- Dionne Warwick
- Ossie Davis
- Stephen Boyd
A Kentucky slave fights for his freedom from cruel overseer whose mistress eventually joins Davis and the other slaves in their revolt.
Released theatrically on July 2, 1969,the film wasn't seen elsewhere within its general release until either August of 1969 or 1970,the film "Slaves!" was something to remember for those who went to see this in the theatres when it was released. I was too young to see it then,but I do recall seeing it again when I was in college during a screening of the film in February during Black History Month. "Slaves!" was produced through an independent film company called Continental films,which was by the way the same low-budget film studio that was known for movies with intense subject matter,among them "Black Like Me",and "Nothing But A Man" that were released five years earlier.
"Slaves!" was one of those revisionist dramas set in the Old South that became somewhat of a inept melodrama within itself dealing the horrors of slavery,rebellion and so forth. This was an revisionist melodrama set on a plantation during slavery. The story deals with a Kentucky slave(Ossie Davis),standing up for his rights and for others on the plantation when he is unjustly sold to a bad and tyrannical overseer(Stephen Boyd) whose mistreatment and cruel intentions towards him and the others slaves drives him to foment a slave uprising against his master. Director Herbert J. Biberman depends largely upon heavy dialogue rather than visuals to convey the historical reality of the terrible injustices of slavery. While it is an important subject about the cruel and terrible punishment and the unjustly conditions of human beings,but it is done very poorly and it shows. "Slaves!" upon its release in 1969 came out during the time of civil unrest in America with the violent in the streets of America's largest cities,and the demonstrations that occurred within our neighborhoods not to mention people were still angry and bitter and reeling over the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr. and Bobby Kennedy the previous year....not to mention the escalating chaos of the Vietnam War.
"Slaves!" also marked the theatrical debut of R&B songstress Dionne Warwick in her first feature role as "Cassy" one of the slaves that assists Ossie Davis in his revolt against the sadistic and tyrannical master. Warwick's performance here is not to standard,and it shows. It is laughable at times and sometimes outlandish. However,this was Dionne Warwick's first and only attempt at doing theatrical films. But the real disappointment comes from Stephen Boyd who is so over the top here its downright funny. Stephen Boyd went from starring opposite Charlton Heston in "Ben-Hur" to the lowest downpoint in his career as the sadistic overseer. The rest of the cast includes Gale Sondergaard, David Huddleston,Julius Harris,Marilyn Clark,and Nancy Coleman. I do remember this movie,upon its release had a strong "M" rating for several scenes of full frontal nudity,scenes of graphic violence and one intense scene of a rape(that included Ms. Warwick and Mr. Boyd). Had a good subject matter,but within it all,:"Slaves!" was just downright horrible.