Warner Brothers’ lawyers must have had the best holiday season ever in 1974, thanks to all of the work they were getting shutting down ripoffs of The Exorcist. The success of Abby — $4 million in a month for its distributor, American International Pictures — led to the lawsuit that pulled all prints of the film. That’s probably why the copy I have has been battered to, well, hell and back.
Directed by William Girder (Three on a Meathook, Jaws ripoff Grizzly, Day of the Animals and The Manitou), Abby is quite simply the African-American take on a possession film. Abby isn’t possessed by Satan, though. Nope, she is being taken over by Eshu, the West African trickster god, master of chaos and whirlwinds. Dr. Garrett Williams (William Marshall, not only Blacula but the King of Cartoons!) opens the film by explaining that Eshu is the most powerful of all earthly deities, the very embodiment of chaos. While on a Nigeria cave dig, he finds a puzzle box (I’d call it the Lamont Configuration, but would anyone get the Sanford and Son meets Hellraiser reference?) carved with phallic symbols. Once opened, a wind blows out that knocks the doctor and his men down, then travels the whole way to Louisville, Kentucky. There, it finds Abby, the wife of Dr. William’s son Emmett (Terry Cotter, Colonel Tighe from the original Battlestar Galactica).
Abby may have been a marriage counselor and a member of the church, but that’s all over. From cutting herself while making chicken to flipping out on anyone and everyone, Abby gets all the trademarks of possession, if those trademarks had the same voice as The Exorcist speaking in jive, calling people motherfuckers. When her husband tries to make love to her, she kicks him right in the balls. Also, Abby looks like a grey version of The Hulk when she is possessed. Basically, I just want you to know that everything Abby does is awesome and amazing and perfect.
Despite the efforts of white doctors and Dr. Williams, Abby escapes, sending a wind storm after everyone. Emmett runs after her, but since Abby has his car, he flags down a car. He then pulls a white woman out of the car and chases after her! Luckily, Abby’s brother, Cass, is a cop who is able to smooth all of this over. He’s played by Austin Stoker from the original Assault on Precinct 13 and Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
So where does Abby go? Why only to see some stock footage of Louisville’s finest clubs! Abby even tries to hook up with a bunch of guys who can’t satisfy her, so she kills them (but not before we get a dizzying POV shot of possessed Abby). The first dude literally gets killed when the car he was making out with Abby bounces up and down while smoke comes out of the windows.
Abby is on the make with a white guy who talks like WC Fields, but her husband and brother are on the hunt, searching through bars and b-roll footage!
They find her in a bar where she turns the entire bar against her husband before her brother starts shooting his gun up in the air. But oh shit — Dr. Williams shows up to battle it out with Abby!
Luckily, everything works out and Abby is saved. I mean, sure, a few people died along the way and some lady got carjacked and may never get over it. But people — Abby is fine and that’s all that matters.
Carol Speed is awesome in this film. And she wasn’t even the first choice for the title role! She won the role after the original actress was fired after demanding an on set masseuse! She even wrote her own song, “Is Your Soul a Witness?” that she sings in one of the church scenes. She also mentioned that the film was cursed, thanks to plenty of accidents, sickness and even tornadoes that tore through the set. Supposedly, generators would fail whenever she was in makeup, but I’d chalk these stories up as complete Hollywood carny bullshit. Which is to say, yes, totally, this movie was cursed and African penis gods rained insanity down on the set!