Monday, January 05, 2009

Alabama’s Ghost – review

Director: Frederick Hobbs

Release date: 1973

Contains spoilers

I like, once I have watched a film for review and made my little notes, to leave the film for a little bit… not long you understand but long enough for nuances to filter through, to allow my mind to sort and compartmentalise what I have just seen. My mind is still reeling from the psychedelic fare that is Alabama’s ghost.

Let us start with the introductory voice over: “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 Führer 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-Zaeta. It was rumoured amongst scientist 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-Zaeta, when refined electronically,
and introduced into a human body by Chinese acupuncture techniques could result in the formation of Deadly-Zaeta. In his last public statement Carter warned that any mortal wired to Deadly-Zaeta 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 afterwards Carter vanished for ever 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.”

Whoa… now that is weird, the film then moves to San Francisco and a ragtime band, led by Turk Murphy, play a song called Alabama’s Ghost as the credits role – end credits at that. It is as though we have reached the end of the film and the song seems to speak of things that have not yet happened to the hero of the film Alabama (Christopher Brooks). Alabama himself is stage manager for the band – a gig whilst he writes his own tunes – and is left to put the equipment in storage as Murphy is going on holiday. In the basement he crashes a forklift and opens a passage to the lost equipment of Carter (E Kerrigan Prescott).

He finds some Raw-Zaeta, which he thinks is hashish, and goes to see Carter’s sister – whose address is in the stash. The door is opened by Zoerae (Peggy Browne) who tells him that granny (Ken Grantham) doesn’t see anyone but Alabama gets to see Granny, by using Carter’s name, and tells the old lady that he wishes to be a magician. A threat of mentioning the hashish to the authorities convinces her but he must be trained by Moxie (also Ken Grantham) and hand the hashish over to him. Alabama agrees but when he leaves granny reveals fangs and removes a wig revealing herself to be male.

Alabama is trained and ends up performing Carter’s tricks with Zoerae assisting. A promoter called Otto Max (Steven Kent Browne) has seen him perform and takes him under his wing. His aim to make magic the new rock and roll. Alabama is on the road but all is not as it seems.

Zoerae is a vampire, part of a cult of vampires who still work with Doctor Caligula (Karen Ingenthron) under the orders of media mogul Gault (also Ken Grantham). They aim to take over the world by putting Alabama on a worldwide broadcast festival and converting the Raw-Zaeta into Deadly-Zeata through him.

The ghost of Carter is trying to warn him but Alabama isn’t listening, partly because he thinks the ghost is racist – and so the young magician must get help from his mother, Mama-Bama (Ann Weldon) and voodoo priest Doc (Joel Nobel). If you are confused don’t worry – that was more succinct than the film and believe me the film is one psychedelic trip.

It is a psychedelic trip that must have had some form of budget, there are plenty of extras, costumes and even an elephant running around. The vampires are obviously so because of fangs, they can be killed by being shot by magic wand, though sunlight is not an issue for them. They do feed on blood and even have a factory that processes young hippy girls for feeding purposes.

The acting is generally amateur but Christopher Brooks had a Hell of a lot of presence and really seemed to enjoy himself, making this more watchable as a film. The closest I could get to feel would be something like 200 Motels – without Zappa’s genius to carry the film forward. Not great but one of the strangest, tripiest vampire movies you’ll ever see. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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