February 5th, 2008

ABBY (1974) **

 

Abby has a long, mangled history that’s made it one of the more sought after titles in horror history.  The story behind Abby’s mysterious disappearance is actually more interesting than the movie itself.  Abby was released hot on the heels of Warner Brothers’ smash hit The Exorcist.  Since the movie is more or less a blaxploitation version of The Exorcist (in fact AIP considered briefly naming the film The Blaxorcist), Warners sued and the film was quickly withdrawn from circulation.  Later a court ruled that Warner Brothers didn’t have a monopoly on films the featured possessions and exorcisms, but for whatever reason the film was never released on video.  Thanks to DVD, the film is finally out, but I’m not necessarily sure it was worth the wait.   

 

The story follows an upstanding Christian woman named Abby (Carol Speed from The Mack) as she and her husband (Terry Carter) move into a new house.  Meanwhile in Nigeria, her father in law (Blacula himself, William Marshall) excavates an ancient artifact which is more or less an African version of Pandora’s Box.  He unwisely opens the box and a malevolent spirit is unleashed and possesses Abby.  Pretty soon, she begins cutting herself, having coughing fits, and finally starts cursing in a demon voice.  (“I’m not your ho!”)  She starts abusing her husband and hits him in the crotch and begins to question his virility to others.  After she gives an old white woman a heart attack, Carter puts her into a hospital to get help.  She quickly escapes and goes out on the town seducing men and killing them.  In the end, Marshall returns from Africa to perform the much delayed exorcism with the help of his sons Carter and Austin (Assault on Precinct 13) Stoker.    

 

Even though the movie was clearly modeled on The Exorcist, it’s not the most blatant copycat out there.  The only things Abby has in common with the Pea Soup Champion of ’73 is that she’s possessed by a demon and receives an exorcism, has a mass quantity of x-rays taken at the hospital, and a subliminal white faced demon shows up periodically.  Abby is not a helpless teenager, but a married woman whose marriage is torn apart by her possession.  The subplot with her picking up men and killing them definitely strays from William Friedkin’s classic, as does the African roots of the demon.  (Although oddly enough, the demon from Exorcist 2 came from Africa.)  The most telling aspect of the film is that Abby throws up WHITE vomit and not Linda Blair style GREEN puke, obviously a sign that the filmmakers were trying to do something original here. 

 

The prospect of a blaxploitation version of The Exorcist isn’t a bad idea per se, but unfortunately director William (The Manitou) Girdler doesn’t liven things up enough.  The Exorcist was a deliberately paced flick, but at least it delivered on the goods.  Abby never once rises above the obviously cheap material, which is a shame, because this flick had a lot of potential.  I guess the fact that the film’s been unavailable for so long built up some kind of high expectations, because in the end, it just didn’t do a whole lot for me. 

 

The performances are fine, with Speed and Marshall doing a great job in the exorcism scenes, but even they can’t save the film’s lethargic pacing.  But hey, at least it’s better than Exorcist 2. 

 

AKA:  Possess My Soul. 

THREE ON A MEATHOOK (1972) ***

 

Let’s talk poetry for a second.  Have you ever in your life heard a more poetic title for a movie than Three on a Meathook?  Doesn’t it just exude the same kind of magical wonderment found in the works of Shelley and Byron?  Doesn’t the title Three on a Meathook just give you a warm tingling feeling inside?  It’s hands down one of the greatest titles in the history of cinema. 

 

As for the film itself, it doesn’t quite live up to the title, but it DOES feature three women hanging from a meathook so you can’t accuse them of false advertising.   

 

A shy young man named Billy leers as a bunch of hot chicks go skinnydipping.  When their car breaks down, he gives them a lift to his house to spend the night.  His disgruntled father disapproves and chides, “You know what happens to you when you get around women!” 

 

Of course we all know what happens, don’t we?  He goes kill crazy and butchers them all up.  First girl gets it while she’s taking a bath (it’s kind of like a vertical version of the shower scene in Psycho), two more get mowed down with a shotgun and the final girl gets it via one of the greatest decapitations ever witnessed on the silver screen.  The axe goes through her neck and into the wall.  The girl’s head stays flush on top of the axe while her body falls to the ground.  Brilliant. 

 

And this is the first TWENTY MINUTES folks. 

 

Little Billy wakes up with no memory of killing the women, but Pa jogs his memory for him.  “I told ya son, but you didn’t listen!”  Pa loves his son so much that he covers up his murders and tells him saying, “Try to forget it, son!”

