Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Abar (1977)

Or as the IMDB wants to call it, Abar, the First Black Superman, which is a much better name for a movie in which a brilliant Black scientist invents a potion that allows a young radical to develop mystical mental superpowers to avenge society's ills. Cops hassling you and planting guns on the innocent victims? Abar uses his mind powers to get the cops to decide to go home and sleep with their wives. Too many men in the ghetto sitting around on stoops drinking 40s in the middle of the day? Abar turns the bottles into clean, nutritious milk, and so on.

I like to think that movies illustrate, on a large, society-wide scale, the same psychological principles that apply to an individual, like repression, fantasy, wish-fulfillment, etc. This movie is what happens when ideas not covered in mainstream movies in the mid-1970s (rage about institutional racism in housing, discrimination, the general problems of urban African-Americans) are ignored by mainstream popular culture and only taken up by artists at the fringes who just barely know what they're doing, but do it with passionate intensity. The acting, blocking, cinematography, and sound in Abar are terrible, but the movie is intensely watchable because of its own uniqueness and the ideas and feelings it gives vent to. Not much of the movie is Abar's superpowered reign of niceness; most of its length is a sustained debate between the brilliant Dr. Kincade, who wants the freedom to live where he chooses to live with his family, in a white part of town, in spite of the immediate presence of racist whites on his front lawn with pickets and Nazi emblems; and Abar, the urban radical who urges a retrenchment in the Black community, to clean up their own problems while presenting a strong outward face to the white oppressors (and every white person in this movie is a bigoted asshole).

I'm also a fan of movies that are either so uncaring of Hollywood mainstream tradition (or so incompetent) that you never know what's going to happen next. For example, why the sequence where the movie suddenly jumps back to the 1800s where Abar is a cowboy hero saving Dr. Kincade's 40 acres and mule? The best answer is, why not? Of course, the movie's greatest narrative surprise is that it ends with a curious, almost lyrical sequence in which Abar, having transmuted malt liquor into milk, apparently makes the entire White race disappear from the face of the Earth, and proceeds to stride down the newly empty streets of Los Angeles to the most triumphant sections of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Funny what squeezes out of our collective heads when nobody's looking.



Actionman said...

Have you ever seen The Black Gestapo?

Jeff McMahon said...

I'm afraid not. After looking at the plot description on IMDB, it makes me wish that I had access to an insane millionaire, because that's a movie ripe for an insane, unprofitable remake set in an alternate World War II in which Hitler is a black man set to rid the world of honkies and crackers. I'm offending myself just conceiving it: now that's good stuff!

Actionman said...

You must check it out. It's hysterical. Priceless really.