Monday, March 28, 2005
THE MANDINGO PROJECT-part 5: chapters 33-50, the apocalyptic and ultra-offensive conclusion
As you have no doubt noticed from the previous installments, there was apparently no form of editorial control over MANDINGO whatsoever, so as a public service I am going to utterly gloss over the unnecessary clutter that impedes getting to the crux of the tome’s remainder, so I accept your thanks with much grace.
And so we finally reach the home stretch, the final one hundred and eighty-seven pages of this monolith of bad taste, and, HOO-BOY, what a final one hundred and eighty-seven pages they are…
The pregnancies of Ellen and Blanche are now about seven months along and Hammond leaves Falconhurst with Doc Redfield for a slave-selling business trip to Natchez — shooting down his plans to go to New Orleans since it is the site of a raging “cholrie” epidemic — unknowingly leaving his lover unprotected and at the mercies of the now Bukowski-level-drunk Blanche, who seems to spend her every waking hour pouring corn liquor toddies down her gullet. Shortly after Hammond sets off, Blanche gets plowed and orders Ellen sent to her bedroom. Upon arrival, Ellen is stripped naked, subjected to a litany of drunken, jealousy-driven cursing, and the sudden revelation that Blanche keeps a bullwhip in her night stand (???), an implement that the drunken brother-fucker cruelly uses to beat the unborn child out of her husband’s favorite (!!!). When Ellen loses the baby and the whip wielding Blanche is caught in the act by the elder Maxwell and Lucretia Borgia, the elder Maxwell orders Blanche, Ellen and Lucretia Borgia stay mum about the real cause of Ellen’s miscarriage.
Meanwhile in Natchez, Hammond and Redfield sell a bunch of slaves, go to a high class whorehouse — where Hammond blows off the unwanted advances of the beautiful white whores who throw themselves at him since they are too white for him to even think about getting down with — and run into cousin Charles, who excuses his theft of both Blanche’s bridal price money and wedding ring (to say nothing of gay-as-the-hills slave, Jason) by claiming that he considered it a loan and that he would eventually pay the cash back to his father, cash that he spent on living the high life. That said, Hammond accepts Charles’ apology (???), even agreeing not to tell Charles’ family that he is alive, rather than dead, as they had assumed. And Charles, upon hearing of his sister’s delicate condition, mysteriously comments “I sure hope the baby don’t come out all gotch-eyed like me…” Hammond, being about as sharp as a bag of wet mice, of course fails to realize the implications of his cousin’s statement. And lastly, in a move that surely wins some sort of prize for sheer stupidity, Hammond buys two identical pairs of pricy earrings, one for his wife and one for his beloved slave girl, the gift for the latter being intended to mark her as his chosen mate.
The homecoming (yet again!!!) to Falconhurst is somber as Hammond learns of the loss of Ellen’s “sucker,” but Hammond, smoothie that he is, mollifies Ellen with the gift of earrings, making her forget her loss and cry tears of unbridled joy (???!!!???). In no time Blanche notices Ellen’s fancy bling-bling and rejects her matching gift, loudly refusing to be marked as just another of Hammond’s whores. Shortly thereafter Blanche gives birth to a baby girl, Sophy, who is indeed, as Charles predicted, “gotch-eyed.” Hammond, clueless as ever, chalks the resemblance to Charles up to the fact that he and Blanche are from the same gene pool, while the reader can do the math and figure out that Blanche and her brother had been getting it on with regularity for years, rather than just the one-shot occurrence Blanche had previously claimed.
Though a physician was sent for to assist with Blanche’s delivery, the doctor arrives stinking drunk hours after the event, propped up by his handsome young assistant. The assistant performs a perfunctory post-birth examination of Blanche — which of course turns her on like nobody’s business — and afterward discusses with the male Maxwells a virulent outbreak of the clap that has been breaking out on other plantations in the area, an epidemic that he turns out to be knowingly responsible for, which Hammond discovers a week or two after his visit when the guest’s complimentary bed wench turns up with the disease. Fortunately the girl had not had sex with any of the other slaves after her romp with the doctor’s assistant, so the outbreak is quelled by placing her under quarantine.
As for Blanche’s aptness at motherhood, she doesn’t give a flying rat-fuck about the kid and turns it over to be raised by Big Pearl, after which Hammond takes up with Ellen practically full-time, throwing Blanche the occasional bone in hope of siring an heir.
Hammond once again leaves on business and Blanche, fed up with her husband’s interest in slaves detouring his attentions from her, drunkenly plots the ultimate revenge via her husband’s prize slave, Mede. Blanche orders Mede to fuck her senseless — an act which occurs “off screen” — pierces his ears with her gifts from Hammond, and has him service her several times during her hubbie’s absence. All of the slaves know about this sordid turn of events and Mede is flat out not into it, but as a docile slave he has no choice but to obey his mistress, despite fears of a horrible outcome should Hammond get a clue. The one unexpected wrinkle to the situation is Hammond’s young slave, Meg, informing Blanche in no uncertain terms that he will rat her out to the master if she doesn’t comply to his desire for some white poontang whenever he wants some, even getting his twin brother, Alph, in on the sexual blackmail. Inevitably, Blanche becomes preggers, but whose baby is it? When Hammond returns and learns of the new pregnancy he naturally assumes the child is his.
