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IN YOUR FACE!

One of the more notable “blaxploitation” horror flicks from the seventies, a ludicrous yet politically charged, disarmingly earnest variant on the Frankenstein mythos, lots better than BLACKENSTEIN. 

The Package 
     This film’s original ad campaign proclaimed it “The first black science fiction movie,” but in actuality it’s one of a handful of Afro-American horror movies that include BLACULA (1972), SUGAR HILL (1974), ABBY (1974) and a few others.  All were part of the Blaxploitation movie boom of the seventies, which produced a lot of trash, to be sure, but also a number of quality films.  The finest black horror movie was Bill Gunn’s stylish and heartfelt GANJA AND HESS (‘72).  This 1977 production, originally titled ABAR, THE FIRST BLACK SUPERMAN, isn’t in the same league as Gunn’s masterwork (neither are any of the others), but it is a singular concoction, blending a serious political conscience with B-movie thrills.
     FYI, this film, released by Xenon Video in 1990 with outrageously misleading cover art, actually exists in two versions: one rated R with a 101 minute running time (the version under review here) and the other a PG certified cut that’s far shorter. 

The Story 
     Dr. Kincade, a wealthy black doctor, decides to move his family into a lily-white L.A. suburb.  Unfortunately, the locals are anything but welcoming.  Spying the Kincades moving in, a neighbor woman asks: “You don’t think the agents sold to niggers, do you?”  Soon the town is in an uproar; picket lines form in front of the Kincades’ house and realtors try and force them off the land.
     Help arrives in the form of Abar, leader of a black activist group.  He agrees to act as bodyguard to the Kincades, but isn’t shy about criticizing them for turning their backs on the plight of blacks in the ghetto.  Dr. Kincade in turn tries to convince Abar to partake of a magical potion that will, Kincaid claims, irrevocably change the world.
     When the doctor’s young son is run down and killed by an evil white man, he and Abar are galvanized to do...something.  Abar finally gives in and drinks the doctor’s potion.  Sure enough, he’s turned into the first black superman--as such, he can’t be killed and has psychic powers bequeathed by the wisdom of his ancestors.  Sitting at the base of the Watts Towers, he causes a band of “pigs” to fight one another, gets a purse-snatcher to return his loot to its owner, forces a prostitute to beat up her abusive pimp and has vandals paint over their graffiti. 
     Next Abar takes on the suburbs.  First on his list is a dining black family in the act of laughing about the people they’ve left behind in the ghetto; Abar turns their food to slimy worms.  Next he unleashes a hurricane on the white people of the Kincades’ neighborhood, followed by plagues of rats and snakes.  It ends with all the evil white people blowing away and disappearing (I think) and the Kincade’s racist female neighbor admitting her abuse is due to the fact that she’s upset because, although she looks white, she’s actually a black person with sickle cell anemia!

The Direction 
     This obscure film is, as far as I know, the only credit for director Frank Packard.  I’m really not surprised, as the whole thing is pretty inept overall, with tacky special effects, oft-incoherent action and much terrible acting...and I do mean terrible: the performers always seem to be flubbing or stuttering their lines (the shooting ratio evidently didn’t permit for too many retakes).  The pacing, for its part, is wildly inconsistent; the film too often gets bogged down in lengthy political speeches, meaning a fast forward button is essential.
     Luckily, the story is easy to follow, and the crisp cinematography by Ron Garcia (the only name in the credits I recognized), of TWIN PEAKS fame, belies the film’s tawdriness...and the peerlessly loony final twenty minutes are simply priceless.
 

Vital Statistics 

IN YOUR FACE! (a.k.a. ABAR, THE FIRST BLACK SUPERMAN)
Xenon Video 

Director:  Frank Packard
Producers:  J.P. Joshua, James Smalley
Screenplay:  James Smalley
Cinematography:  Ron Garcia
Editor:  Jack Tucker
Cast:  Art Jackson, Tina James, Gladys Lum, Odell Mack, Tobar Mayo, Tony Rumford, J. Walter Smith, Rupert Williams, Roxie Young
 


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