 

So Billy goes out and walks up and down the streets of the city in an extended Midnight Cowboy style scene, except instead of “Everybody’s Talking”, it’s some fourth rate Three Dog Night wannabes singing “You Gotta Be Free!”  Billy goes to a bar to drown his sorrows in drink while the Three Dog Night cover band plays ANOTHER terrible song in it’s entirely to make him even more depressed. 

 

He gets shitfaced and is picked up by a cocktail waitress name Sherry who takes him home.  The next morning she informs him that he wet his pants in the middle of the night and she had to wash his jeans for him.  This leads to the best dialogue exchange of the whole film. 

 

“Would you like some breakfast?”

 

“No, but I’d like my pants though.”

 

After a lot of initial awkwardness, they go on a date.  He especially wows her when he tells her a story about the time he split his pants as a little kid.  (You’d think a guy with this much pants related trauma wouldn’t be suitable boyfriend material, but then again, I’ve never been able to understand women, so what do I know?)  When the date is over he thanks her for everything and she replies “Maybe you can do something like that for me some day.” 

 

Gee, I wish some girl would discreetly ask me to wash her piss stained drawers.

 

This leads to a lot of romantic scenes of Billy and Sherry frolicking in open fields that are filmed with all the intimacy of a tampon commercial.  He invites Sherry and her friend back to his house where Pa cooks them some strange meat.  Pa assures them all, “It’s veal!” 

 

Audience Poll:  Do you think the “veal” is actually the four skinnydippers? 

 

That night, Billy gives Sherry a taste of HIS veal, if you know what I mean, but he only lasts about 30 seconds.  Heck, if she still loves him after pissing himself, a little thing like premature ejaculation won’t worry her one bit.  Afterwards, Sherry’s friend ends up with a pick axe in her abdomen and then… there’s a fairly decent “surprise twist” that I won’t reveal for you. 

 

Sherry gets out of bed and starts looking for her missing friend until she wanders out into the shed and finds out WHY the film is called Three on a Meathook. 

 

In the Psycho inspired ending, a psychiatrist gives an unnecessarily lengthy explanation as to why the killer does what he does. 

 

The film is usually dismissed as a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre copy, but this flick was actually released two whole years BEFORE Chainsaw.  It’s actually closer to Psycho, except there’s a cannibalism subplot.  Like both of those films, it is based (very loosely) on the real life exploits of America’s most notorious serial killer Ed Gein. 

 

Director William Girdler does a fine job with all the gory exploitation goodies.  He delivers on the blood and dismemberment and shows more than a fair share of female flesh.  While the film tends to drag during Billy’s courtship of the waitress, there’s enough of the red stuff to go around to make up for it.   

 

The film co-stars Linda Thompson (who was famous primarily because she dated Elvis) making her film debut.  She also shows the world her rack, so that probably at least made the King happy.

FIVE BLOODY GRAVES (1970) ½ *

 

Director Al Adamson has done some pretty awful movies in nearly every genre, so it’s no surprise that a western directed by him would be equally as shitty.  As Adamson flicks go, it’s no Dracula vs. Frankenstein, but at least it’s better than Psycho A Go-Go. 

 

Robert Dix stars as a cowboy who is on a quest for vengeance to find the Apache Indian named Satago (future director John “Bud” Cardos), the man responsible for his wife’s death.  Dix saves one woman from being turned into an Apache love slave and warns her and her husband to skedaddle because even more Indians are on their way.  Of course they don’t listen and they end up getting their wigs torn off.  (I would say “scalped”, but clearly the Indians just pull the wigs off the tops of their heads.) 

 

Then Satago finds a squaw who’s been shacked up with a white man.  He doesn’t like it much so he beats the guy within an inch of his life and leaves the squaw out for the vultures.  Two cowpokes find her tied up in the middle of the desert and one of them decides to rapes her. 

 

Let’s talk about rape in movies for a second folks.  We’ve had some brutal rape scenes in the movies before.  Anyone who’s seen I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left or Ms. 45 can attest to that.  But let me tell you something, you’ve not seen anything like the rape scene in Five Bloody Graves.  I am not stretching my imagination when I tell you that it lasts .012678 of a second.  Seriously, the guy leans over the squaw, doesn’t even thrust ONCE and is DONE.  Incredible.  He rewards her generosity by shooting her in the face.  Honestly, I think it takes her longer to die than it did for him to finish.  

