are all kinds of encounters and sexual encounters, rather than romantic and that seems to be what this film is really about.


The characters act like teens and there is a lot of crass humor which is new for Argentina but that which we have been flooded with in American films. Set entirely in a house on the island of Tigre, “Volley” recounts the journeys of a group of friends traveling with the innocent intention of celebrating New Year.


The characters are exaggerations so that they can get some laughs and laugh we do but not always sympathetically. We see the influence of drugs as well as free sex and we also see there does exist disloyalty among friends. I find it hard to come to a concrete decision about whether or not I liked the film because although I laughed, I also felt that I was slapped across the face several times.

“A SYRIAN LOVE STORY”— A Country’s Fight

a syrian love story poster


A Country’s Fight

Amos Lassen

Sean McAllister’s documentary “A Syrian Love Story”) is a portrait of a family torn apart by dictatorship and war. Amer and Raghda met and fell in love in a Syrian prison fifteen years ago. They were both political prisoners. Amer was a Palestinian freedom fighter, Raghda was a Syrian revolutionary and both suffered tortured. On their release they married and started a family. Director McAllister first met Amer in 2009 and over five years followed the family’s lives. After writing a book about their love story and experiences in prison, Raghda was once again detained and Amer is left to bring up their four boys alone. Their story is reflected in Syria’s fight and we become aware of the tremendous impediments they faced –- the Arab Spring, civil war, national vengeance and individual turmoil.

We see the family talking to Raghda during a rare phone call. Bob the youngest child cries for his mother and Kaka, a teenager, tries to understand and make sense of Basher al Assad’s tyrannical regime. In 2011, as the ‘Arab Spring’ emerges and protesters take to the streets, Amer uses the opportunity to highlight the plight of Raghda, ceaselessly calling for her release. Finally his persistence, and pressure from the west, has the desired result and Raghda is released in a small amnesty of political prisoners. McAllister using a handheld camera captures their euphoria followed by the difficulties Raghda has adapting to home life and her insomnia (she is haunted by nightmares of how she was treated in prison).

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The protests continue and soon our director is arrested and held for five days; his camera was taken and because of what was on the film the family was forced to leave Syria and go to Lebanon.McAllister followed them there and found that Amer and Raghda’s relationship was showing signs of strain. At one point Raghda took off, leaving Amer with the children and he went through feeling hurt, confused and betrayed. Because he is a Palestinian, he cannot claim asylum outside Lebanon but Raghda, as a Syrian political prisoner, has the necessary status for them to be accepted in Europe. She returns to Amer and the family is granted asylum in France.


When they get settled in France, the tome of the film shifts and we see the bleak reality for so many refugees, having to start afresh, mourning the disintegration of a country as well as the loss of their beloved homeland. Raghda in particular feels totally lost since she was well known in Syria, but in France she is nobody. This, of course, causes dissension in the family and the arguments between husband and wife intensify. Amer finds a girlfriend and Raghda takes to wine. We watch as their relationship falls apart and the film catches this with brutal honesty.


The fact that the couple allowed McAllister to film this shows their sense of courage in wanting the world to see what has happened to them as a result of their country falling apart. What the family deals with emotionally reflects Syria’s physical collapse and the personal and political are irretrievably entwined. The film is not easy to watch but it is a necessary reminder of what refugees from Syria deal with. This is a “poignant tale of a marriage breakup that echoes the agony and heartbreak of countless other Syrians who have found their homes destroyed and their lives in ruins”.


no asylum

“No Asylum: The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank’s Story”

The Rest of the Story

Amos Lassen


As recently as 2011 it was reported in New York that hate crimes had risen by as much as 14% and the greatest number of victims were Jews. For this reason we must keep alert and aware of what happened in the past in order to make sure that it never happens again. In “No Asylum” we see how prejudice, when mandated by the state, can shape and change policy and become lethal.


 Otto Frank shows his love for his daughter, Anne, by desperately seeking visas to save their family from the Holocaust. We hear Otto’s voice through his recently discovered letters, revealing for the first time the emotional tale of how the world turned its’ back on the Frank family.


The film is a lesson that is based on the situation of Anne Frank and here we see that her father made several failed attempts to get visas for his family. The governments of the world did little, if anything to protect the Jews. We see in Otto Frank’s letters that he indeed loved his family. He brought Anne into the world and that is the greatest gift he could have given.


