Abar, the First Black Superman (1977)

Also known as SuperBlack and In Your Face, this movie has Dr. Kinkade giving a special formula to his bodyguard John Abar to become a black superhero. It was shot in the Baldwin Hills and Watts neighborhoods of Los Angeles without any permits. When the cops showed up, the actors playing the motorcycle gang surrounded them and the crew kept right on shooting.

Directed by white actor Frank Packard, who acted in a few films and was a gaffer on The Runaways, written by J. Walter Smith (who also plays Dr. Kinkade) and funded and conceived by James Smalley, a pimp from Louisiana who had the connections to film this movie in an actual house of the rising sun. He ran out of money before the film was completed and then sold the film to the owner of a film processing lab to settle his unpaid bills. It played the Southern drive-in circuit and black theaters and then went away until it was released again in 1990.

John Abar (Tobar Mayo) has come to the aid of the doctor and his family after they move to an all white neighborhood and get treated exactly as you’d expect. He leads the Black Front of Unity (BFU) who sadly can’t save the life of Kinkade’s son. He’s given superpowers in the hopes that he can combine Dr. King and Malcolm X along with the invulnerability he needs to not get killed.

He also gets mental powers, the kind that allow him to teach prostitutes how to kung fu their masters — I wonder how Smalley felt about that — and turns a racist’s dinner to earthworms years before The Lost Boys.

To quote Black Horror Movies — and Abar — the powers may have been his all along: “You see, the potion released from my soul an ancient wisdom. My powers are of a divine origin. I’m only a tool, a mirror reflecting man onto himself. By controlling the mind, I can hasten the retributive forces lodged in his unconscious mind.”

He then lets a literal Biblical plague loose on those honkeys.

This movie may appear cheap, because it is. But it also has some really great ideas, it presents a hero that brings intelligence instead of violence and has multiple views of the 70s black experience. It’s also incredibly weird, almost unexpectedly so. I found myself loving every minute of this and I think you will as well.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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