 

After that bit of business, Dix comes to the aid of Scott Brady and his band of whores to fend off some more Apaches.  The duo of rapists also joins the caravan and when the husband of the rapee finds the man who did it, he gets revenge by giving him a Bowie knife to the gizzard.  Satago finally puts an arrow through the entire cast except for Dix.  Unfortunately, he runs out of arrows and Dix throws him off a waterfall. 

 

I LIKE westerns, but they aren’t my bread and butter.  I only watched this flick primarily because of Adamson’s involvement and to see John Carradine play yet another priest, but this flick is one of his all time worse.  The film is loaded with stupefying narration that’s spoken by “Death”, but anyone could plainly see that “Death” is clearly the editor’s way of holding the slipshod plot together.  Dix (who also wrote this inexorable excrement) makes for a pretty pathetic hero and at one point gets out-acted by his horse. 

 

The music in this sucker is equally atrocious.  (It was obviously taken from other movies and haphazardly edited in.)  At one point, Brady clutches his beloved dead whore and striptease music inexplicably plays. 

 

What’s worse, it that there are only TWO graves in the entire movie and not one of them are bloody.  (At least a movie like Three on a Meathook has the balls to actually give you what the title implies.)  Even if you count the two people who are tied up and left for the vultures as being in a “grave”, that still only makes FOUR.  We DO get to see a little bit of blood every now and then, like when somebody gets an arrow into their abdomen, but it’s about enough to fill a medicine dropper. 

 

AKA:  Five Bloody Days to Tombstone.  AKA:  Gun Riders.  AKA:  The Lonely Man.

NURSE SHERRI (1978) **

 

A religious cult leader gets stabbed to death by a bunch of greedy doctors on the operating table.  His soul takes the form of lemon and lime colored negative scratches that possess a cute nurse named Sherri (Jill Jacobson) while she sleeps.  In no time at all, Sherri starts talking in the cult leader’s voice and begins murdering the doctors responsible for his death.  First guy gets a pitchfork rammed though his back and out his stomach.  Next guy takes a trip to Screwdriver City.  Third guy falls into a pit of molten steel.  Then Sherri has a meat cleaver meltdown on the last guy.  In the end, Sherri’s candy striping co-workers help break the spirit’s evil spell by turning the cult leader’s gravesite into an open B-B-Q pit.    

 

I guess this was an interesting albeit awkward attempt to blend the low rent thrills of your basic Exorcist rip-off with the titillation of Roger Corman’s sexy “Nurse” movies.  It doesn’t quite work, but then again I’m a sucker for any movie in which nurses showcase their bedside manner by getting it on with their patients. 

 

The flick was directed by Al Adamson, and like any Adamson movie, there’s going to more than it’s share of filler.  There’s a car chase that serves no purpose whatsoever and whole sections of the film don’t make a heck of a lot of sense.  Like the scene where the spirit of the cult leader appears on a victim’s dashboard and forces him to drive off a cliff.  I mean hello, I thought the “spirit” was supposedly in Sherri’s body, so what the heck is it doing in the guy’s car?  (I will refrain from making an obvious “repossessing the car” joke.)  This scene also features a hilarious continuity error as the car goes over a cliff in the daytime, but it blows up at the bottom of the canyon at night. 

 

Like most of Adamson’s oeuvre, Nurse Sherri is sloppy, disjointed, and erratically paced, but that doesn’t necessarily make it unwatchable.  The film’s chief asset (besides a few hints of T & A) is a fine performance by Jacobson.  She’s pretty good, but for a movie called Nurse Sherri, she’s not in it as much as you’d think.  Jacobson doesn’t get an opportunity to really strut her stuff because there are way too many extraneous characters and subplots (like the blind football player who falls in love with a black nurse) that get in the way.

 

The flick is chockfull of bad dialogue, which adds to the fun.  Some of my favorites include “Your powers are finite.  Mine are limitless!”, “I’ll introduce you to the bliss that lies on the border to Hell!”, and “One ingrown toenail and it’s the big casino!”

 

AKA:  Beyond the Living.  AKA:  Black Voodoo.  AKA:  Hands of Death.  AKA:  Hospital of Terror.  AKA:  Killer’s Curse.  AKA:  Terror Hospital.  AKA:  The Possession of Nurse Sherri.