“No Asylum” deals with the themes of awareness of anti-Semitism awareness; Jewish history, culture and identity; human rights, and the values of democracy, religious freedom, respect for identity, and cross-cultural relations.

“DUKHTAR” (“Daughter”)— Running Away

dukhtar poster

 “DUKHTAR” (“Daughter”)

Running Away

Amos Lassen

“Dukhtar”, a film written, produced and directed by Afia Nathaniel is set in a village in Pakistan where a young mother Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz) kidnaps her ten-year old daughter Zainab (Saleha Aref) to save her from a child marriage. She is then pursued by her husband’s family and the groom’s henchmen but they manage to escape onto the open mountainous highway. Allah, seeking help, manages to convince a reluctant Sohail, (Mohib Mirza) a very cynical ex-Mujahid truck driver, to take them on-board. As the film moves forward, we get to see the surreal landscapes of northern mountainous Pakistan all the way to the Lahore as the deadly hunt for mother and daughter intensifies.


The film was shot in freezing conditions in the disputed area between Pakistan and India and there were some 200 extras with some very serious chase scenes on some of the roads with very high altitudes. Directed by a female with an all male crew of forty men, this is a feminist road movie.

The film was inspired by the true story of a mother from the tribal areas of Pakistan who kidnaps her two daughters and seeks a new future for them. With her ten-year-old daughter faced with marrying a man six times her age, Allah makes the near-suicidal decision to go on the run across the towering mountains of Pakistan.


Early on we see the character and relationship of Allah Rakhi and her lively little girl Zainab when she comes home from school and tries to teach her mother to read and write. The tenderness and humor they share in this role reversal shows us that their ambitions, go beyond a traditional woman’s role in remote rural Pakistan and the feudal society in which they are chattel. The trouble starts because of a long-standing tribal blood feud which has caused the loss of many men. As chief of their tribe, Allah’s older husband Daulat (Asif Khan) agrees to make peace by offering his daughter Zainab in marriage to his powerful, cruel rival Tor Gul (Abdullah Jaan.) The girl is so innocent she thinks babies are made by kissing, and her mother, who was married off to an elderly man at 15, is very worried. Daulat opens the bedroom door one day and they are gone.


The first part of their flight is filmed like a nightmare as they attempt to get out of the village while Daulat’s and Tor Gul’s armed men hunt them. Rather alarmingly, their bright-colored clothes stand out against the neutral stone dwellings, but that’s nothing compared to the effect of a wildly decorated two-story truck that appears on the road in front of them. The young driver Sohail, could be their ticket to freedom, but not before a struggle with his conscience that turns him around in the viewer’s eye. We see a delicate back-and-forth of half-said feelings with profound implications. Many narrow escapes later, these culminate in a legend Sohail passionately tells Allah Rakhi about two star-crossed lovers who turn into rivers, forever blending together in the mountains.   

The name, Allah Rakhi, means “God protects” and we really see that here. With her attentive face and mobile eyes, Mumtaz gives us a quiet woman with dignity and repressed emotion. Little Aref, as the titular daughter, is a more exuberant version of her in miniature.


Looking back in time at Allah, we see that she is accustomed to the only life she’s ever known. She was expected to be a young mother and wife and to live l in a small mountain village and she tries to channel all her unfilled hopes into her playful ten-year-old daughter. Zainab has no idea how her voice will be terribly silenced once she becomes someone’s property against her will but for now she enjoys spending time with her mother and teaching her English. Her distant father Daulat Khan (Asif Khan) is much more concerned with finding a solution for an ongoing tribal dispute and uses her as a pawn. When Allah runs off with her without a plan, her only objective is to safeguard her innocence and to offer her the one gift she was never given: a choice.


As expected, both Tor Gul’s and Daulat Khan’s henchmen are sent to find them at any cost. Their mission is to bring Zainab back alive regardless of what happens to her mother. Through her nerve-racking journey Allah discovers what it means to be treated as whole and meaningful person and not just a silent spectator at the mercy of another’s wishes. The film concentrates on exploring he broken bond between mothers and daughters due to an ideology in which their contributions are not appreciated and alienation is the deadliest weapon.

