Sportswire Sep 20 2013
MORE THAN A MAN
American boxing great’s legacy includes seminal film about the antebellum South.

The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about. 

 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 10 2011
GAZETTE ROULETTE
You can take Police Gazette’s sex advice if you want, but you’re probably risking your life.

We have yet another early 1970s National Police Gazette from the stack we bought a while back, this one from August 1973 with cover star Irma Smith, who appeared in exactly one film during her Hollywood career. Inside, we’re treated to a story on the world’s greatest electronic surveillance operative (the unfortunately named Theodore Ratnoff), we hear Muhammad Ali’s theory on why he lost the heavyweight boxing title to Ken Norton (having his jaw broken by Norton had a little something to do with it), and we learn about a Brit who went native, married a Guyanese woman, and fought an alligator to prove his manhood. We also are treated to a quiz concerning what makes a man a great lover. Some of the answers might surprise you. For instance, cutting one’s toenails regularly is important, but bathing every day is actually a bad idea, and not smoking earns you a big fat zero on their score card. Our favorite question concerns whether great lovers respect the sanctity of marriage. The answer, apparently, is no. Which causes us to wonder how often great lovers are murdered, dismembered and dumped in swamps by irate husbands. Unfortunately Gazette’s crack scientific team has no research on that. Follow their advice at your peril. We’ve posted some scans below, and you can see all our other Gazette postings here. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2009
BIRTH OF A NATION
Black is the color of my true love’s skin.

Mandingo has a reputation as a piece of campy blaxploitation, but we just watched it today and it’s clear that reputations and reality sometimes don’t connect. The film has its flaws—some of the acting is less-than-scintillating, and ex-heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton is ponderous as the lead character Mede—but overall Mandingo is a serious and realistic depiction of the antebellum American south’s slave culture. The provocative poster you see above was produced for Mandingo’s West German run, and while it wrongly presents the film as mainly sexual in nature, it’s still a stunning piece of art. Mandingo tends to polarize audiences, but those who hate it generally cite its upsetting language and subject matter. While those are legitimate reasons to refrain from watching a film, they aren't valid artistic criticisms of a movie's content. It's about slavery. You know going in it isn't going to be nice. We recommend the movie, but we warn you it’s no Gone with the Wind—it’s a lot more historically accurate. Mandingo premiered in West Germany today in 1975.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 31
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
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