Thursday, July 28, 2016


So one of the movies I watched last weekend off of my DVR was Abar, listed on the TCM schedule as Abar, the First Black Superman. It's worth a watch for so many reasons.

We don't meet Abar for a while; the movie starts off with the Kincade family. Dr. Kincade is a black physician/research scientist who is moving with his wife and two children into an upscale suburb. Except that it's an all-white suburb. The neighbors are preternaturally bigoted, since they see a bunch of black people get out of the car and assume that these must be the servants! And when they find out that these are actually the Kincades, boy do they get angry and nasty, picketing the place and doing any number of terrible things, making the Kincades feel generally intimidated. Well, Mrs. Kincade is the one who feels that way; Dr. Kincade wants to stay here because he has his important research.

Eventually, a black-power group called the Black Front for Unity finds out about the Kincades, and this is where Abar comes in. Abar is the head of the group, and more strident than Kincade about the plight of the black man. Where Kincade tends to think Blacks can improve themselves and achieve equality that way, along the lines of Booker T. Washington, Abar is somewhat more activist, although preferring nonviolence. Abar believes in part that those blacks who do become successful and make it to the suburbs are basically forgetting about the ones left behind. (This is reminiscent of some of the issues raised in the Sidney Poitier No Way Out.)

Anyhow, Kincade eventually determines, after a series of tribulations, that Abar would be the perfect human guinea pig for his research, as he's perfected an invincibility potion that the right black person could use to the eternal betterment of the race! And Abar is just the right person to try it on, since the subject has to be much fitter physically than middle-aged Dr. Kincade. Except that Kincade finds out that Abar does have some anger, and worries that he's let loose a monster. He needn't have worried.

The synopsis in the above three paragraphs makes Abar sound like it has the potential to be a thought-provoking movie. Unfortunately, the director had more or less no budget, with the result that he was basically unable to develop a coherent script or get good performances out of his actors. It would probably be more accurate to say that he was unable to get actors at all. The acting ranges from way, way over the top (poor Mrs. Kincade when she has to deal with some of the indignities from her racist neighbors) to wooden (where Mrs. Kincade goes over the top hysterical, Dr. Kincade on facing the same indignities is overly emotionless). All this puts the movie into the "so bad it's good" category.

The movie also takes way too long in getting to the point, especially if you come into the movie thinking of the title that TCM had on its schedule. And once Abar does become a superman, what he does with the powers also makes the movie interesting, if a mess. Stereotypical blacks drinking malt liquor on the sidewalks find that their malt liquor has been turned into bottles of milk! Idle black youth are turned into college graduates! Most interestingly, a black preacher gets into his Cadillac, only for it to be turned into a horse and buggy! (I suppose, however, these scenes have at least some political commentary.) Some superpowers.

One other thing that makes the movie an interesting watch is the way in which it's stuck in the time it was made (1977). The music is so 70s, for example. There was probably no budget for a wardrobe, save for a halfway decent suit for Dr. Kincade and the BFU jackets for those guys. So it looks as though everybody just brought their own clothes, resulting in a wonderful display of circa-1977 black fashion. The trips through the Los Angeles ghetto are also an eye-opener. And then there's the nice house the Kincades move into. Avocado green shag carpeting, an

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