Slaves and Night of the Living Dead (1969)

Well here’s a story I’ve touched on, but never really told. Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968. I was around 15 years old, I missed it, but heard the horror stories about it. “People get eaten”, “the ghouls crack open bones and suck out the marrow” . A dog has a cop’s severed head in it’s mouth.” All bullshit, but that was the ballyhoo sounding the film. Me and my friend, Tommy, really wanted to see it.

So in 1969, it gets released as the bottom feature with a film called Slaves. Here was our chance to see it, and we didn’t care about Slaves. Both films were released by The Walter Reade Organization. So I take a bus to Tommy’s house and we walk to The Embassy Theater on Main street in Orange N.J. We cut though a cemetery which wasn’t a real good idea in retrospect.

So we sat though Slaves, which was almost two hours. The only thing I recalled about that film was that Ossie Davis was whipped to death at the end. This film popped into my head a few days ago. I decided to track it down. It wasn’t released on DVD, Blu Ray, and I couldn’t find a VHS tape of it either. So I find it on youtube. Not the greatest print, but I’m curious. After viewing it I thought how did we walk out of that theater without getting a beat down? 

The film falls into the race-hate category. It is racist and inflammatory. It is true exploitation at it’s worst. Maybe it didn’t set out to be that way, but that’s the way it was promoted. It was directed by one of the blacklisted Hollywood 10, Herbert J Biderman. Biderman also wrote it. Stephen Boyd, Dionne Warwick, and Ossie Davis star. I’m thinking Ossie took the role to work with Biderman. Ossie was an activist for Civil Rights and perhaps he thought this was a good platform. 

Davis is Luke, a loyal slave who is educated. But his master is in trouble. He owes slave trader ,Holland, some money. Holland, played by David Huddleson, wants to use the plantation as a breeding farm.”Black babies go for $200 each” he tells him. Now you see the road this is taking. Not wanting this to happen, he sells Holland two slaves. Luke is one of them. Now he has to say goodbye to his family forever and shackles are put on him.

Luke is put in an auction. Here we meet Captain Mackay, played by Stephen Boyd. He buys a girl, but won’t buy her mother. He also buys Luke and tells him that he is going to break him. Mackay is a total scumbag and Boyd made a career playing sadistic characters. Mackay has Cassy ( Warwick) as his house girl. There is a scene where he is almost raping her as she spits in his face. The dialog is incendiary as all hell. Mackay proudly tells a group of fellow slave owners that he started in the trade by bringing slaves in from Africa. ” If we got 40% of them here alive, we made a good profit” he brags.

One man brings up the fact that Mackay’s slaves have about a 4 year life expectancy. Mackay tells him “ If I want to work my slaves 18 hours a day, I do it, they can be replaced.” Mackay is such a prick that he refuses a pregnant slave medical care saying that God will take care of it. A lot of religious crap is in this for some reason. The woman dies but Mackay says that he can sell the baby for $300.

Luke is now determined to escape with the baby, Cassy, and the girl Mackay bought to breed with. He has his fellow slave, Jericho, ready to set a building on fire. The girls fake escaping into the swamp and hide in an out building. They are helped to escape by a couple of women abolitionists. Luke refuses to tell Mackay where the girls are hiding. Mackay whips him to death. One slave mutters as Mackay keeps whipping Luke, “Can’t that fool see that Luke is dead? “ Jericho sets the fire and the plantation burns while the women escape. None of this bothers Mackay as he looks at the burning buildings and says I’ll just rebuild everything.

This film has slipped though the cracks. The Walter Reade Organization released films like Dynamite Chicken, Son of Godzilla, Ebrirah, Horror of the deep, Faces and a few others. This is not a Blaxploitation film, those came later. This was promoted as pure exploitation. Davis, Boyd and Warwick are great in their roles. But the film is a downer. The print on you tube is missing several minutes. Lets see if me talking about this gets an official release.


One Thought on ““Slaves” and “Night of the Living Dead” (1969)”

  • There are places to see this film. It is on YouTube. Gray market dealer DVD Lady offers a DVD-r for 12.00 plus postage. Elvis DVD Collector & Movies store sells a DVD-r for 9.95 plus postage and offers a download. Trash Palace offers it for 13.00 or 9.00. Some movies slip through the cracks. Still looking for a 1975 comedy called ‘Loose Ends’ starring Chris Mulkey or a 1997 indie flick ‘Ramming Speed’ by Dwight Greene that have never been released either.

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