It’s been a long time since I took a look at any films from the Blaxploitation era of the 70s, so I decided to put these two stories of supernatural possession together for today’s Saturday Night Double Feature!…
Released Christmas day 1974, Abby was A.I.P.’s blaxploitation answer to The Exorcist, so much so, that Warner Brothers sued and got the film pulled from release. But not before it made a ton of cash on it’s low budget investment. Abby tells the story of a holy man (the great William ‘Blacula’ Marshall) who, while investigating an archeological dig in Nigeria, pertaining to their ancient Yoruba religion, accidentally releases the evil entity Eshu. The vile spirit shows it’s gratitude by possessing his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed). As the spirit takes hold and Abby becomes more and more vile in her behavior, Dr.Williams (Marshall) returns home to do battle with the demonic entity.
Abby is played very straight despite delivering some unintentional laughs. It’s very low budget, so it’s FX are limited to blowing wind, bizarre sounds and throwing furniture around while Abby speaks in an almost comically dubbed man voice, that was provided by Bob Holt, a prolific voice actor, complete with echo. Exploitation filmmaker William Girdler writes and directs and while despite trying to play it straight, most of possessed Abby’s vulgar talk and behavior just elicits laughs not chills. I do give credit to Carol Speed for just going with it and giving it her all despite how silly some of this comes off. Not to forget William Marshall, who once again brings a power and nobility to his role and maintains it despite how ridiculous things get. Still, you gotta like a movie that stages an African themed exorcism in a bar.
In Abby’s defense, there is some nice 70s nostalgia and unintentional laughs are a form of entertainment, so Abby is by no means a boring movie, it’s just not very scary or chilling. With a few beers it can be a hoot to watch and that’s just fine. Also stars Austin Stoker (Assault On Precinct 13) as Abby’s police officer brother.
EXTRA TRIVIA: Again actor William Marshall was involved in adding African culture to a film as he did with Blacula. It was he who added the use of the Yoruba religion in the film, though he apparently was still unhappy about the film’s final script. I don’t blame him.
3 possessed Abbys!
JD’S REVENGE (1976)
J.D.’s Revenge starts out in 1942 New Orleans as gangster J.D. Walker (David McKnight) is gunned down for a murder he didn’t commit, that of his own sister. Flash forward to 1976 New Orleans where Ike (Glynn E. Turman), a student working through law school, starts to have bloody hallucinations of a mysterious and violent man and soon starts to take on his characteristics against his will. A confused Ike seeks help, not realizing J.D. is back for revenge and using Ike’s body to do it.
As blaxploitation films go, this A.I.P. made flick looks good on a low budget and the acting (including future Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr. as a former mobster turned preacher, who figures in J.D.’s past) is actually pretty good, especially from Turman. What hurts J.D.’s Revenge is director Arthur Marks’ slow pace and that the film could have used some more intensity. That’s not to say there aren’t intense scenes, there are, especially during the last act, but the film does drag a bit early on. You would expect a bit more scares in a story of possession and revenge from beyond the grave. Marks seems to treat the material like a routine drama despite the violent and supernatural story and that takes away from the fun and makes it a bit too serious for this type of movie. It’s as if he wasn’t comfortable with the horror elements, despite the fact that this is indeed a horror film. If it wasn’t for Turman’s effective portrayal of Ike’s torment, J.D.’s Revenge would be far less watchable. And without giving anything away, the end was far too neat and clean.
As it is, it is a well made film but not as intense or fun as we’d like. It is a curiosity for those who enjoy films from this era and not without some nostalgic fun, but doesn’t quite live up to it’s cult reputation.
3 gangster possessed Ikes!