A Frenchman from New Orleans who is an obvious homosexual drops in after hearing about the twins, Alph and Meg, and offers an incredible sum of money to possess them, even offering to buy their mother, Lucretia Borgia, to keep them happy. Despite her vital role in the running of the household and her importance to the Maxwells in general, Hammond agrees to sell the loyal slave and her dickhead sons to the Frenchman, and after much crying and hand wringing the slave and her boys are bound to new lives in the Big Easy. Soon enough, however, Lucretia Borgia escapes back to Falconhurst, citing the increasingly assholish behavior of her sons while residing in the lap of comparative luxury as being just too intolerable to deal with (more intolerable than slavery?), so she returned to familiar surroundings on the back of a mule. After some half-hearted chastisement she is welcomed back to the fold and things return to normal; the Frenchman, apparently happy with his nightly bungholery of the twins, makes no attempt to reclaim Lucretia Borgia despite having legally purchased her (convenient for the plot, no?).
Blanche’s mother shows up to visit and ends up staying when she finds out about her daughter’s pregnancy, and her rampaging temperance and enforcement of religion drives both Hammond and his father to near insanity.
Then the big day comes and Blanche goes into labor, with Doc Redfield, his wife, “the widder,” and Blanche’s mother in attendance. When the child is born, he is the enormous spitting image of Mede, and upon seeing her grandson Blanche’s mother picks up the infant, smashes its brains out against the wall and hastily departs. When Hammond finds out the truth, he ices over and calmly poisons his wife with a toddy laced with the powder used by Doc Redfield to do away with slaves who are too old to be worth maintaining anymore (see THE MANDINGO PROJECT PART 1). Then he questions the house slaves as to their knowledge of the situation, discovering that everybody in the house but himself, his father and Blanche’s mother knew what was going on but could do nothing about it since they were bound to obey their mistress’ whims with no questions asked and no going to the master. In the course of the interrogations Hammond also learns that Blanche actively engaged in the jungle fever and was not raped, as Hammond and his father naturally assumed. “A white lady wantin’ to pleasure with a nigger? Preposterous!” But Hammond finally realizes that his wife was simply trash of the worst order, what with all the brother fucking and such.
Hammond limps out to Mede’s quarters and orders the Mandingo to fire up the gigantic hog-boiling kettle and keep the fire burning until the water reaches a high cooking temperature. He then forces the terrified Mede into the scalding water by using a pitchfork, holding him under the water until the heat kills him and covering the pot with a big lid. He then orders Lucy — Mede’s mother and lover, remember? — to keep the pot covered and keep it boiling until told otherwise. The Mede soup graphically simmers for two solid days — complete with a description of Hammond checking the stew and producing Mede’s partially-denuded skull on the end of his pitchfork —until the slave’s flesh has been completely rendered into a thick, bone-filled broth, after which it is poured into an open grave over the corpses of Blanche and her love-child, a bit of poetic “justice” since Hammond figures that if she wanted to be with a nigger so bad she could be with him for eternity. Hammond graciously allows a grieving Lucy to take Mede’s bones as a keepsake (!!!).
A weary Hammond returns to the big house and informs his father that he is going to find Alph and Meg and kill them for daring to fuck Blanche, after which he intends to move “to the Texies” so he can avoid being known to the locals as “Hammond Maxwell, whose wife pleasured with niggers.” His father is distraught upon hearing this intended course of action, but he assures his son that Falconhurst will be there for him if he should choose to return.
Then the whole fucking mess comes to a startlingly abrupt end.
So there you have it, a mercifully short summation of one of the most infamous books ever unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace.
A few final notes:
-It amazes me that the thing that most blew people’s minds about the book is Blanche’s forced seduction of Mede, an event that doesn’t occur until roughly the last fifty pages of a six hundred and fifty-nine page behemoth. One would think that in a book replete with virtually every form of sexual, violent and psychological perversion imaginable that would scandalize the audience of the late-1950’s — rape, incest, pedophilia, cross-dressing, homosexuality, sadomasochistic bedroom games with whips, castrations of slaves, torture, men biting chunks out of each other, raging alcoholism on nearly every page — the interracial coupling of a black man and a white woman would seem insignificant by comparison, but apparently not.
-Author Kyle Onstott was a writer of technical manuals and his orientation toward such volumes is very evident in his intricately detailed recounting of the minutia of the slave trade. While Onstott is clearly against such practices, his matter-of-fact detachment from the described atrocities only helps to lend a stark illumination to the horror and dehumanization involved, both for whites and blacks, and the fact that the high-falutin’ whites are portrayed as ignorant and oblivious to the fact that their world is both cripplingly insular and visibly decaying around them is rare for a narrative of this sort. At no point do we admire any of the white characters, and the reader’s opinion of them ranges from pity for their inhumanity and contempt for what a bunch of domination-mad assholes they are.
