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  Alabama's Ghost Surrealism's Where It's At
Year: 1973
Director: Fredric Hobbs
Stars: Christopher Brooks, Peggy Brown, E. Kerrigan Prescott, Steven Kent Browne, Ken Grantham, Karen Ingenthron, Ann Weldon, Ann Wagner Ward, Joel Nobel
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The story goes that back in the nineteen-thirties a powerful magician named Carter the Great had developed a new brand of hash that could be transformed into so-called "Deadly Zeta", a narcotic which zombified its users and made them far more malleable under the command of whoever wanted to control them. But when Carter died in 1935, his secrets went with him - until now, as a stage manager and all round dogsbody of this nightclub happens to crash through a wall in his forklift truck and uncover the hoard of the conjurer's magic. But what can Alabama (Christopher Brooks) do with it?

Actually, you might still be asking that question when the movie is over, as Alabama's Ghost was one of those works which had to be seen to be disbelieved. It was the final big screen effort of artist Fredric Hobbs before he returned to art full time; he only made four films and each of them has as small but devoted following who lament that this eccentric left the movie world when he obviously had so much creativity to offer - imagine what he could have done on a sizeable budget! As it was, he was operating on a low level of funding, but this did not seem to have held back his impulses, as he still managed to rustle up something special even in those circumstances.

Of course, calling ths film "special" is an objective term, because there will be many turned off completely by a film that makes no sense, or does not appear on the surface to have anything sensible to say to them. To call it a horror movie isn't helpful either, as while it does feature ghosts, vampires, voodoo and a sort of Frankenstein Monster, there's not much scary about it, it's simply weird. It seems to be a comment on the fickle nature of fame, and how an artist can be exploited by sinister elements, so once Alabama finds the enchanted hash in a box it sets him on a path to David Copperfield style success as a magician.

However, he does not know he is being used by those dodgy behind the scenes individuals, which we do know as Hobbs makes it evident to us early on. Not that Alabama is stupid, he's really only easily manipulated, though at least Brooks has the kind of charisma that can convince you that he would have these fans clamouring for his latest stage trick, even if those tricks we see are nothing that you wouldn't see in any cut rate Vegas show. His piece of resistance is to be the disappearing elephant stunt, which the whole film builds up to, but for reasons which become apparent by the time we reach the climax, doesn't happen, although what does occur is not exactly a let down.

Unless you've grown tired of a movie which is so wrapped up in itself that it isn't communicating much to you, which could well be the case: an unsympathetic viewer can easily fall prey to a headache of utter bafflement watching this. For those with more adventurous tastes, then they will be content to see each fresh sequence throw up something they can honestly say they won't have witnessed in a film before, though whether that's a good thing or not is very much up to you. As Alabama moves from his lowly position at the nightclub to superstar status, he is troubled by the ghost of Carter (complete with beating heart attached to the outside of his chest), drives around in a customised car whose concept is impossible to work out, nearly gets bitten by a vampire so in his fright runs miles and miles to the arms of his mother, and unwittingly sets in motion the return of the Nazis (they're vampires too), whose plans for world domination hinge upon Alabama's spell casting. Is it supposed to be funny? We may never know precisely what it was supposed to be.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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