Allah Rakhi has not been allowed to see her mother ever since she got married, and the same was to be expected for Zainab’s life. Cut off from their own, women are reduced to be perpetual strangers in the homes of the men that don’t known beyond their role as a commodity. Samiya Mumtaz  gives a topnotch performance as Allah. She is a woman driven by her love for her daughter, which allows her to confront the inherent fear implanted in her. The film centers on the lack of freedom that women experience not only in Pakistan but in numerous traditional societies, yet, Afia Nathaniel manages to showcase her homeland’s beauty and makes it clear that this is not a story about gender confrontation, but about an securing and equal opportunity to find fulfillment.


“Dukhtar” is a beautiful film that was forged out the director’s desire to craft a story which, though small in scope, could connect with Pakistani people on a profound level. It captures the heart of this broken bond that must be rebuilt, for mothers, for daughters, for all.

Allah and he daughter appear small and vulnerable against a harsh but beautiful landscape.. Set in the tribal areas, the future of the mother and daughter seems doomed as gun-toting tribals pursue them.

The film opens in New York on October 9 and in Los Angeles on October 16.



“SEX IN THE COMIX”— The World of Erotic Comic Strips


“Sex in the Comix”

The World of Erotic Comic Strips

Amos Lassen

Molly Crabapple, New York comedian, hosts this documentary that looks at the world of erotic comic strips and after watching it, you will probably never look at comic strips in the same way again. Comic strips, by virtue of the fact that they are illustrated, can expose the taboo fantasies of a society that otherwise might have stayed hidden. Now that we live in an age when very little stays hidden for long, we can look at erotic comics and understand immediately where they are going and what they represent.

This is a racy, colorful and unique look at the world of comics and Crabapple gives us the history of erotic comics by taking us to the masters of the genre as well as the younger generation who are contributing new erotica. We meet R. Crumb, Milo Manara and Ralf König and among the younger artists we see the impact that Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” graphic memoir that is now a Tony Award winning Broadway musical comedy. We see the coming together of animation and erotica as we go into the history of the genre.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about erotic comics is that they serve as an expression of society’s most intimate trials and they expose our collective, if taboo, fantasies (all via speech balloons).

“THE CUT”— Surviving Genocide

the cut


Surviving Genocide

Amos Lassen

Fatih Akin’s new epic drama, “The Cut” is the story of a man’s journey through the Ottoman Empire after surviving the 1915 Armenian genocide. Deported from his home in Mardin, Nazaret (Tahar Rahim) moves onwards as a forced laborer. He learns that his daughters may still be alive and his sense of hope is revived and he travels to America, via Cuba, to find them.

One night, the Turkish police round up all the Armenian men in the city, including the young blacksmith, Nazaret Manoogian, who becomes separated from his family. Years later, after managing to survive the horrors of the genocide, he hears that his twin daughters from whom he had been separated are still alive. He has a new determination to find them and sets off to track them down, his search taking him from the Mesopotamian deserts and Havana to the prairies of North Dakota. On this journey, he encounters very different people from angelic and kind-hearted characters to pure evil.

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The story opens in 1915 in the then-thriving Armenian community of Mardin, Turkey. We learn that approaching war has awakened Turkish dreams of rejuvenating the weakened Ottoman Empire, and as a result of that nationalism those minorities who live within the Empire become immediate enemies. Rumors of war are heard, but blacksmith Nazaret Manoogian (Tahar Rahim), his beautiful, loving wife, and their adored twin daughters seem to be having great lives but the Armenian genocide come to them. In a film within the larger film we see victims as blameless innocents, those whose lives were serene and peaceful before the onslaught.

The bourgeois nationalist Young Turks, who had come to power in 1908, found themselves surrounded by the Allied powers after having suffered at the hands of Russia. They felt that the reason for their defeat had something to do with the predominantly Christian Armenian population within the Empire and so they set out on a program of mass murder and forced relocation of the Armenian people. As many as 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have perished.

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Nazaret and his family worry that the violence of the war will finally reach them. They hear news of Allied forces arriving in Gallipoli. That night, their worst fears are realized. Turkish soldiers round up the men of Mardin and march them into the desert. Told that all men over the age of 15 have now been conscripted into the military, they are forced into slave labor and made to build roads. Many collapse and die. They witness large groups of women and children from the city of Kharput, in eastern Anatolia, marched away in front of them, part of the forced deportations carried out through death marches into Mesopotamia.

