Friday, September 9, 2016

Blackenstein (1973)

1. Blaxploitation
2. Frankenstein Monsters
3. Dating emotionally scarred women
4. Crazy bonkers 70s movies
5. A bunch of other shit

These are just a few of my favorite pastimes.  Today, we cover some of those.  Well, except #3 (Dating emotionally scarred women).  We're not going to cover that one in today's article.  Well, unless you are an emotionally scarred woman looking for a date.  Then, well...  We can suss that shit out later.

Seriously, hit me up.

Today's feature is Blackenstein.  Or as it's also known as Black Frankenstein.  Or Blackenstein: The Black Frankenstein.  This movie may have a titling problem, but that doesn't keep it from being awesome.  Like the earlier Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde, we have another early 70s Blaxploitation horror movie that puts that "urban spin" (as crusty white people would say) on the genre.  It also manages to includes some stuff about the Vietnam War!  Bonus!

The back of my DVD box says: "Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) and Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Stein (B-movie icon John Hart) believe they can restore dismembered Vietnam vet Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue) to the man he once was.  But the results turn monstrous, and the Blackenstein Monster goes on a rampage of murder and disemboweling, unaffected by fists, bullets and blunt objects.  Who or what can stop this menace?  And will Dr. Stein have to return his Nobel Prize?"

Ah-mazing.  Is that even a thing - to be told to return your Nobel Prize?  I mean if you win one, and then you do a bad science thing out of good intentions, do they show up and demand you give it back?  This movie box wouldn't lie to me would it?

Let's see if he's told to return that prize or not...


The movie doesn't fuck about as it gets started.  Right away, we see Doctors Walker and Stein working on a guy in a lab with lots of sparks and electricity and what have you.  The title comes up in a green ghostly font to tell us we are watching Blackenstein: The Black Frankenstein.  I assume the subtitle is for anyone not quite sure where the inspiration for this movie is coming from.  Back inside the lab, Dr. Stein is playing with his equipment and turning stuff on and watching the electricity flow and whatnot.  There's not a body on the table this time so I guess he's just checking to make sure it all works.  One thing for sure, though, is that it looks like a Frankenstein lab.

Dr. Walker lands her sexy ass and leaves the Hollywood airport to go visit her old mentor, Dr. Stein.  She's met at the door by Dr. Stein's butler/servant/possibly slave(?) - Malcomb.  Remember this guy because he does play a part later in the flick.  Winifred and Stein spurt some exposition about how she was a former pupil of Stein's.  Winifred tells Stein that her boyfriend was injured in Vietnam and she needs to help him in any way she can.

Stein has Winifred stay for dinner.  She thanks him for giving her the opportunity to help her boyfriend, Eddie.  More exposition comes out as he asks her if she's kept up with his work, and she said she read about him winning the Nobel Prize.  Most students of famous doctors just read up on them winning the most famous award in the world, right?  Then clunkily say they read about it in a journal and read others' comments about his achievements, yeah?  Anyway, Stein excuses himself in a rather shady manner but Winifred is all cool about it.

Grandpa Munster, R.N.
So we learn on the way to meet Eddie that he lost both his arms and legs in Vietnam when he stepped on a landmine.  They go into the Veteran's hospital and ask to see Eddie.  Things get a bit weird from here.  Eddie, fir seen as just a guy who is covered up to his shoulders by a blanket, asks the orderly for ice cream.  The orderly is not so hot on giving over the ice cream.  Why?  Let me tell you why...

This orderly, who looks an awful lot like Grandpa Munster, says he won't give him any ice cream because this isn't a hotel.  Eddie says his throat's dry.  Grandpa then says Eddie should just "reach over and grab a cool drink of water" knowing full goddamn well that he doesn't have any arms.  He then launches into a diatribe about how he served too and Eddie is not special just because he's lying in the bed and his and his friends' taxes that are going to keep him in the hospital.  This is probably some sort of racial thing or anti-youth or anti-war thing, but goddamn guys...  It gets pretty nasty and dark.  And it comes out of nowhere too.

Winifred and Stein come in and talk to Eddie.  We learn from Winifred that Eddie told her they shouldn't see each other anymore.  I thought they were engaged to be married (by her saying fiance often).  Stein offers Eddie the chance to regrow his limbs.  Eddie declines until Stein and Winifred say he shouldn't pass up the opportunity.  That pretty much wins him over.

Eddie is taken to Stein's home where it looks like he has already gotten back his hands and feet at the very least:

Clearly, Dr. Stein is pretty good at what he does if a guy who no limbs has already regrown feet and legs.

