Blackenstein…. VERY BAAAAAADDDD!
When Blacula hit box office gold in 1972, studios went clammering for any and all monster property that they could turn on it’s head and make genre fodder. Micro studio Prestige Pictures Exclusive International was right there to throw their hat in the ring with their own interpretation of the Frankenstein legend Blackenstein: Black Frankenstein (just in case you couldn’t figure out the name they had to throw that last bit in there.). Written and Produced by attorney-turned-filmmaker Frank Saletri and directed by William Levey, Blackenstein stands as a bit of a stain in the canon of Blaxploitation Horror from the early seventies – is stain the correct word?
With a cast that could barely pass the bar in a high school production, the story sludges through 87 minutes in the most ridiculous of ways. Joe De Sue plays Eddie Turner, the soon to be Blackenstein monster, this guy had never acted in a film and never would again. He delivers his lines in a near catatonic state in a voice that can closely be compared to that of Cleveland from Family Guy, but when it comes to being a monster he even does that poorly. I’ll go on about this later, but first familiarize yourself with the story, I’m spilling it all for you, thus saving you 87 minutes of your life.
Winifred is a young doctor who flies to Los Angeles to seek out the help of her previous mentor Dr. Stein. Stein has won the nobel prize DNA modification or some shit like that and she thinks that he can help her. Winifred arrives at Stein’s lofty mansion in the hills of Los Angeles and is greeted by his very strange and socially inept assistant Malcolm. Stein invites her to dinner and she asks that he allows her to stay on as an assistant to the doctor.
The next day the two travel to the Veteran’s hospital to meet Winifred’s boyfriend Eddie Turner, a Vietnam veteran who was severely injured during the war when he stepped on a land mine and lost both his arms and legs. When we meet Eddie, he is confined to his hospital bed where he is being attended to by a rather nasty male nurse. Eddie asks the attendant for ice cream which sends the attendant into a rage. The nurse begins to berate Eddie for being a soldier and we find out that the man was rejected by the service and now carries a grudge against servicemen. The guy is a total fucking creep so you know he’s going to get it at some point.
Winifred introduces Eddie to Dr. Stein who proposes that they attempt to replace Eddie’s limbs with the help of his genetic work. He reluctantly accepts and is taken back to Stein’s mansion where his treatment begins. Once Eddie has been settled, we meet Eleanor, a ninety year old woman who has been receiving DNA treatments from the doctor to help reverse her age. She looks surprisingly young and we are informed that she has to receive her injections every twelve hours to keep her on track. We then meet Bruno, an elderly patient who has had a new leg grafted on, but has had one of his legs turned into some sort of tiger pattern supposedly the result of bad RNA reactions? I don’t know, they never go any farther with that plot point.
Eddie’s treatments begin and a little at a time he is put back together with the help of Dr. Stein’s DNA therapy. Later that night, Bruno begins to act insane and it is explained that this is the result of a reaction to the serum he is being injected with, and apparently it only lasts for a short time. This is a weird part of the movie where they shoe horn in a scene with Eddie right in the middle of the whol Bruno going crazy part. The scene tries to show Eddie’s progress, but then they just shoot right back to the scene with Bruno.
Down in the lab, Winifred is approached by Malcolm confesses his love for her. She tells him that she loves Eddie and that after he gets better the two intend to be married. She hopes that this doesn’t affect their friendship – sure, not at all. Pissed as all hell, Malcolm switches around Eddie’s DNA injections with some other chemicals because if he can’t get her one way, he’ll get her another.
That night they attempt the final procedure in Eddie’s treatment, the limbs are grafted on successfully, but when they administer his injections things go wrong and Eddie is sent into convulsions while the lab equipment around them all spit and spark. As a precaution they move him into the “room” next to the lab which is basically a caged cell where they continue to administer the bad juice into his system.
Eddie awakes from his injections in the basement of the mansion groaning and moaning and sporting a full on Frankenstein suit complete with patent leather shoes! He hulks through the laboratory and out into the daylight, there we finally get a look at his monstrous silhouette – giant protruding forehead and all! It all just looks so terrible! His flesh is like a blue tone, but he still has a perfect afro coming off of the big dome on his head. I still can’t figure out how they got him all dressed in a suit when he just had limbs surgically grafted on.
