What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of it? I’ll bet that there are even some of you out there who say they will never watch a slave film, who are beginning to think: “Hmmmm….
A slave movie with Dionne Warwick? Maybe….”
It’s a film that’s been forgotten for over 40 years (except by yours truly, of course) and for
good reason: It’s really bad. But that shouldn’t stop you from seeing
it, if not for curiosity sake.
The independently produced and distributed film was released
in 1969, but didn’t make much of an impact when it came out, unlike "Mandingo," which was released 6 years later. And it was quickly buried, although it has developed something of a small cult following over the years.
The film was directed by Hebert Biberman, a B-movie director and producer who only had a
few film credits to his name, until his career was stopped cold when he became one
of the infamous "Hollywood Ten," and was blacklisted for many years by the film industry, for his openly politically-leftist views during the 1950’s anti-Communist “Red
Scare,” created by the U.S.
Congressional House Un-American
"Slaves" was Biberman’s first film after 15 years out in
the wilderness and, sadly, his last. He died just two years later after the
film came out, which is a shame, since, as his final film project, it was terrible.
No doubt he thought he was making a progressive, forward-thinking movie that was a reflection of, and commentary on the Black Power Movement of the times. But, as you can tell from
the trailer below, it falls right into the same old stereotypes that you’ve seen
hundreds of times before.
Starring Warwick, in her screen debut, Ossie Davis (who looks totally embarrassed
throughout the film, as if he was thinking “How the hell did I get into this mess?") and Stephen Boyd, who seems to have taken the film way too seriously than it should’ve been (and who I suspect Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio used as some inspiration for Calvin Candie in "Django Unchained"), the picture is a mess. Though I suppose it means well. I haven’t seen it in over 30 years and I still remember
laughing at major scenes in it.
However, if you’re curious, the film is available on Amazon
Instant Video, but I wouldn’t knock
myself out to see it, unless you’re in the mood for a good comedy or the bizarre.