Alabama’s Ghost (1973)

In the early 1970s, Fredric Hobbs pioneered an art form that he called ART ECO, a combination of environmental technology, fine art, solar/nomadic architecture and interactive communications with an ecologically balanced lifestyle.

But more important to our studies, Hobbs also wrote and produced four films, the missing potentially forever Troika, Roseland, the incredibly strange Godmonster of Indian Flats and this movie. I am pleased to report that in the first minute of this movie, it somehow outweirds even the Godmonster. How is this even possible?

“Whilst storm clouds gathered over Europe in the years before the war, Hitler’s most brilliant and renowned young scientist, Dr. Kirsten Caligula, vanished suddenly from her laboratory in Berlin.

World press received unconfirmed reports that Dr. Caligula — an expert in robot technology — had been dispatched to Calcutta, India, on a top secret mission for the Fuhrer himself.

Her orders: to interview the world-famed magician and spiritualist Carter the Great at his Mountain retreat near Calcutta. There to study his most recent discovery a rare super-substance known as Raw-Zeta.

It was rumored amongst scientists of the time that Carter’s substance resembled a highly potent form of hashish known as Cartoon-Khaki. Other authoritative sources in the Far East reported that Raw-Zeta, when refined electronically, could result in the formation of Deadly-Zeta.

Carter — in ghost form — was introduced into a human body by Chinese acupuncture techniques. In his last public statement, Carter warned that any mortal wired to Deadly-Zeta could be used as a broadcasting catalyst to enslave all humans with the sound of his voice, thus becoming an unwitting tool for the most diabolical forces of evil known to man.

Soon afterward, Carter vanished forever whilst visiting his sister in San Francisco, perhaps a victim of his own prophecy.

Seven years later, when Carter was pronounced legally, dead his admirers held a spirit funeral over an empty black coffin.”

These words — originally transcribed by the site Taliesin Meets the Vampires — start the film and then we’re instantly slammed into a Dixieland band playing a song called “Alabama’s Ghost” that spoils most of the movie. That’s when we meet our hero, Alabama, who crashes a forklift into a room that is filled with the magical tools of Carter the Great. He decides to visit the magician’s sister in San Francisco and learn more about how he can become a great magician.

Alabama is played by Christopher Brooks, who also played Hieronymous Bosch in Roseland and Jesus Christ in The Mack. He also shows up in Godmonster of Indian Flats. He’s incredible in this movie, to the point that you could have really told me he really was the character and that they just filmed his crazy life and didn’t tell him that this was a narrative film.

She agrees to allow him to keep the Raw-Zeta, which he believes is hashish, and Zoerae — her granddaughter — will travel with Alabama, teaching him more of the ways of magic. However, when our protagonist leaves, we learn that the old woman is a man. And a vampire. And soon, we also discover that Zoerae is also a vampire, part of a coven that still follows Dr. Caligula and will use the media airwaves of a man named Gaunt to speak through Alabama, transforming the Raw-Zeta to Deadly Zeta and take over the world.

If you make it this far without wondering what the hell is going on, I’d be amazed. This movie is quite literally insane on every single level and I love it for whatever it is.

Meanwhile, Alabama is being managed by Otto Max, a rock and roll promoter, and learns that being a big star isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Oh yeah — he’s also mentored by the ghost of Carter the Great, who is trying to help him battle the vampires and become King of the Cosmos. But dude, those vampires have whole factories where they use young hippy girls as fuel.

Carter’s ghost is played by E. Kerrigan Prescott, who was also Prof. Clemens in Godmonster of Indian Flats and the lead character, Adam Wainwright the Black Bandit, in Roseland.

In 1973, $50,000, an elephant and possibly no small amount of drugs could create something this baffling and wonderous. It also has Turk Murphy, Dixieland jazz trombonist who ran the club Earthquake McGoons in San Francisco and also lent his voice to cartoons on Sesame Street.

There’s also a robotic version of Alabama, vampire bikers, the aforementioned elephant, lots of hippy freakout dancing, German undead scientists obsessed with marijuana and no small amount of musical numbers. I can’t even begin to explain how much I love Hobbs’ films and how much nearly everyone else will probably hate them. Nothing and everything happens all at once.

There’s a battle between Carter’s ghost and Alabama over the nature of magic. A real magician never reveals how they perform their magic and Otto demands that our hero reveal how an elephant can vanish.

This is a movie where the end credits come in at the beginning and a hippy singalong can bring a man back from the brink of death. The copy that I watched was beat up and appeared to be a VHS dub of a print that had run through every drive-in and grindhouse in the country, watched at 9 AM on a peaceful Sunday morning when most of the rest of the normal world was asleep. I can’t think of a better way to watch this movie.

I hope that when you watch this film, you feel the same magic and joy that I felt.

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