During the Blaxploitation trend of the early 1970’s there was a overall tendency for Hollywood to portray the Black community as simply a mirror image of the white world which had been portrayed by the cinema since its inception; rarely delving into the social and cultural verisimilitude to which the Black audience might more readily identify in a personal way, the usual process being to replicate an already proven white vehicle and then dipping it into the ethnic tide pool as if the result (beyond employing a great number of scandalously ignored onscreen talent) were a prescription balm for the decades of racially motivated neglect. (That the vast majority of these efforts were produced, written and directed by white filmmakers was never by accident nor an excuse for a great deal of shameless racial pandering.)
Especially counterfeited were the various examples of the horror genre in which only cosmetic variations were inserted to replicate a variety of well worn characters overly familiar with film audiences but with the mere alteration of skin color was meant to represent an entirely new product. Beyond the generic copies of Dracula (“Blacula”), Frankenstein (“Blackenstein”) and Mr. Hyde (“Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde”) appeared 1974’s “Abby”, a blatant carbon copy of “The Exorcist”, so much so that it almost immediately attracted the ire of that film’s producing studio, with this hapless William Girdler retread quickly withdrawn from distribution due to the intervention of equally possessed legal teams.
Essentially a cheaper, cosmetically darker version of the William Friedkin film, “Abby” does contains typical variations found in the transference process from A-list commercial cinema to lower case Blaxploitation, especially in its introduction of the supernatural elements having a strictly African basis, most noticeably a specificity in identifying the possessive source as opposed to the William Peter Blatty-scripted original which more obscurely danced around the true nature of the evil, as to whether it was truly the Devil or merely a lesser but still corruptive minion. “Abby” places the source of spiritual squatting squarely at the doorstep of Eshu, a demon of chaos and whirlwinds who uses the “power of sexuality to destroy his enemies”, a resume which seems tailor-made for exploitation cinema. This demonic entity, carelessly released from a carved puzzle box conveniently found in a Nigerian cavern by the eminent theologian Dr. Garrett Williams (William Marshall) and immediately finds its way to Louisville, Kentucky where it takes possession of Dr. Williams’ daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed) as an amorphous shadow in her shower (thus, apparently, disputing the axiom “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”) and later manifested by ’embarrassing overacting, rude sexual innuendo and sagebrush eyebrows inspired by “Frankenstein’s Daughter”.
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