Saturday, August 9, 2014

Abby (1974)

          Lest there be any doubt, Abby is a truly awful movie—even given the low expectations set by the premise, since Abby is nothing but a shameless riff on The Exorcist (1973) featuring an all-black cast. The scares are nonexistent, the script is schlocky, and the special effects are pathetic. However, the movie has one minor saving grace: William Marshall, the stentorian-voiced actor who lent unexpected dignity to the role of Blacula in two cheesy horror movies, plays the exorcist in Abby. Marshall’s elegant presence isn’t nearly enough to make Abby respectable, but his appearance is sufficient to make the movie watchable, at least periodically. It’s also worth noting that Abby was directed by William Girdler, who later made a string of colorful horror flicks—Grizzly (1976), Day of the Animals (1977), and the completely insane supernatural epic The Manitou (1978). Abby isn’t as slick as the later films, but it’s just as brazen and zippy.
          The story, naturally, involves a young woman being possessed by a demon. Specifically, after Bishop Garnet Williams (Marshall) accidentally releases an evil god named “Eshu” while exploring in Nigeria, Eshu invades the body of Garnet’s daughter-in-law, Abby (Carol Speed), who lives back in the U.S. with Garnet’s son, Emmett (Terry Carter). Violence, vomiting, and vulgarity follow, until Garent returns from Africa for a supernatural showdown. Giving the material a blaxploitation vibe, cowriter/director Girdler features the wholesome Abby speaking in crude street slang while possessed—for instance, before kicking Emmett in the crotch, she squeals, “Shit, you ain’t got enough to satisfy me!” In another scene, Abby experiences an orgasm while handling a piece of raw chicken on a kitchen counter. (Make your own “finger-lickin’ good” jokes.)
          While it’s all exactly as derivative and silly and tacky as it sounds. Marshall does what he can to play the material straight, especially when he performs with Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13), who plays Abby’s brother. Alas, neither Speed nor costar Terry Carter (a regular on the original Battlestar Galactica series) rise to the same level. Still, what’s not to like about a quasi-camp drive-in distraction that kicks off with Marshall releasing a demon by recklessly twisting the tiny wooden penis of a figurine that’s carved into the shell of wooden box? Safe to say Girdler harbored no illusions of making great art.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

William Marshall, what a survivor. He played Paul Robeson, he played Frederick Douglass, he played the hell out of Othello -- if only his screen career could have matched that. For me he will always be the brilliant scientist quietly going mad on the original Star Trek, the inventor of an "ultimate computer," saddled with the peculiarly ultra-white name Daystrom.