Winifred gives Eddie a pep talk about how everything is going to work out just wonderfully and they will continue their lives as if nothing ever happened to him.  She injects him with some pre-op DNA so he can begin the operation in the morning.  Later, out of the blue, we meet this lady who is also in Stein's house in another bedroom who is also taking DNA injections.  Turns out she is over 90 years old and she must take DNA injections every 12 hours to appear to be in her 40s.  We're told that if she goes more than 24 hours without an injection, she will return to her 90s and then progressively get older from there.

You  know, like how living works.

We then meet Bruno who is in another room who had a leg grafted onto his body and gets DNA injections each day to remove the scar and make the leg look as if it was always there.  This is what I like to call our expository dump of information.  The one lady is in need of injections or she will quickly grow old and die.  Bruno has some tissue rejection that makes his other leg look like it has stripes like a tiger.  While Stein talks about the RNA and tissue rejection, Winifred notices Malcomb makin' eyes with her.  I mean, I think that's what's up.  Neither Malcomb acts any differently than just giving a dead eye stare, nor does Winifred who just briefly looks up and then back to her notes like nothing weird is going on.  I only know Malcomb is makin' the eyes because I've seen this movie before and I know he's in love with Winifred.

We get to the actual operation on Eddie now, and it appears whatever Stein did earlier failed because his arms and legs are now missing.  They were there when the ambulance dropped him off.  I'm sure they'll turn up in lost in found later, but, one would think, this would worry Eddie.

That night, Winifred and Stein are startled by what appears to be loud talking.  It's Bruno talking in tongues or in Italian or possibly something else.  Stein tells Winifred, as he buckles the straight jacket onto Bruno, that this is not an uncommon side effect of the DNA shot.  Winifred seems totally cool with that and doesn't seem to be too bothered if it will have an adverse effect on her boyfriend, because why should it...?

Stein, Winifred, and Malcomb check in on Eddie who has grown some arms.  Stein says if all goes well, the next round will be the last of Eddie's surgeries.  Later, Malcomb tells Winifred how he feels about her.  She rejects him, nicely, by saying that once Eddie's surgeries are complete, they plan to marry.  Malcomb just kinda leaves saying "Okay" in a weird tone.  He dumps some crap into one of Eddie's formulas.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say this will probably create a Blackenstein.

In the final operation, Eddie convulses.  Stein sticks him with some DNA to calm him down.  When the surgery ends, Stein has Winifred prepare two injections for Eddie's DNA formula - which Malcomb messed with out of jealousy or love.  I dunno, I get those two reasons to muck with stuff mixed up all the time.

See-through nightie, you're the tits!
Some time later, Eddie tells Stein and Winifred he doesn't feel quite right.  When Winifred turns Eddie's head, she sees a ridge has formed on his eyebrow.  They recheck their formulas and calculations and all seems right.  They can't figure out why he's changing the way he is.  Later, when they check on him, they see hair has grown thick on the back of his hand.  He's also gone non-responsive.  Stein decides to increase the injections of DNA to see if that helps.

Late at night, Winifred is doing some science stuff and accidentally leaves the gate to where Eddie's being kept open which allows for him to escape once he's gone full Blackenstein.  Eddie wanders about kind of aimlessly until he finds his way outside where he wanders even more aimlessly until it fades to black.  When we next see Eddie he is entering the Veterans Hospital.  He flashes back to Grandpa Munster yelling at him like a crazy person.  He finds Grandpa and kills him by ripping his arm off.  He then kills a dog, a gross naked man, and a lady in a see-through nightie.  Why?  Just 'cuz.  Grandpa I understand, but these others don't make a lick of sense.  Not to mention, he eats the lady's guts too.  So not sure what that's all about.  I will say I do appreciate her see-through nightie.

The next morning, Winifred gets a creepy look from Malcomb which she ponders for a few moments.  She and Stein go back to work, but it's not clear if when Eddie came back if he switched back to a less Blackenstein version of himself or not.  It's also unclear if he closed the door that Winifred left open or if they found that in the morning.  They certainly are unawares that he's been out killing and eating guts.  Either way, that night, Winifred falls asleep in the lab while she is running some tests.  Eddie Blackensteins out again and goes out for a little of the ol' murder.  He manages to sneak past Winifred who is just snuggled up next to her bottle of DNA.