Nazaret and the other captive Armenians work until they are, one day, led away from their camp. Tied together and forced to kneel, all but Nazaret are executed. He is only spared because the soldier chosen to murder him hesitates and cannot bring himself to kill his prisoner. However, Nazaret is wounded in the neck and this prevents from speaking for the remainder of his life.

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Taken for dead, Nazaret is able to escape his captors and begins a long journey to reunite with his twin daughters, believed to be the only remaining survivors of his family. His search takes him to Syria, Lebanon, Cuba and the United States. We watch him as a symbol of a lone hero floating from episode to episode within the genocide.

One disturbing sequence takes us to the death camps of Ras al-Ayn (on the Syrian-Turkish border today), where those who have not yet been killed are starving to death. Such moments are brutal and at times difficult to watch. Tahar Rahim is able to communicate a wide range of emotions though he does not speak during the second half of the film.

Some of the scenes bring out the horror of what was done to these people far more than the scenes of brutality and violence could alone. We feel the liveliness, the culture, the different attitudes and sensibilities of people as we watch and hope for the best knowing that it will do no good.

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When Nazaret goes in search for his daughters, he knows that hardship will come. His story is sparked by the destruction of an empire, the forging of political alliances, and the branding of minorities as enemies as a result. Reuniting with his twin daughters is what keeps him going, whether wandering through a sea of endless sand in the remnants of the Ottoman regime, or traversing the hostile wilds of the United States. 

Writer/director Akin gives us visual manifestations of pain, anger and defiance – once more justified by the narrative, yet still just as blatant in their statement. We see powerful pictures that track the Armenian genocide and its long-lasting repercussions, as personified through Nazaret’s story. There is sadness everywhere and we feel it as if it were happening to us. This is an empathetic story of survival that is difficult to watch but necessary to be seen.

“DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS”— Five Creepy Stories

dr terror


Five Creepy Stories

Amos Lassen

Each of the five stories in “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” has a defining supernatural element to it and a flawed protagonist who pays for his offenses in the end. We see voodoo, severed limbs, plants and while one of two of the stories fall short, the others are just right. The effects are visionary. Although briefly shot and usually hidden in shadows, their level of complexity and the fact that they are at the center of the stories we get an anthology with twists that are totally unexpected.


Freddie Francis, the two-time Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography directed the film. The overall theme is that five men who board a train as strangers will soon find commonality when joined by a sixth passenger, a mysterious traveler known as Dr. Schreck (Peter Cushing). To pass the time, the doctor offers to read each passenger’s Tarot cards. The innocent parlor game has an unexpected conclusion as each reading unfolds on screen as a terrifying vignette.  

Dr Terror’s House of Horrors was released in 1965 and while it is not a great film by any means it is both important as an influence for a whole sub-genre of British horror and it is entertaining. Below are the five episodes:



The first episode deals with Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum), a young architect who is called to a remote Scottish island to make modifications to the house of Mrs. Biddulph (Ursula Howells), a rich widow. While investigating the recesses of the house, he unwittingly uncovers the tomb of Count Valdemar, a werewolf who has cursed the descendants of the man who killed him.

“The Creeping Vine”

Next up is the unintentionally amusing story of Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman) and his unfortunate experiences with an unwelcome piece of vegetation. Gardening shears don’t do the trick so Rogers contacts what appears to be a government department devoted to dealing with homicidal plants. But as fast as they try to stop the somewhat lumbering menace – it doesn’t so much creep as clump – the plant develops new ways to combat its human enemies.



This is an investigation into “the malign power of voodoo!”. A jazz musician who makes the mistake of visiting the West Indies and noting down and stealing the dreaded beat of the black men who practice voodoo. Needless to say, his punishment is horrific but not quite as horrific as that which his performance deserves.

“Disembodied Hand”

Christopher Lee plays a foul, art critic named Franklyn Marsh who is humiliated by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough) after he has delivered some particularly scathing comments on Landor’s paintings. Marsh attempts to kill Landor by running him over in his car but only succeeds in ensuring that the artist loses his hand. Needless to say, it’s not long before the hand is eager to gain revenge.



Dr Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland) attempts to set up a surgery in collaboration with the established Dr Blake (Max Adrian) in a small town. But all is not well; a vampire is on the loose attacking women and children and it seems that the source of the attacks may well be closer to Dr Carroll’s home than he could have expected.

Finally, with all the destinies revealed, Dr Schreck reveals the final secret of his House of Horrors; one which will have terrifying consequences for all the passengers.

