Abar: Black Superman
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African-American scientist Dr. Kenneth Kincade moves his family into an affluent white neighborhood, only to be greeted with threats and vandalism by their new neighbors. Enter John Abar (Tobar Mayo - Escape From New York, The Devil's Garden), leader of t
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Dr. Kinkade (J. Walter Smith,) a brilliant scientist, moves into a very exclusive neighborhood where he is made to feel decidedly unwelcome, first and foremost by hysterical next door neighbor Mabel (Dee Turguand) whose over-the-top dialogue and performance cheapens the social and artistic value of the film immeasurably. The Kinkade family (and their amazingly cool house) are targeted for reprisal through various means that I won't get into here (sadly, I suspect that a real cat may have paid the ultimate price for this piece of art,) most of them fantastically unrealistic for 1977. (Really? A coffin on the lawn?) Tobar Mayo as Abar (I don't know which name is more compelling) and his gang of radicals comes on the scene to protect the Kinkade family, and manages to radicalize Kinkade when his son is killed in front of uncaring neighbors.
Kinkade resists every attempt to root him from his home: the homeowner's association even offers to buy his home with Kinkade getting a 50% profit. Of course even the minority members of the government are accused of being traitors, with poor councilman Mr. Dudley (Art Jackson) bearing the brunt of the assaults. Most of the film is extremely unsubtle, from names for political hacks like Dudley, to having US flags shown with the "evil" bankers and politicians (contrasted with the flag of Abar's gang, just to make the point clear.) Perhaps most amazing is the radio news bulletin that you just have to hear yourself to believe.
Dr. Kinkade perfects the bulletproof rabbit (don't ask) and asks Abar to drink an experimental serum that will make him indestructible. Up to this point the film has been mostly a tedious exercise in culture clash, but the serum drinking is really the turning point from political commentary to even weirder political sci-fi. Abar at first refuses to drink the serum, then in a wholly nonsensical scene has a change of heart. Weirdly, Kinkade has been trying to get him to do this very thing for a while and as soon as he does he decides he has to kill Abar. I'm not even going to try to explain this, but it's one of the more ridiculous twists in any film I have ever seen. After the transformation Abar dresses in a suit and mutely controls weather and matter itself (bombs, mice, etc.) with his mind, for justice, of course. The final twenty minutes are highly disjointed and frequently don't embrace any kind of reasonable logic, but at least they are entertaining. This brings me to a major problem with the film: it's plodding. The first hour of the movie is extremely slowly paced and it is frequently downright boring (we get it: Kinkade is persecuted because of his race,) while the ending is vastly more interesting and more compelling (if more logically ill-conceived and confusing.) The film concludes with an amazingly implausible apology and spotlights the major learning point of the film accompanied by Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech (a frequent reference in the film, for understandable reasons.)
The problems with the film are many: the screenplay can charitably be called amateurish with tons of ridiculous dialogue and even more ridiculous acting (at one point Mabel gets the vapors and faints just by looking at her neighbors.) Many plot devices are odd, especially the Wild West dream sequence which must be seen to be believed, and the direction and editing are abysmal. The hit and run incident in which the Kinkade's son is killed is highly spatially-challenged, to say the least. (Just watch it and try to explain the geometry involved.) In short, numerous errors made it into the film which should have been either excised or reshot. Flubbed lines and stilted dialogue are everywhere (at one point Kinkade pleads to his wife "Please Beth, don't persecute me," for instance.) And I'm not even going to mention the worm eating.
The good news is that despite its faults, the historical value of this film makes it interesting for people interested in a genre of film that has become unbelievably tamer in the last forty years. While it's not a good movie in any conventional sense, its value resides in its status as a cultural artifact. It has the added advantage of having a genuinely unique plot twist which has learned from many movies preceding it and formulated something wholly different. If you can get past the atrocious script, direction, acting (only Mayo is remotely convincing here,) this is a viewing experience like no other. As for extras, it even has previews for "Dolemite!" If you watch it for the right reasons, you may be pleased, but this one will definitely be a matter of individual taste.
It is worth having in your collection if you are a collector, but if you are looking for something like "Trouble Man" or "Shaft" this is not the movie for you.
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