Slaves

  • 1969
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

A sincere, but ineptly handled and badly dated, attempt to illustrate the evils of American slavery while showing sympathy and understanding for all involved. The result is a misfired mess that becomes frequently laughable because of the unfocused, pretentious, and overambitious nature of the screenplay. Davis stars as the favorite slave of a Kentucky rancher...read more

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A sincere, but ineptly handled and badly dated, attempt to illustrate the evils of American slavery while showing sympathy and understanding for all involved. The result is a misfired mess that becomes frequently laughable because of the unfocused, pretentious, and overambitious nature of

the screenplay. Davis stars as the favorite slave of a Kentucky rancher who is forced to sell his holdings circa 1850. Mississippi plantation owner Boyd buys Davis and two other slaves (Kya-Hill, King) from the rancher and transports them south. A former slave-ship captain, Boyd is an educated man

with an appreciation for African culture, a fact that is demonstrated by the African art that adorns his home. Unfortunately, he is also cruel and vents his hostility on his slaves, especially on his black mistress, Warwick. Although he generously provides nice clothing and jewelry for Warwick, he

never hesitates to degrade and humiliate her privately or publicly. Davis' deep distrust of Boyd turns to outrage when the vicious plantation owner allows a slave woman to die during childbirth rather than call a doctor for her. Davis decides to raise the child as his own and vows that the infant

girl will never be a slave. The complacent Warwick begins to see things through Davis' eyes and draws strength from him. One night when Boyd is drunk, Warwick defies the slave owner and threatens him with a knife. Davis interrupts the scene, disarms Warwick, and promises to help her escape before

Boyd can take revenge. Aided by Kya-Hill, Davis hides Warwick, King, and the baby girl in an attic. Boyd learns of the plan and tortures Kya-Hill to learn the whereabouts of the women. Failing to make the slave betray the fugitives, Boyd cleverly offers Davis his freedom in exchange for the

information. When the noble black refuses, he is killed. Davis' sacrifice serves to unite the other slaves on the plantation, and they set fire to the cotton fields to divert attention from the women in the attic, fleeing during the chaos. For all its good intentions, SLAVES is really no better

than overwrought melodrama seeking to exploit the racial unrest of the 1960s. Davis is much too old to be convincing in his virile role. Boyd chews up the scenery. And Warwick, in her movie debut, is a better singer than an actress. SLAVES was the first film in 15 years to be directed by Herbert

J. Biberman following the blacklisting he suffered in the 1950s. Finally able to return to the set, Biberman used the opportunity to return his wife, Sondergaard, to the screen, for she too had been blacklisted. Unfortunately, her appearance in this slightly embarrassing effort is best

forgotten.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A sincere, but ineptly handled and badly dated, attempt to illustrate the evils of American slavery while showing sympathy and understanding for all involved. The result is a misfired mess that becomes frequently laughable because of the unfocused, pretent… (more)

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