Snorenstein, Borenstein, and “Blackenstein” a.k.a. “Black Frankenstein” (1973) – Blaxploitation Horror #3
by Chloe Brett
Re-visiting William A. Levey’s Blackenstein was not a stop on my journey that I was looking forward to. When I first saw it back in the day I found it pretty lacklustre, monotonous, and not to get to grandiose with my language, but just straight up super-duper boring. I was going in with a slanted view but I still tried to keep my heart and mind open to the possibility that this could potentially be a good movie.
Well, it isn’t.
Dr. Stein (John Hart) who looks like a moustachioed cross between Christopher Lee and Dick Van Dyke, is fresh of his win of the nobel peace prize for solving the DNA genetic code (I took that verbatim, and no, I don’t know what it means), and is dabbling in the science of reversing the aging processes and reattaching limbs. One fine day a knock comes at the door of his spooky mansion, Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone), a former student is looking for aide. Her fiancé Eddie (Joe De Sue) has recently returned from Vietnam minus his arms, legs, and just any general will to live.
After some lazy exposition and flimsy character development Winifred becomes Dr. Stein’s assistant and helps him with his live in patients/guinea pigs. Also present is Dr. Stein’s other assistant Malcomb (Roosevelt Jackson) who instantly falls for Winifred and puts out a very rape-y vibe for the remainder of the film (he may or may not definitely attack her at some point and become fodder for Blackenstein). Then there’s a whole bunch of garbage about laser beam fusion and DNA shots that, in a better made film would probably much cooler and infinitely more interesting. After what feels like an eternity Eddie gets his limbs reattached and is on the road to recovery. But wouldn’t you just know it, that sly fox Malcomb fudges around with Eddie’s DNA shots and the results are monstrous (but not really)!!! Eddie begins sprouting weird hair, his bones shift and grow, and he becomes a bit temperamental to say the least.
While I totally appreciate a film taking a tried and true story like Frankenstein and updating it into a fresh new story, I just can’t with this one. I’d honestly rather watch I, Frankenstein again, because at least it had some pacing and was fun in a ‘so bad it’s good way’. The downfall of the film is really that there just isn’t enough material to work with, it feels as if they tried to stretch a 30 page script into an almost 90 minute movie. To say that there are some filler scenes would be putting it mildly, there’s literally a 10 minute long scene that takes place in a night club and features a stand up comedy routine. What does that have to do with anything else going on in the film? Your guess is as good in mine. Blackenstein features none of the trademark things that really make a blaxploitation film. There’s no fun humour, no good action, a very unmemorable and un-funky soundtrack. At the end of the day this film is terribly unremarkable and has zero heart, feeling more like it was just a grab to cash in a a popular genre rather then making quality film.