There are some films that you expect to be terrible, just based on their titles alone. Several films immediately come to mind for me, and interestingly enough, most of them are exploitation films. Such is the case for today’s movie, BLACKENSTEIN. I knew from the start what I was going in to with this one, and I still had a great time with it. You just can’t help yourself. The film is definitely so bad, it’s good. If you like schlocky, C-grade horror comedy, then you’ve come to the right place. BLACKENSTEIN is the film for you.
If you are not familiar with BLACKENSTEIN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution:
Two Restored Versions of the Most Notorious Blaxpoitation Shocker of Them All…And The Most Insane Backstory Ever.
You may have heard of this infamous Blaxploitation/Horror hybrid, but the real story is even more bizarre: In 1973, criminal-lawyer-turned-wannabe-monster-movie-mogul Frank R. Saletri wrote and produced this grindhouse hit about a Black soldier mortally wounded in Vietnam transformed into a rampaging monster by an L.A. mad scientist. Almost a decade later, Seletri himself would be murdered gangland-style in a crime that remains debated and unsolved to this day. John Hart (TV’s “The Lone Ranger”), 40s Hollywood starlet Andrea King (THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS) and even former mob moll/stripper Liz Renay (DESPERATE LIVING) star in this jaw-dropper directed by William A. Levey (THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO WASHINGTON), now restored with all-new Special Features that spotlight the entire twisted saga!
I had heard of films like BLACKULA and whatnot, but I confess BLACKENSTEIN was new to me. When I first got the press release, I was immediately interested, though. The concept was simply too rich to pass up. And sure enough, I got exactly what I was expecting.
BLACKENSTEIN looks pretty good onscreen for the most part. The HD transfer appears to have done the source material a lot of good, although I do have to say there are still many grainy scenes. I’m assuming this is due to a lack of quality in the original negative, although I cannot say for sure. The second version of the film (the “director’s cut”, with additional footage) has a disclaimer that states the source material could not be upgraded, therefore the additions do not have the same quality as the original film. I watched both versions of the film, and the additional footage doesn’t really add much to the story, therefore you’re not missing out if you only watch the original theatrical release (I’m glad they put the disclaimer up there, though!).
The acting in BLACKENSTEIN is downright awful, but it is exactly what a film like this should have. This movie does not (and should not) take itself seriously, therefore the actors shouldn’t either. Actress Ivory Stone (whose sole IMDB credit is this film) is pretty much the main character, but her acting is wooden and lifeless. I would swear I could sometimes see her eyes flick to a cue card as she read her dialogue, much like guests have to do on Saturday Night Live. John Hart, who portrays Dr. Stein, gives a better performance, but even he is restricted by a flat and nonsensical script.
The special effects are lacking, however they seem to be the only part of this film that was taken seriously. A decent effort was put into making them look real (particularly the gore), however they still come across as laughable in some aspects. Still, I do have to commend the production team on trying.
BLACKENSTEIN is a great flick to make fun of, and despite how bad it is, I did enjoy myself while watching it. You obviously cannot take it seriously, therefore make sure you have the proper mindset going into it. If you do, you’re in for a real treat. BLACKENSTEIN is available now.