Dr Terror’s House of Horrors has not aged well in some respects and occasionally, as in the voodoo episode, it looks rather ludicrous. But it’s also got some strong cast and some very enjoyable moments. The ending, in particular, is as iconic a moment as any in 1960s horror and goes some way to making the rest of the film seem a lot better. 


Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is not a great film but it’s fun and is certainly essential viewing for horror fans.

“BREATHE”— The New Girl in Town

breathe poster

“BREATHE” (“Respire”)

The New Girl in Town

Amos Lassen

17 year old Charlene or Charlie (Josephine Japy) as she likes to be called cannot wait for school to start so she can stop having to listen to her parents’ constant arguments. just cannot wait to get to school so that she can escape the constant bickering of her parents.  She loves her father but it upsets her that she allows him to disrespect her as well as have affairs with other women. They live in a small s house in an small French provincial town where there are no secrets. But then Sarah (Lou De Laage) comes to town and the two girls become instant friends. For Charlie, this is a welcome addition to her life. Where Charlie is quiet and reserved, Sarah is loud and open about everything. She is worldly and she entertains Charlie with stories from her exotic life—she had been living in Nigeria with her mother but was sent back to her aunt in France because the political climate in Africa changed. Sarah and Charlie became the best of friends very quickly. Charlie invites Sarah to go to the seashore with her family. As soon as they get to the vacation spot, Sarah gravitates toward Esteban and flirts with him. He is a good deal older than she is and he actually is interested in Charlie’s mother.


To get back at Sarah, Charlie flirts with a handsome young pilot that she practically throws herself at.   Charlie realizes that Sarah is revealing herself to be far from the perfect best friend that she desperately wanted her to be, she also discovers the truth about Sarah’s real family circumstances which are nothing like the story that Sarah told her. It is interesting to watch how the love the two girls felt for each other becomes hate and Charlie also sees that Sarah was not as committed to the friendship as she was. Sarah, now understanding that Charlie knows the truth about her, goes to whatever kind of way that she can exhibit the perniciousness she feels. Other students also see this and are concerned that Charlie does not fight back or so they thought, When Charlie is pushed too far…


We see that the theme is Melanie Laurent’s film is about how passion can become harmful when it becomes an obsession. In fact, one of Charlie’s teachers shows this in the beginning of the film. However, then students did not pay attention to it and Charlie who is so unhappy that she would take love from wherever she could find it. Here we see the similarity between mother and daughter— Charlie berates her mother for her co-dependency on her father yet she does exactly the same with Sarah even though she knew that it cannot possible end well. Japy and de Laage give excellent performances as the girls.


This is a coming-of-age tale about passion and friendship within a relationship. Charlie’s self-destructive choices and actions should be familiar to anyone who has experienced the sting of betrayal by a friend, lover, or family member.

As uncomfortable as things get for the girls, they seemed, at first, to have a true friendship. At the movie progresses, Charlie’s thoughtfulness leads to resentment and Sarah’s spontaneity that was admired by Charlie at first, becomes very ugly. Sarah knows how to manipulate and Charlie is ready for manipulation. When things fall apart, the aggression continues even at school. Making a film about high school students is already a daunting project because relationships are constantly changing, and the drama can be difficult to replicate in a non-generic fashion.


The performances are absolutely integral to the feature’s success. When Japy and Laâge are together on screen, we’re entirely convinced of this friendship that we just know isn’t going to last. “Breathe” opens in New York City on September 11 and in Los Angeles on .September 18.


 sometimes they come back


Coming Home

Amos Lassen

A short story by Stephen King is the basis for “Sometimes They Come Back”. Troubled Jim Norman (Tim Matheson) moves back to his hometown with his wife Sally (Brooke Adams) and son Scott (Robert Hy Gorman) after he accepted a teaching job at the local high school. However, Jim has some very dark memories about the town. He moved away many years earlier because of the murder of his brother Wayne (Chris Demetral). The young men who were responsible for the murder met with their own horrific deaths. Now those restless spirits have come back for revenge.


We get the idea that just might have an issue with violence, and this looks a last chance for him. As Jim’s favorite students start dying, other things begin to happen.


