Blackenstein

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Yep. They had to resort to half-naked women to sell this pic.

"Follow the money", "Follow the money". Find a movie that struck it rich and therefore inspired a slew of rip-offs. Shaft was an enormous hit, begatting such diverse children as Superfly; eventually, a better way to tap into the blaxploitation money tree was sought, and Blacula was born. This, too, was a hit, and others arrived to drink at the trough - if Blacula could succeed, why not Blackenstein?

Ah, why not ..... a question that has led to lofty heights, miraculous achievements, tremendous advancements. And which has also led to complete, utter garbage like Blackenstein, subtitled "The Black Frankenstein", just in case you were too stupid to get that. That's not the worst thing the filmmakers pull on you in the next 87 minutes.

Plot[edit]

Its Blackenstein. Blackenstein stole my afro.

Winifred Walker moves to California to be near her boyfriend, Eddie, who's being shipped back to the USA after losing his legs (though he has both legs in many scenes) to a land mine in Viet Nam (it's 1973). She gets back in touch with an old teacher, Dr. Stein, who looks eerily like a washed up glam rocker turned homosexual.

You see, Dr. Stein (and what a clever name!) won the Nobel Prize for unraveling the mysteries of human DNA and has been doing amazing things with his research; one patient, Eleanor is over 100, but looks 20 and has no grey hair; Bruno has had two legs grafted on... but one has tiger stripes on it. Stein explains that this is due to "unsolved RNA" which has given the leg a turn toward "the primeval". Bruno occasionally gets violent after his DNA injections.

In any case, Eddie seems to be a perfect subject for Stein; the unfortunate amputee is moved to Stein's mansion, and Winnie, Stein, and Stein's assistant Malcolm go to work, injecting him with Stein's DNA formula and somehow using the Van de Graaf generators in the basement to weld new legs onto the patient.

Oh no Blackenstein is coming.

Which would all be well and good had Malcolm not fallen in love (or something like) with Winnie; had Winnie not rebuffed his advances; and had Malcolm not - in a move to eliminate his competition - tampered with the DNA stuff being injected into Eddie. This has the effect of making Eddie's head go all square and his hands all hairy. He also goes out at night and kills people.

Eddie first travels to the VA hospital, where he rips the arm off a surly attendant who was unsympathetic to his plight earlier in the movie. This attendant is also apparently the only person in the entire building at that particular moment (and his shift really sucks as he seems to work all the time). Then Eddie kills a dog. Then he kills the dog's owners, one of whom is Jane Fonda. Fonda is the only one of these whom we get to see killed... well, she's the only one we see with orange stage blood spread all over her while Eddie holds some sheep entrails in his hand. Then Eddie goes home to the mansion.

The next day in the Stein household, things are getting a little tense. Why, we will never know, because no one bothers to tell us. If anyone notices that Eddie was gone the night before, or that he smells of sheep entrails, they don't tell each other, much less the audience. Eddie does attack Winnie through the bars of his cell (As all mansions in California have a prison cell in the basement), but Dr. Stein picks up a far-too-handy length of chain from the floor and beats him with it this instantly incapacitates Eddie... i mean Blackenstein.

The ShitZombie is disappointed.

In addition to this perplexity, the door is left unlocked so Eddie may once again go on a murderous rampage. This time he kills a woman who happens to walk out of a brick wall (how you do that i don't know), and, after waving those sheep entrails around, staggers to The Martini Room nightclub, where we are treated to the comedy stylings of some fat old guy with jokes lamer than a dead horse.

Meantime, Eddie's having a fight with some guy in the back alley, who was trying to force his attentions on a woman, but who can tell? Eddie whomps the guy, kills the girl, and looks at those sheep entrails some more. His evening's work done, Eddie retires to the mansion, only to find that Malcolm is trying to force his attentions on Winnie. Malcolm is shirtless, wearing only a pair of boxers, Winnie is topless, and keeps going, "No, no!" while Malcolm pulls at her arms. You be the judge, but at least this fulfilled the naked requirement of the movie for it to be called porn.

