Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Black Superman!

When I stumbled across the title Abar: The Black Superman on Turner Classic Movies, I knew I had to give this 1977 movie a look. It's a spectacular mess, at once high-minded and low-class, crass and clever at the same time. Put together and financed by a pimp, this movie's history of how it got made is probably more fascinating than the movie itself, which nonetheless is filled with sublime weirdness comparable to the strangest things Ed Wood ever put on the screen.

The story begins when a successful research scientist named Kinkade and his family move into an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood. The rub is that they are black and their neighbors are violently racist and begin immediately to try and intimidate the family into moving out. The mayor and other officials seek to buy them out to spare the community the indignity of a black family in its midst. Dr.Kinkade though inspired by Martin Luther King refuses to submit to this latest in a string of threats and the family stays put. They eventually contract with a local activist named Abar to serve as their bodyguard and he uses his influence with the local motorcycle gangs to keep a lid on the violence. But things get out of hand when Kinkade's son is run down and his wife and daughter leave. He reveals he's been working on a secret formula which will make a person a superhuman. Events conspire to have Abar take the formula, though Kinkade regrets that decision. Abar then begins to come to terms with his new abilities which seem to involve both mind control and the ability to alter reality.

I won't say much more, so as to leave some small surprises in a movie which already has precious few. Suffice it to say the ending is bizarre and message of racial harmony is muddled. There are long passages of MLK speeches to add some substance to a movie which is often pure exploitation.

This movie is amateurism at its most enthusiastic, the acting in nearly all respects is wooden and laughable. If they ever remade this today, the always calm Dr. Ben Carson would be an ideal replacement for J. Walter Smith as Kinkade. He's at the heart of the story but his acting delightfully disastrous all the way through. Not much better is our titular hero Abar played by Tobar Mayo who dominates the movie when he's in it, though in actuality he does very little.

From what I can gather this flick received nearly no distribution in its day and has suffered even more since its original release. It's a time capsule for those of us who remember the woeful fashions of the late 70's and a record of sorts of what parts of Los Angeles looked like back then.

I cannot recommend this movie, it's that bad, but I would think anyone with a passing interest in these kinds of bad movies might find it diverting.

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