-The only black character in the entire book that is sympathetic in any way is Hammond’s bed wench, Ellen. She is the one truly sweet soul in the piece, without guile for anyone — except for Blanche, but, hey, the white bitch started that shit — and wanting nothing more than the love of her master. Sadly, she has no personality other than what is necessary for Hammond’s love object and she accepts her status as a privileged piece of property with no protest whatsoever, subservient in all ways to the bitter end. Interestingly, once the events with the killing of Mede are over and Hammond readies to go on his mission of vengeance against the twins and eventually relocate to “the Texies,” there is no mention at all of what will become of Ellen.
-The 1975 film adaptation, while seriously flawed in many ways, vastly improves over its source material by eliminating all of the extraneous subplots and diversions and tightening up the overall story structure. It also ups the sensationalism factor by rewriting parts of the story that needed tweaking, such as introducing Mede not as some schmuck hanging out at a plantation, but by having him show up in all of his Black Superman glory clad in naught but a loin cloth and getting his naughty bits shockingly inspected by a horny Dutch widow who intends to purchase him as a fuck toy, all while looking bored at all of it. The film’s handling of the Hammond/Ellen relationship is a lot more believable than that found in the novel and is truly bittersweet since the film acknowledges that their love may be true but when push comes to shove Ellen is still nothing more to Hammond than just a nigger, and that is all she ever will be, a fact that Hammond yells at her near the film’s end when his judgment is clouded by raging anger over the Blanche/Mede thing. The shattered look on Ellen’s face at that moment of unbridled truth will break your heart. Oh, and we also get to see full frontal nudity from Perry “Riptide” King in the role of Hammond Maxwell, so if you ever wanted to see a TV star’s dick…
-The film turned out to be an unintentional laugh riot for those of us who revel in offensiveness and truly bad movies, and while the whole movie is a gold mine of cinematic schlock special recognition must be accorded to Susan George, the Brit actress whose controversial performance in Sam Peckinpah’s classic study of the violence in man, STRAW DOGS, is still the subject of much discussion some thirty-four years after its release; George was cast as cousin Blanche, and her turn as the brother-fucking, interracial sex offender is one of the most hilariously over-the-top performances in the entire history of human civilization, much less the history of Hollywood. You simply have not lived until you witness her histrionics when Hammond accuses her of not being a virgin on their wedding night. Run out right fucking now and rent this film!
-The success of the novel lead to a sequel, DRUM, written by an ageing Onstott and assisted by his friend Lance Horner. It’s actually a pretty good read, certainly superior to its predecessor, but after that one Onstott croaked and Horner took the reins of the series (sometimes crediting Onstott as a co-author, which was outright bullshit), turning it into a long-running festival of outright potboilers that essentially created the genre known as “plantation porn.” All of the books that succeeded DRUM are howling trash, but a few are more entertaining to read than others; they jump back and forth in history, providing prequels and sequels to MANDINGO, all somehow featuring an appearance by Hammond Maxwell, whose age varies accordingly, thereby providing the only real link to the original book. The books in the series that are worth your reading time simply for the sleazy entertainment value are the following:
DRUM (1962)- the only legitimate sequel to MANDINGO and a cracking good read in its own right that does away with many of the structural and narrative deficiencies found in the original, presumably thanks to the input of lance Horner and an editor. Adapted to film in a drastically rewritten version in 1976; the movie features the great Warren Oates as an older Hammond Maxwell, Pam Grier as his current favorite, Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith as precocious interracial terrorist/ nymphomaniac Sophy, and somehow manages to be even more hilarious than the 1975 film.
MASTER OF FALCONHURST (1964)- in which a black man not only becomes the legal master of Falconhurst, but also marries the white Sophy Maxwell. Needless to say, much tragedy, sex and violence ensues.
FALCONHURST FANCY (1966)- my favorite of the series. In a departure from the other books, this installment focuses on a female protagonist, Dovie Verder, a plantation owner who is a lot more complex than any other character in the entire series and a strong, open-minded proto-feminist, and recounts her deep love affair with Colt, a slave so beautiful that his description brings to mind a Greek god. The usual sex and violence shenanigans are on hand again, but this time it’s utterly compelling and would have made for a great, if inflammatory, film. After this the series remained readable, but by that point it was all story via assembly line.
-Also of note is the fact that many of the books in the series feature the adventures of Bricktop, a redheaded mustee slave who is indistinguishable from a white man but for some brown markings on his torso that he keeps covered with his shirt. All of the books involving Bricktop feature him fucking everything in sight, including guys since “niggers ain’t got sense enough to care,” and he always gets engaged to some gorgeous southern belle after fucking her into puppy dog-like docility. His true status as a slave is soon revealed, and after a near-fatal beating upon discovery he escapes to find adventure and pussy in another book, leaving behind a pregnant white girl who doesn’t care if he was black since the dicking was just so good. If you read one book about Bricktop you have read them all, so the only one I’ll recommend is 1975’s GOLDEN STUD.
And now that I have MANDINGOed myself out, I have begun reading THE OTHER HOLLYWOOD, the oral history of the American porno film industry, in an attempt to get Falconhurst out of my head. Sure it’s sleazy, but at least it doesn’t involve slaves. Unless you take Linda Lovelace at her word…