Director Tom McLoughlin has a story to tell us here and he does so via flashbacks but there is also lot that he doesn’t tell us. We see that Jim has a reputation for being an educator with a violent streak. He had been by a gang when he was a kid, but during a freak accident in a train tunnel, all of the bullies and Jim’s brother died and Jim’s forever haunted by the incident.


When Jim and his family return to his hometown, and it doesn’t take long for Jim’s reputation as a crazy teacher to spread through the school. His students push around and he is stuck handling a class full of freaks and jocks who don’t want to be there. Soon, however, strange things start happening, and Jim’s horrifying past begins to surface: students start dying, Jim is haunted by his brother’s murder and he thinks that those who were responsible are back to avenge their deaths.


The film begins with awfully loaded expository narration by Jim Norman, telling us all about his haunted past. Then when things go awry for Jim, and the bullies begin to invade his present life, we are reminded who they are through the flashbacks that I previously mentioned.


There are some very funny moments in the film but we must remember that this is horror/drama so I am not sure why they are here.

“MANDINGO”— A Strange Film with Identity Problems



A Strange Film with Identity Problems

Amos Lassen

“Mandingo” has quite an interesting history. It has, over the years, been seen as either a revisionist look at slavery in the South, or as Leonard Maltin, film critic has stated, “a trashy potboiler” that “appeals only to the S&M crowd.” We might think of “Mandingo” as a strange combination of the two, although neither description is accurate. It has been said that, “It’s too trashy to be good drama, but too dramatic to be good trash”.


Meanwhile, Hammond has married his cousin, Blanche (Susan George) because she wants to get away from her family and he is under pressure from his father to produce a grandchild. Hammond really prefers sleeping with his “bed wench,” the derogatory name given to female slaves used by their masters for easy sex.


We soon see that Hammond, despite his overt racism, is more in love with his bed wench, a sensitive slave girl named Ellen (Brenda Sykes), than he is with Blanche. Hammond considers Blanche tainted. He learned that on their wedding night she had been with another man sexually before she came to him. another man had “pleasured” her before he did. This causes Blanche to usually be left lonely and sex-starved while Hammond is sleeping with Ellen.


Blanche gets back at Hammond by seducing the Mede and bearing his child. Hammond and his father cannot stand the idea that Blanche has given birth to a half-black child (although it’s okay that Ellen was pregnant by Hammond), so Warren kills the child by letting it bleed to death after birth, and Hammond poisons Blanche. Hammond then finds Mede, shoots him twice in the shoulder, and pushes him into a giant cauldron of boiling water. The plot reeks of sexploitation and the main purpose of the film seems to be getting as many blacks and whites into bed together as possible, with only the slightest commentary on what that would mean in 19th century Southern society. When “Mandingo” was released in 1975, it was something of a shocker to see miscegenation on screen in such a graphic detail; the movie could revise cinematic history while attracting large audiences of curious voyeurs.


Dramatically, “Mandingo” is a mess. It is unfocused, and historically confused. If one were to judge history by this film, it would be easy to walk away with the notion that the entire system of American slavery was based on sexuality, not economics. We never see any of the slaves working, except for a few house servants. The men spend most of the time sitting around, while the sole purpose of a female slave seems to be free sex for the owner. There is historical basis in the notion that slave owners often slept with their female slaves, but “Mandingo’s” overwhelming emphasis on this aspect of slavery gives the movie the unpleasant taste of a sex film. Some tried to write off “Mandingo” as a “blaxploitation” film, one of a number of quickly-made, low-budget films appealing to black sensibilities in the early seventies, but that was hard to do. “Mandingo” was studio-financed by Paramount Pictures, and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian producer behind such notorious productions as “The Bible” (1966), the remake of “King Kong” (1976), and the ill-fated “Dune” (1984).


The director was Richard Fleischer, a veteran who was best known for several special effects-laden action movies including “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954) and “Fantastic Voyage” (1966), as well as such superior suspense films as “The Narrow Margin” (1952). Yes even with its exploitative nature, “Mandingo” was one of the first Hollywood movies to take an alternative look at slavery. “Mandingo” reassessed the South, and showed that it wasn’t all beautiful plantations, green fields, and pretty sunsets. But all this is constantly undermined by the film’s negligible point-of-view — it claims to see things from the black perspective, but the entire narrative focus is on the soap opera tales of the white owners.


The issues the movie brings up are worthwhile, but the script refuses to move them beyond a surface level of trashy and vicarious viewing.