Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Miss '70's Blaxploitation Horror

No idea what prompted this post. I suppose it's all those Children of the 70's gifts my high school Facebook friends have been sending me, lately. Or, maybe it was just running across the first trailer below, completely by accident.

Many cineasts refer to the 1970's as Hollywood's "Second Golden Age." And admittedly, a lot of great films came out of that decade. Patton; The French Connection; The Sting; The Paper Chase; Young Frankenstein; Cabaret; Alien... the list goes on and on. Fueled by the eradication of the Hayes Code and the unprecedented social unrest brought on by Vietnam and the Hippie movement, filmmakers found themselves free to experiment and create edgier, grittier films with social messages and even pornographic films were household names (Deep Throat; The Devil in Miss Jones; Behind the Green Door).

Horror movies were very big in the '70's. Britain's Hammer Studios was in its heyday, pumping out Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee and AIP was making comedic horror gems like The Abominable Dr. Phibes. The demented H.G. Lewis was still making his godawful (though highly entertaining) drive-in gorefests, while directors like Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven were cutting their very sharp teeth on movies like The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And of course, there was what many (though not yours truly), consider to be the scariest movie of all time, 1973's The Exorcist.

The '70's were also when African-American filmmakers really found their voices, making films that spoke to Black urban audiences in a way they had never been able to, before. Films like Shaft; Superfly and Cleopatra Jones packed theaters with audiences hungry to see life portrayed as they lived perceived it to be. 20 years later, the term "Blaxpolitation" would be coined to describe these movies, though the filmmakers of the time certainly never thought of them in that way. The natural progression toward Blaxpolitation Horror was inevitable.

Released just one year after William Friedkin's The Exorcist, Abby is often referred to as "The Blaxorcist," though I think it probably owes more than a nod of debt to the early zombie films of the 30's and 40's.

And just the year before, "Dracula's soul brother," Blacula was released:

Blacula was soon followed by Blackenstein:

And then there's the 1974 Voodoo Zombie thriller Sugar Hill:

And let's not forget the Rosey Grier/Ray Milland "shocker," The Thing with Two Heads:

Ah, the good old days. I miss 'em! And oh, how I wish the tagline at the top of the Blackula poster read: "Bloodsuckah!" Anyone else long for those bygone days of cheap, ridiculous and exploitative horror movies?

More, anon.

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