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DRUM was sheer exploitation entertainment

If you watch DRUM, you can't avoid but come away entertained, especially at the over-the-top way and campy, hillbilly-like dialogue of supposedly educated, rich white plantation owner, Hammond Maxwell, played by actor Warren Oates. It was hilarious. I realize that Warren Oates is most likely not a racist himself and therefore played his racist plantation owner role with comic relish.

Sometimes when an actor has to play a charactor role completely opposite to his own real personality, the results can look anywhere from 'forced', stilted, to campy or quasi-comic, possibly deliberately done that way. It reminded me of the time I watched the late, great actor, Charles Bronson, having to play the role of a bigoted white man whose daughter is fondled by a drunk, Japanese executive man on a subway train. Playing the role of a bigot was so distasteful to Bronson that he didn't come across as a realistic bigot and his face carried that distasteful look all through the movie as if he just ate something awful. Bronson resumes his normal, good acting later in the movie when the Japanese executive turns out to be a dutiful, normal father whose own daughter is kidnapped and multiple-raped by a gang of kidnappers looking for young girls for a prostitution ring. When Bronson sees the Japanese man break down and cry, his own heart melts to see the man as another human, realizing to himself that not all Japanese men were samurai servants of the emperor with balls of steel.

But back to DRUM. Drum did not take as serious a tack as Mandingo attempted. The producers must have deliberately intended built-in campy exploitation whereas with Mandingo there was the serious attempt from the start to produce a serious, ROOTS-like human drama. Warren Oates' Maxwell Drummond character doesn't come across as anything like an intelligent, purposeful plantation businessman. He seems to carry his brains between his legs instead. The sadistic, effete, bisexual French-accent Creole and his effeminite, younger sidekick are laughable characters who hardly garner any sympathy with their brutal deaths at the movie's end.

Ken Norton starred in Mandingo and Drum. Correct me if I'm wrong. I thought Norton was supposed to be a half-black, half-white character in Mandingo. But if his descendant in Drum, also played by Norton, had a white parent, then shouldn't Drum be a quadroon, that is, 1/4th black? If that's the case, Drum should look more white than black.


I am in the process of watching this on Netflix and have not finished it. But from what I have seen I agree with jeffyoung1. I think it is so bad its good. That's the best way I can describe it. The script is ridiculous. The acting is on the campy, B-movie side. And yet this film is quite watchable. I laughed through the parts I did see. This movie is offensive, but it shows the plantation owner as the damned idiot he was. It isn't too much kinder to the rest of the slave-owners. If you are easily offended I would stay away. But if you want to see a wonderfully crappy, sleazy, offensive sh**feast then by all means watch away!


I notice that the original post is very old, but since there are very few threads on this board, I would respond anyway and perhaps this would start off again the discussion. First, there were a few mistakes, though not really important. The name of the Warren Oates' character (played by Perry King in the original Mandingo) should be Hammond Maxwell. Also, there was no suggestion that Drum was the "descendant" of Mede, though both were played by Ken Norton.

Drum was obviously a blaxploitation film, but I do not agree with the interpretation that Hammond was just some kind of an idiot in the film. I agree though, that Warren Oates' acting was much more over-the-top compared to that of Perry King and thus much of the subtlety in the character was lost. Still, there was much more complexity in the Hammond character compared to the one-dimensional stereotypes in the two films.

There was no doubt that Hammond was a product of the system, but there was some (though perhaps not too much) basic decency in the character. He had to do things that the culture and society of the time required of him, and might even have enjoyed having black "bed wenches". However, there were also certain aspects of the system that he definitely did not like and we see his internal conflicts in many scenes. He was definitely against using violence on the slaves. In Mandingo, he felt sick when his cousin hit a slave girl, and Ellen remarked that he was the only master she knew who was bothered by that. He loved Ellen and promised to free her baby. When Mede was losing his fight with the champion, he cried out that he wanted to yield so that he would not cause Mede further harm. We see the same in Drum. As the master, he had to punish Blaise for fighting with Drum, but he flinched with every stroke as if he was the one that was hit, and cried out to stop it saying that he had counted thirty. At the end of the film, he had the chance to kill Drum but let him go.

But at the same time Hammond was part of the system. In the first film, he had gone along with his father to murder his wife and the black baby to prevent "dishonor" on the family. In this film, I doubt Hammond even believed his daughter's charges of rape but decided to punish Blaise anyway. At the end, he told Drum to run because as the master he had to kill Drum if he remained.

The blacks in the film were in a way products of the system too. I read that Norton had been criticized for playing so many "Uncle Tom" roles. In this film, he in a way caused the revolt but remained "loyal" to his master and refused to let others harm his wife. When Lucretia Borgia knew of the revolt, the first thing she did was to inform her "master".

Thus Drum was undoubtedly an exploitation film and many scenes were over the top. Yet I do not think it was complete trash. From time to time, there were scenes that revealed certain depths and complexities in the characters.