While out in the wild again, Blackenstein comes across a couple more horny honkies about to make out in a car.  Unlike the first couple who were all about getting it on, this couple is not so great.  The lady rejects the guy and then he gets super creepy about her hair or touching it or asking if she likes it to be touched.  It's so weird and pervy.  She gets out of the car and he just takes off like the swell dude he is.  Blackenstein follows the girl through a park, kills her, and drags her off.  Probably to touch her pretty hair.  This is Blackenstein's only kill for this second night.  So he's apparently trying to figure out how to meet his average for killin', but just hasn't quite gotten a good handle on it.

The next morning, Stein asks Winifred to accompany him in the lab.  They hear Eddie grunting and what have you, and realize he's been turned into a Blackenstein Monster.  The police come to talk to Stein about the murders that have happened in the general location.  He tells them about the patients he has currently.  We then smash cut to Blackenstein out and about in the wild again.  There's no indication how he got out.  He's just out.  Not sure how that happened, but outside a nightclub, a lady screams - probably because Blackenstein killed her.

Inside the nightclub, there's a band playing, and we are treated to a stand up act by a guy.  This is what I'll call filler.  Instead of showing how Blackenstein got out again, we get a stand up act from "Andy C".  They had a strict 87 minute runtime and were contractually obligated to keep Andy C and the nightclub singer's song in the film.  So that escape scene for Blackenstein had to go.

Outside, a guy tries to rape a girl and tears her dress open so we do see some boobs in this feature.  Blackenstein kinda saves the girl by killing the attacker, but then kills the girl and eats her guts - because duh...  Blackenstein is a monster.

The police question Andy C who says the smartest thing anyone in a horror movie has ever said.  As he explains he saw saw a fifteen foot shadow in front of him after hearing a girl scream, the police officer asked what he did after he saw the fifteen foot shadow.  Andy C says, "What do you think I did?  I got the hell outta there!"  Congratulations, Andy C, you are officially the smartest person in thirty-four movies featured on B-Movie Enema.  Take a bow!

They call me Dr. Frankenstache.
Back at Stein's home, Malcomb tries to rape Winifred.  Really, what's the deal with all this rape?  Two consecutive scenes featuring Blackenstein also feature rape.  When Blackenstein busts into Winifred's room, Malcomb confronts the monster, but not before ripping Winifred's dress down to expose some more boobs because why not at this point.  If you are going to showcase gut eating, you might as well show some titties.

Malcomb tries to box Blackenstein but he just gets tossed to the side.  Hilariously, Malcomb just leaves through the nearest door and gets out of there.  Just when you thought Malcomb has just taken off, he comes back after a few moments with a gun and tries to shoot Blackenstein, but that doesn't work.  It just gets Malcomb killed.  Blackenstein then kills Bruno and the other lady that was getting DNA injections.

Blackenstein finds Winifred in the lab and starts to close in for the kill.  She appeals to him and he remembers that she is his girlfriend.  This gives Dr. Stein the opportunity to come in and try to punch Blackenstein a few times in the gut before he gets throttled to death. After doing so, and as the lab equipment blows up around them, Blackenstein just moseys off and finds another white lady to carry off - until she wakes up and runs off.  Back at the lab, the police come and take Winifred to safety.

The rest of the movie is basically Blackenstein chasing this last one lady verrrrrrrry slowly.  He finally does capture her and eats some of her guts just as the police arrive and unleash the hounds on him.  These dogs rip open Blackenstein and eat HIS guts.  Winifred comes to identify the body and she seemingly falls in love with the black police officer who's been chasing down Blackenstein since he first became a problem.

The end.

It's hard to imagine this movie was rushed into production to capitalize on Blacula's success.  I mean what with the very linear story and the deep dialog and themes seen in the movie.  I'm just fuckin' with ya.  This movie isn't good.  It's entertaining and good for a laugh with your friends, but it's nowhere near the other Blaxploitation horror films of the early 70s - by which I mean the two Blacula movies and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde.  It's poorly acted and badly made.  There are a bunch of scenes that were either left on the cutting room floor or simply not written.  Things are said and then something else is said that doesn't seem to fit things mentioned earlier.  I can only assume this script was only a first or second draft, or simply an outline that found lines written on the day of shooting.

More than anything, it is really just confounding.  The monster lumbers slowly and the shots of him walking from place to place are held too long.  They use classic horror movie scores that had lots of crescendos when nothing of consequence was actually happening visually.  I guess with a title like Blackenstein, you don't expect too much, but it's just not a good movie.

It's a good thing I plan to rectify this problem of picking a bad Blaxploitation film within the next few weeks.
You know what the Universal classic monster series was missing?  Rape.

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