Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Abby (1974)

...aka: Possess My Soul

Directed by:
William Girdler

After The Exorcist (1973) took the world by storm, Warner Bros. became sue happy to try to protect their critical and financial darling from imitators attempting to cash in on the demon possession theme. They filed a lawsuit against the makers of the Italian film Beyond the Door (1974), which was thrown out of court. They also filed one against A.I.P. for Abby. Despite the fact that Abby is actually less similar to the source material than Beyond, the lawsuit this time was successful and the film was yanked from theaters after about a month. Fortunately, the film managed to rake in 4 million dollars during that time on an initial investment of just 200K. Unfortunately, the lawsuit ate up all the profits and the film wasn't seen for years. During its time on the shelf, copyright went into limbo until the (bootleg) company Cinefear decided to release a murky, heavily-damanged 16mm print of the film on VHS. It was the first time the movie was available on a home viewing format, but Cinefear has really done a disservice with their DVD release, issuing an obvious tape-to-disc transfer that they claim has been remastered and cleaned up, though it looks no different than their scratchy VHS release. In 2007, the film was released by a second company called Televista on a double bill with the German Exorcist copy Devil's Female (1974). I haven't had a chance to check their copy yet, but one hopes it's an improvement.

While doing archeological research in Africa, Bishop Garnet Williams (Blacula star William Marshall) unleashes an evil sex demon named Eschu. The demon then decides to get back at Garnet by heading straight to Louisville, Kentucky and possessing his daughter-in-law Abby (Carol Speed), a happy church choir singer and marriage counselor. Abby slowly goes from prim and proper to lascivious, foul-mouthed and sex obsessed. She starts mutilating her body, speaks in a deep male voice, drools white foam, barks out hilariously vulgar comments, exerts super-human strength by flinging people around, makes an elderly woman have a heart attack by slapping her and eventually starts seducing and killing men at a local nightclub. Upon hearing the bad news, Garnet immediately returns from Africa and teams up with Abby's reverend husband Emmet (Terry Carter) and her detective brother Cass (Austin Stoker) to try to save Abby's soul. Also with Juanita Moore as Abby's mother and Girdler film regular Charles Kissinger as a doctor.

It's a pretty fun and entertaining film (regardless of the horrid print quality); well-acted by the leads and sometimes hilarious... especially when possessed Abby dishes out sex advice to her husband and a pair of newlyweds. Instead of full-fledged demon makeup, we get some eye contacts and chapped lips and flashes of a demon face. Speed (who is very animated in the lead role) also gets to perform her own song during a church scene.


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