This is a film about power. Racism is about power. When some people have absolute power over other people, they become sadistic and sometimes, the objects of their sadism become masochistic. Absolute power is always justified with ideological rationalisations become dogma, in this case the the dogma that black skin makes a person less than human. Power corrupts the individual's sense of morality. With power over others, one becomes more or less immoral, hardened to a subordinate's suffering. Self-esteem is generated by putting down the one perceived to be inferior and slaves were considered less than human, a notch or two down on the food chain. Slaves were treated as objects of power, like the organic results of animal husbandry, like the commodities you purchase and eat: cattle, pigs or sheep. Thus, having sex with a slave for a 'white' male owner was like breeding new animals for sale with a view to profit. 'White' females, of course, were not allowed to engage in this sort of animal husbandry with slaves. The patriarchal whisper one hears in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" becomes a murderous roar in "Mandingo".
In "Mandingo" we see the realities of absolute power's effect on the social psychology of a society. Even after more than a century of time, American society, especially the South is still scarred by the psychological damage which simmers under the surface of smiles, whiskey fueled tears and freshly mown lawns.
"Mandingo" is a must see. It's better than "Glory", although "Glory" would be an appropriate second on a double feature bill with "Mandingo". "Mandingo" is even better than "Burn" and much better than "Roots". The acting is superb. The screenplay is magnificent. The cinematography is choice. Yes, this movie is violent; but slavery was a daily violence on the lives of those who suffered it. Face it. Yes, there is sex in this movie: squirm in your seat as you feel a touch of titillation. Yes, there is abuse on all levels from pedophilia to outright murder. But the abusers aren't comic book level bad guys; they aren't Jokers on the set of "Batman". They are the ruling class of the Old South. Sometimes their humanity shows through. Sometimes bad guys are ever so well ensconced in the the rituals of polite society that they come across as the upholders of civilised behaviour. That they are also enmeshed in a daily life organised around the exploitation of those who produce their wealth speaks volumes about the quality of their humanity and our own social relations of power today.
Get "Mandingo" however you can. Show it to your friends. Discuss it after you see it. Get ready for the movie experience of a lifetime. Forget about "Basterds"; forget the demented, ultra-violent comic fantasies of Quentin Tarintino. Forget about the sanitized films of the Antebellum Age. See "Mandingo". See the hard truth about chattel slavery and then do some reflection about how power over others functions to generate a generalised state of dominance and submission in the social relations of the here and now, wherever you live on this planet.