U.S.A. / 1973
Directed by William A. Levey
John Hart
Ivory Stone
Joe De Sue
Color / 87 Minutes / R
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Xenon Pictures
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    2   10 = Highest Rating  
If you're expecting something enjoyable along the lines of Blacula then forget it. Blackenstein is a blaxploitation picture without a solitary trace of funk, an inept horror film whose dime store production values, pathetic acting and clumsy direction can't even manage to be unintentionally funny it's just smelly-dog-crap-on-the-bottom-of-your-shoe awful. Given the inane story's potential for Velveeta-coated goodness I actually felt dissed by the flick when it was finally over.
    A young African-American PhD, Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone), arrives at the southern California mansion of her former university mentor, Dr. Stein (John Hart), to become his research assistant. The main reason she took the position was to be near her boyfriend, Eddie (Joe De Sue), who's just come home from the Vietnam War minus his arms and legs from a land mine explosion. Winifred hopes that Dr. Stein, winner of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for (ahem) Medicine, can help rehabilitate Eddie with some kind of experimental therapy conveniently he's the world's leading authority on DNA research and limb transplantation. Stein accompanies Winifred to the veteran's hospital where Eddie is a patient and, after visiting with him, has the wounded man moved to the mansion to begin treatment.
    With some injections of "DNA formula" and the attachment of spare pairs of limbs it's never mentioned where Stein got 'em Eddie makes remarkable progress. Before you know it he's able to embrace Winifred with his new arms as the couple plans their future together. This potentially happy ending isn't appreciated by Malcolm (Roosevelt Jackson), Stein's odd-voiced, stiffly formal servant. Malcolm, it seems, fell in love with the winsome Winifred the moment she arrived at the mansion. After she rejects his clumsy advances, the vengeful Malcolm decides to get even by switching Eddie's DNA formula with another solution. Winifred and Stein are puzzled about the sudden reversal of Eddie's progress, especially as his head begins taking on a pronounced square shape. Unknown to them, at night Eddie takes his new legs for a long and very slow stroll away from the mansion, somehow making it all the way to the veteran's hospital where he rips the arm off an orderly who cruelly tormented him during his stay there. Morphed by the wrong formula into a poor man's image of the Frankenstein Monster, Eddie continues his nocturnal killing spree by strangling and ripping the guts out of anyone he encounters. (The gore footage is so lame and phony-looking that I can't assign a 'Blood 'n' Guts' icon to this review.) The unlucky sap can't help it, of course; it's all Malcolm's fault. The conniving servant ultimately pays for his crime but Eddie, too, will have to be destroyed in the end.
    Blackenstein is a real endurance test, one which I readily failed. I actually turned the movie off for a few hours and otherwise occupied myself before returning for the second half, something that is definitely not my policy to do. (After all, I made it through Mesa of Lost Women and Lust for Frankenstein in single sittings.) The movie should be funny, at the very least unintentionally so; instead it just lays there like Eddie before receiving his limb transplants. When the film finally becomes ambulatory it still creeps along like molasses in January... In one scene our titular monster takes one minute and fifteen seconds to simply cross a room, a cinematic moment that seems to last an eternity. (When your monster makes Kharis the Mummy look like the Roadrunner in comparison, you might as well hang it up.) Two-thirds the way through, the film decides to take a break by switching to a nightclub where we get two wretchedly unfunny jokes from a charisma-free M.C. ("A man walks into a bar with a dog...") and a blues number from a singer. Had Dolemite been performing there instead, the movie might at least have had five minutes of watchable footage.

In terms of aural/visual quality the Blackenstein disc is a disappointment. Apparently taken from a worn VHS dupe, the full-screen transfer is quite grainy and damaged. Many scenes are almost too dark to tell what's going on. Dialog is understandable but the audio track is plagued by omnipresent static.
    A slate of six trailers is the disc's only bonus feature: for the Dolemite sequel The Human Tornado; contemporary urban crime dramas Durdy Game and Tar; 'mondo' reality film Fubar, about white rednecks; and the documentaries Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake and Welcome To Death Row. These can be played individually or as a block. 10/26/03