I hate Dave Kehr, and not just because he's one of the best film critics in the world. He's also got one of the sweetest movie-writing gigs in the world: his weekly DVD column in The New York Times. This week features two very interesting titles, and I'm stunned I've seen neither of them for a variety of reasons: What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966) and Mandingo (1975).
Kehr does his usual job of placing these films in their proper historical and cinematic context, particularly What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, made by Blake Edwards at the height of his directing powers. But for me the more interesting movie is Mandingo, which I was startled to remember I'd never seen and now plan to. Shot in Louisiana, the movie centers around a decaying Southern plantation family in which the matriarch, Warren Maxwell (a fading James Mason) is playing matchmaker for his family is the most devious ways. This of course means more interracial dating than was appreciated in the 1860s or the 1970s, for that matter. Does anyone recall the hilarious Mandingo II parody sketch on "Saturday Night Live," featuring (of all people) host O.J. Simpson (playing the Ken Norton character) as well as a dolled-up Garrett Morris.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip of that parody on YouTube, but I DID find an even better scene, in which house slave Mede (Norton), helps hunt down a fellow slave, Cicero, played by one of my favorite character actors, Ji-Tu Cumbuka. (Remember him as the leader of the slave rebellion in the mini-series Roots.) For a film that's not to be so great, Cicero's speech is priceless.
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