Here I am popping in Blackenstein, and I am thinking to myself: “man, this movie is going to rock!” It has all the signs of a sleazy Blacksploitation film (I do love that genre), with a nice helping of horror to make the film slide down your gullet all that much easier. Heck! Even the tagline makes it sound like it’s going to be a treat like no other! “To Stop This Mutha Takes One Bad Brutha.” Sadly, the movie tricked me! Blackenstein isn’t a blacksploitation flick, and it most certainly isn’t a fun time. It’s a poorly made snooze fest, which meanders on and on, until the inevitable credits roll and you are snoozing away, drool running down your chin.
It is entirely possible that the continuing fandom behind Blackenstein happened due to the mysterious murder of writer/Producer Frank R. Saletri, who was found slain in his Hollywood home in 1982. Most films, even if they are dreck, will outlive their awfulness if they have an interesting tie-in to real life violence. However, If we forget about the strange circumstances of Saletri’s life and focus instead on Blackenstein itself, we can see that no, the movie isn’t that great.
There is a certain charm surrounding the film, with a generous helping of cheese served up by the shoddy acting and haphazard style of editing. However, the film’s story fails to impress anyone looking for a fun horror film. The film often time drones on and on, with lengthy scenes of absolutely nothing happening, which the Home Video version makes worse by inserting even more unnecessary filler to pad the runtime out.
The idea behind Blackenstein is exactly what you think it is going to be, a black Frankenstein. Sadly, the Frankenstein in this film, a wounded Vietnam vet turned 6-foot tall mongoloid, spends most of his time lumbering around at night time looking for potential victims to paw at off screen. Sprinkled in between these rather tame scenes are lots of lame attempts at trying to make everything look sciencey, with flashing strobes and sparkling electronics. It’s all very 70s.
Blackenstein had the potential to be a film that went all out with everything a blacksploitation horror fan wants. It could have filled the screen with nudity. However, any nudity in this film is a result of attempted rape, which is never a good kind of nudity. It could have gone all out with the 70s black culture, but instead gives us an unfunny 3-minute dog joke at a lounge bar instead. Finally, it could have gone all out with the gore, but instead, blows most of its load offscreen and shows us lame aftermaths with even worse special effects. Could have, could have, could have. That’s the tagline that should be front and centre when talking Blackenstein.
Nevertheless, Severin Films does their due diligence in providing a spectacular Blu-ray for the fans. The Blu-ray provides two cuts of the movie, a 78-minute theatrical release and an 87-min home video release. The theatrical release is presented in 1.78:1 ratio and is the cleanest version of the film, with a clear picture and acceptable audio presentation. The home video release, on the other hand, mixes in the rough extra footage with the newly cleaned up footage, making for a harder time watching. Severin Films isn’t to be blamed for this, however, as they provide an explanation up front as to why the footage is rough.
As for the special features on the Blu-ray disc, we have provided with new interviews, which mainly focuses on the life of Frank R. Saletri. We also have a new interview with Blackenstein monster creator Bill Munns, who details his work on the flick.
If you wanted to know more about Frank R. Saletri, that’s what you’ll get when watching the features.
To say Blackenstein disappointed me would be an understatement. I was expecting one thing and sadly got something vastly inferior to what I wanted. Nevertheless, Severin Films has produced a solid Blu-ray for the people that enjoy this film. If you’re like me, you can pass, but if you fall into the latter category, by all means, pick up this Blu-ray, as you’re going to be very happy with it.
Theatrical Release Version (78 Mins.) and Video Release Version (87 Mins.)
Monster Kid: Interview with Writer / Producer Frank R. Saletri’s Sister, June Kirk
Archive News Broadcast On The Murder Of Writer / Producer Frank R. Saletri
Producers / Directors / Actors Ken Osborne And Robert Dix Remember Writer / Producer Frank R. Saletri
Bill Created Blackenstein: Interview With Creature Designer Bill Munns
Movie Release: 1973
Rating: Not Rated
Blu-ray Release: May 30, 2017
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0 (Accessed via remote control)
Subtitles: English SDH (accessed via remote control)
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. 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!