So Eddie attacks. Malcolm runs to another door in Winnie's bedroom, behind which is a gun. Perhaps there is a small box on the closet containing a pistol, with a glass cover that reads: IN CASE OF MONSTER ATTACK, BREAK GLASS. Too bad Malcolm did not read the fine print, "WARNING: Gun may be useless against some monsters". He would have had better luck had there been a convenient length of chain lying on the floor. Good-bye Malcolm.

Stein and Winnie run down to the lab, leaving their patients, Eleanor and Bruno, to be killed by the monster. Eddie corners Winnie in the lab, but recognizes her and stops himself before he waves any sheep entrails. This tender moment is interrupted by Stein jumping him, which possibly means that Eddie kills Stein but the camera is focused on a Van de Graaf generator in the background rather than anything worthwhile.

Eddie wanders into the night and surprises a girl climbing into her dune buggy and carries her off. The dune buggy explodes for absolutely no reason. Note that he does not kill her - he simply carries her off. Eddie takes the chick to an abandoned factory next door, she recovers consciousness, and there is a segment of cat-and-mouse that skirts dangerously close to actual suspense before the geriatric-paced monster finds her and kills her (even though the shed door is clearly open). Blackenstein then walks out the shed door only to be attacked by the police, managing to take down 5 officers who physically try to grab him, before being attacked by vicious police dogs who kill him (or at least dislodge some of his make-up)... or do they?



No they don't because he returns in Blackenstein 2 - Back In Black

Everything Wrong with the Film[edit]

No mere plot summary could do justice to the festering pile of dog vomit that is Blackenstein; there are many nuances to ineptitude, and the only way to truly appreciate such badness is to experience it. This, however, is something I would not wish on anyone, not even Adolph Hitler or Idi Amin, on whatever circle of Hell they currently reside. Even past the stunning badness portrayed in the opening scenes, the very first moment when we actually see the monster, with his square afro, massive bling and his arms outstretched like a Zombie Mr. T, the actual amount of non-creativity and anti-talent involved in this endeavor become perfectly clear.

Why is Eddie killing women and pulling out their guts? Well, the Media Video box assures us this is because he has become "a monster with a passion for blood". Then there is the fact, known among grade-school children for cripes sake, that 'Frankenstein' refers to the scientist, not the monster, and John Hart is stunningly white. I admit that it could be construed that, as it is Malcolm that tampers with the DNA formula, that he could be referred to as "The Black Frankenstein". Of course, all this means is that whoever wrote the copy on the video box and myself have put more thought into this movie than the filmmakers themselves.

The mansion is elevated to the status of a character; Dr. Stein's digs (admittedly a great location) is accorded almost as much screen time as Winnie, and she's our heroine (albeit by default)! Every time a transition of some sort is needed, there we are, outside the mansion, complete with superimposed fog and lightning - it always seems to be Ladies and gentlemen - the movie magic of Mr. Kenneth Strickfaden!thunderstorm weather. This is of a piece with the scenes of the monster wandering around outside, which are always accompanied by the sounds of a windstorm, no matter how clear the sky. Add to that the wildly inappropriate and overwrought musical cues - who knew a woman sitting on a couch was so ominous?

Interview With The Makers of "Blackenstein"[edit]

So exactly why is your monster, despite his different origin, walking around in imitation of the Universal Frankenstein monsters?

Director: Well, you know, he's like, Frankenstein and stuff. Frankenstein always walks like that.

Writer: It's traditional.

And are you aware that 'Frankenstein' refers to the creator, and not the monster?

Director: Well, yeah, but this is Blackenstein. It's different.

Writer: Yeah, different.

So your mad scientist character is black?

Director: Oh, no no no. He's white. The monster is black.

Writer: That's why it's Blackenstein! Get it?

Can you shed some light on why the monster goes around killing people - in particular, women, who are the only people we see die onscreen?

Director: Well, because he's Frankenstein. Frankenstein does things like that.

But following that same logic, why does he simply carry off that last woman, when he's instantly murdered every other woman he's run across?

(Long silence.)

Writer: (brightly) He's Frankenstein!

(Sound of people being beaten to death with microphone)

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