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Quadroon/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Quadroon

Quadroon: (def): A person who is one quarter black and three quarters white by descent.

Quadroon is one of Blaxploitation’s rarities: a picture that came and went in 1971 and then was re-released in 1976 on the heels of the blockbuster success of the like-themed Mandingo. Noteworthy for its unflinching look at New Orleans’ Creole society and caste system, Quadroon focuses on the life and times of a “bred to perfection” servant and concubine: a fair skinned bi-racial female who knows the game and has the means at hand to play it.

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As Coral, a tart-tongued, acutely aware and seethingly angry woman coming of age in 1835, Katherine McKee embodies the challenges associated with being the neighborhood’s dusky prized possession. A competent non-actress (as all the players in this movie are) her un-enviable plight stands in stark contrast to her patently enviable beauty. Caleb, (Tim Kincaid) is as dazzled by Coral—her face, figure and other charms—as we are. A Northerner just passing through New Orleans, after losing his money playing poker, Caleb finds himself charged with teaching Coral and other quadroon’s how to impress. Coral, you see, is about to be presented at the annual Quadroon Ball, a formal dance in which white slave masters choose Quadroon mistresses. Coral is compliant—but has a bite. When Caleb asks her why she excels in class she delivers a wallop.

  • Coral: “Do you like red meat?”
  • Caleb: “Yes, I do.”
  • Coral “And wouldn’t you like that red meat better if it could read and write?!”

In no time at all Caleb does the unthinkable: he falls in love with Coral. Now what to do? Coral has another man interested in her; his name is Mr. DuPree (George Lupo) and Lupo is a mainstay in town: a rich and sadistic neighborhood plantation owner. Will the nerdy but well meaning Caleb be able to negotiate Coral’s allegiance? Aiding and abetting the two new lovers are Madelyn Sanders as Celeste, Coral’s practical-minded mother, and Robert Priest as Antoine, the local authority, tour guide and, as it turns out, indoctrinator.

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A lynching, a slave auction, a gang rape, a death by sword and a suicide are all part of this spicy Southern gumbo. So is a Flute and Cello-embellished soundtrack, period costumes and a collection of stolen “Main Street” scenes.

A resplendent inversion of Hollywood’s glossy take on America’s tarnished race relations, Quadroon holds its own as an exploitation/blaxploitation cinema oddity. Pseudo French-American madness on a budget.

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Josiah Howard lives in New York City. His writing credits include articles for The New York Times, The Village Voice and Motion Picture. Currently he is adapting a previously published work for the big screen. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, he is a regular contributor to the film review website Grindhouse Cinema Database and in 2014 was featured in five episodes of TV One's award-winning documentary series Unsung.
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