Mike Kueber's Blog

April 14, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #22 – Mandingo, Jasper Texas, and Shortbus

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , ,

Mandingo was a controversial movie in the 70s, not because of its portrayal of the cruelty of slavery in the 1830s, but because it depicted a young, white, aristocratic Southern female (Susan George) calling on the sexual services of a family slave (boxer Ken Norton).  Somehow the Southern male (Perry King) doing the same thing to a female slave (Brenda Sykes) did not generate the same controversy. 

Some critics hated the movie (Ebert gave it zero stars and Time magazine called it boring and cliché-ridden.), but it was a box office success and I thought it was excellent.  The story was fascinating and the acting was fine.  I give it a solid three stars, even though it received only 40% from Rotten Tomato critics and 60% from Rotten Tomato audiences.

Incidentally, a Mandingo is a person from the upper Niger River valley in western African.  According to the movie, they were especially valued by antebellum Southerners for their athleticism and related breeding purposes.

By watching Mandingo, I was reminded of how severe and dehumanizing the treatment of slaves had been in America, but things were different now, right?  I had been warned that, according Jasper, Texas, the 2003 Showtime movie, maybe things hadn’t changed that much.  Fortunately, that warning proved to be incorrect.

The movie Jasper, Texas portrays the true story of a black man, James Byrd, Jr., who was famously murdered by dragging in 1998 by three men, two of whom were committed white supremacists.  But the city itself is depicted as consisting of people who have learned to live with each other, although a strong racial divide persists.

Personally, I thought the movie was boring.  Lou Gossett as a black mayor and Jon Voight as a white sheriff are fine, but the story focuses on the city’s reaction to the murder trial and it totally lacks any suspense.  Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t rate it; I rate it as one star out of four.     

For those of you who enjoy sexually explicit movies, don’t be misled into thinking that Netflix can help you.  It has a category called “steamy,” out of which I recently watched Shortbus, an award-winning 2006 comedy-drama about contemporary life in the NYC club scene that included non-simulated sex.  Its Rotten Tomato critic rating was 66%, and its audience gave it 74%.  I agree and give it three out of four stars.

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1 Comment »

  1. with 300+ million americans you can find people that fit any category.

    frankly the movie “the help” suprised me because they depicted something i remember growing up.

    i’m old enough to remember seperate things for whites and coloreds (white water fountain, colored water fountain). i also had family in mississippi and spent summers there.

    what the movie caught that i remember was the way most people looked down or away when 1 or 2 people in a group whether at church, a restaurant, or the grocery store were being outwardedly racist. frankly at age 10 i didn’t get that it was racism, it just seemed they were being really rude. it was confusing since my family, including the ones in mississippi, weren’t racist. one second eveyone black and white are getting along, the next second some white person says something racist. most knew it wasn’t right and seemingly didn’t like it but in retrospect appeared to “fear” being omitted from the larger group.

    i also remember my granddad being asked for his kkk card. later i asked him what it was. he said “it is something you must have here or people won’t do business with you.”

    blemishes on some otherwise enjoyable summers…

    Comment by q — April 21, 2012 @ 10:25 pm | Reply


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