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Blackenstein (1973) - Blu-ray Review

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Blackenstein (1973) - Blu-ray Review

3 beersGet that jar of Johnson’s Afro Sheen ready, brothers and sisters!  The blowout kit will be needed in order to survive this freakishly tall tale of laser beam fusion and wonky genetic theories.  Blackenstein, courtesy of Severin Film, is back on the creep (oh ah, oh ah, oh ah yeah).  His walk is slow and laborious and he doesn't do stairs quickly.  His grunts and groans are guttural, but my how he loves the ladies.  If only they could see it in their hearts to love him back…

Directed by William A. Levey (The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington), as far as Blaxploitation efforts go, Blackenstein works best as metaphor only.  In fact, it might be one of the worst Blaxploitation flicks ever made, but one can hardly blame criminal lawyer turned writer/producer Frank R. Saletri (whose mysterious death remains an unsolved case) for trying to cash in on Blacula’s unexpected success.  Blackenstein might have the appearance of a film assembled at the butcher’s, but it does seem to be done in earnest. 

After all, he was a super fan of Universal’s classic run of monster pictures and, filmed inside Bela Lugosi’s old house (which he owned), found a way to use Kenneth Strickfaden’s original electrical equipment from 1931’s Frankenstein for the creation of his own super funky monster, complete with hairy hands AND a sudden Neanderthal brow ridge.  He just couldn’t seem to keep the interest up in the film, adding a senseless nightclub scene about an hour into the picture where two acts are highlighted, before bringing his monster to its sad conclusion.  

After a fantastically bluesy title song by Cardella Di Milo, the film is immediately overtaken by familiar bits and pieces of other, better known horror scores as one Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) deports a plane in Los Angeles and goes to the home of her former professor, Dr. Stein (John Hart), who she confesses, quite breathily, she always enjoyed studying under.  Ehem. 

Turns out, there will be no hanky panky on this visit, though.  She’s sought the good doctor’s advice and knowledge in order to save her fiancée Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue), a hulking specimen of a man, who was seriously injured after stepping on a land mine while serving his country in Vietnam.  Dr. Stein, who has made some genetic breakthroughs, keeps two patients in his home.  Along with his assistant Malcolm (Roosevelt Jackson), he keeps them monitored. 

Fortunately, he has room in his heart for another.  Unfortunately, Malcolm – who confesses his love to Miss Walker – decides to wreck the experiment and, by giving him the wrong DNA strands, winds up turning Turner in to Blackenstein.  Poor, wounded Turner.  He just can’t seem to catch a break.  After getting an earful from a jealous orderly, he now finds himself descending stairs incredibly slow and roaming Los Angeles at night, looking for hot to lukewarm dates to crash.  If he can’t kiss woman than no one can make it with woman! Rrrrahshghahhhsgahhhhhhhrrrrghhhhhhh.

Crawling at a snail’s pace, Blackenstein requires a hell of a lot of beer to get through.  It is that poorly stitched together.  Its "actors", including '40s actress Andrea King and mob-friendly stripper Liz Renay, are flat as hell (well, their acting is) and turn some pretty basic lines into downright righteous affairs.  The scene between a horny fella ready to pounce upon his date while parked under the moonlight is one of the funniest date conversations I’ve ever witnessed.  Fans of really awful b-movies already know that these are the moments that wind up saving the flick.  We forgive so much if we can laugh at it and the monster called Blackenstein, even with all the random people he dismembers, provides plenty of those chances.     

Grow some funk of your own with Severin’s blu-ray release of Blackenstein.

Blackenstein (1973) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: 
Runtime:
87 mins
Director
: William A. Levey
Writer:
Frank R. Saletri
Cast:
John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
To Stop This Mutha Takes One Bad Brutha.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Eddie, this is Dr. Stein. The doctor I studied with when I was in school."
Theatrical Distributor:
Prestige Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 30, 2017
Synopsis: 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, Saletri himself would be murdered gangland-style in a crime that remains debated – and unsolved – to this day

Blackenstein (1973) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Severin Films
Available on Blu-ray
- May 30, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles

Audio:
 
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A

Severin Films presents Blackenstein on 1080p with a glorious release of HD funk and laser beam fusion.  The ripe 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode has its limitations, though, as the low budget film is obviously dated.  The HD adds a little more detail to some of the clothing and the backgrounds.  Black levels are strong, making some of the night kill scenes an absolute triumph of shades and thick lines. The image is presented with a 1.85:1 ratio and feels authentic to its original run. Also keeping with the spirit is the clean DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • While I’d love to hear someone wax poetically about this movie, there’s nothing provided.  Surely, someone somewhere can provide a reason for this creation to exist.  Anyone?!

Special Features:

Severin gives fans of Blackenstein not one, but TWO versions of the film to enjoy.  The first cut is the shorter Theatrical Release Version (78 Mins) and the second is the Video Release Version (87 Mins).  Most of us have only previously seen the video version, so the theatrical version is a real treat.  Also included is a new interview with Saletri’s sister, an archive news release covering the murder of Saletri, a fond rememberance of the slain creator of Blackenstein, and a fun look at the special effects of Munns.

  • Monster Kid: Interview with Writer/Producer Frank R. Saletri’s Sister, June Kirk
  • Archive News Broadcast On The Murder Of Frank R. Saletri
  • Producers/Directors/Actors Ken Osborne And Robert Dix Remember Saletri
  • Bill Created Blackenstein: Interview With Creature Designer Bill Munns
  • Theatrical Trailer

Blackenstein (1973) - Blu-ray Review

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