This movie just gets stranger…
Somehow he gets from the doctor’s mansion to the Veteran’s hospital where we first met him and where he was berated by the creepy male nurse. Well it doesn’t take Eddie long to find this asshole and dispatches him in brutal form – tearing off his limbs and leaving him for dead. And then Eddie peaces out of the hospital.
Oh his way back he comes across a big white shaggy dog who belongs to a sleazy 70’s couple. The wife insists that the husband go see what the dog is barking about and of course doesn’t come back. She gets curious and searches outside and is met head on by BLACKENSTEIN who tears her guts out and howls to the night! Then somehow he shuffles back to the mansion with no one the wiser.
Back at the mansion Malcolm gets creepier and creepier with Winifred, the dude is just counting the days until he can make the hook up happen. Fearing that something is amiss with Eddie’s treatments, Winifred decides to look into the formula of DNA that they’ve been administering (you know, the one Malcolm fucked with?) and she just can’t figure out what’s going on. These “DNA” containers are a crack up – they’re basically a hydrogen peroxide bottle with a handwritten label that says “Eddie DNA”.
As Winifred is passed out in the lab from her intense research, Blackenstein sneaks out yet again. As he is shuffling through a park, a young couple decide to park their convertible, toss in an 8-track, and get cozy. The dude is pretty touchy feely with the lady who rebuts his advances, she gets fed up with his shit and leaves the car – which drives away. Alone on a dock in the park Blackenstein attacks the woman and drags her off into the night.
The next morning, Dr. Stein summons Winifred to the laboratory where they discover the caged Eddie grunting and visibly aggressive. I still don’t know what the hell a nice mansion like this has a full on cage for? They decide that they will have to lock him in. A captain and lieutenant pay Dr. Stein a visit asking questions about the recent murders in the area. Then out of no where we cut to Blackenstein trodding through some sort of abandoned industrial area – who the hell let him out wasn’t his ass supposed to be locked in?
Cut to funky 70’s lounge and an entertainer telling some cheesy ass jokes and here comes the obligatory music scene. The joke man steps out in the alley for a smoke as Blackenstein rambles past towards a couple who are about to get it on. Blackenstein kills the dude and then goes for the woman who eventually gets her guts ripped out by the monster.
Police show up to the scene and disperse searching for the assailant. Blackenstein just sort of shuffles past the police cars and on into the night. Back at the mansion, Malcolm has finally let it all go and is seen trying to assault Winifred, just in time Blackenstein breaks it up and breaks Malcolm in half. Winifred runs away terrified summoning the doctor to the laboratory. As he makes his way through the house, the monster attacks the two other patients being cared for by the doctor, presumably killing them both.
Blackenstein finally makes his way down to the laboratory towards Winifred, as she calls his name he begins to back off but he is attacked from behind by Dr, Stein. The monster slams Stein into laboratory equipment creating a firestorm of B movie sparks. Outside of the mansion (maybe a neighbor?) is getting into her dune buggy to drive off into the night when she is attacked by the monster and then carried to an old mill looking place.
The woman frantically runs away but is pursued by the monster that is not known for hauling much ass. This lady should be able to get out of here in one piece no problem but instead of just taking off into the night, she tries climbing a ladder and gets her guts ripped out.
And now we call in the dogs…
A pack of Dobermans are released on the monster and they tear the shit out of him. The dogs rip his arms off, tear open his guts and leave his ass there dead and bleeding… and that’s pretty much it. Winifred leaves the mansion and the credits roll.
This movie is ridiculous. I wanna try and be cool and find something funny/ironic about it, but it’s just shit. When it was getting closer to the end of the film I wondered how they were going to wrap this one up, and they couldn’t have given a shit less. The guy can’t be killed by men or bullets, but you send in a couple of Dobies and his ass is taken out and torn apart.
For a blaxploitation film, this surprisingly had very little racial undertones. Even the nasty orderly in the hospital doesn’t spit any racial venom towards Eddie, just frustration over being turned down for the service. I guess the only subtle hint of anything close to that is the fact that Eddie lost his limbs in what many historically called Vietnam a “white man’s war”. This is refreshing, but at the same really dulls the entire story down (if it could be any more dull). The monster attacks all and sees no color, except red when he tears out their guts.
Is this the worst of the Blaxploitation Horror genre? Yes. Yes it is.
Be sure to check out our continuing coverage of the best of Blaxploitation Horror and come check out Sugar Hill Friday February 19th at 10pm at the Blue Mouse theater in Tacoma WA!