Dir: Steve Carver, 1976
With the success of Mandingo, it was inevitable that a follow up would commence.
Based on the novel by Kyle Onstott, Drum is a sort of semi-sequel/spin off to his previous book, Mandingo, made into a movie by Richard Fleischer two years prior.
However, where Fleischer at least tried to make a serious film, director Steve Carver goes straight for the exploitation element that the original was accused of.
Perry King had the wisdom not to return as the handsome Hammond Maxwell, so his part is played by the gruff Warren Oates.
Oates takes the proceedings as though he’s in a play, rather than a film, hamming it up and overacting so much that he couldn’t get a part in an Australian soap.
Clearly never having seen the ’74 film, Oates does away with all of King’s characterisation and substitutes his own, even going so far as to forget that Hammond is supposed to have an injured leg. To portray the slave owner, Oates plays the character as a black hating scumbag, with no hope of redemption or any laudable qualities. King’s portrayal was of an awful man but who had love inside him and was a man of the times.
Like the original, Drum was scripted by Norman Wexler but, this time, he seems to have intentionally written the film as a parody of his earlier work, Mandingo.
Regarding the use of slur words against black people, Wexler’s Fleischer directed script was quite staid, with only a handful of prejoratives employed.
Here, the n-word is thrown about, liberally, by anybody who has lines, to anybody regardless of their colour.
Ken Norton returns, albeit a different character, the titular Drum. In all intents and purposes, Norton’s Drum is just Norton’s Mede from the previous film.
Drum is, purely, a cash-in on a controversial title while riding the wave of blaxploitation films.
Pam Grier stars as Drum’s girlfriend, Regine. A popular presence in blaxploitation films of the time, Grier made her mark in Hollywood with titles like The Big Bird Cage, Black Momma White Momma, Coffy and Foxy Brown. Her inclusion to the cast helps support the exploitation theory.
A lot about Drum feels tawdry and sleazy. There doesn’t seem to be anything serious about the film, going for cheap thrills and titillation with sex and violence.
Overacted and campy, Drum is a poor imitation of a not so good film.