Variety: January 1, 1975
by Mack

 

Transposition of The Exorcist ideas to black characters with moderate success.

 

Hollywood, Dec. 23.

American International release of a Mid-America Picture produced by William Girdler, Mike Henry, Gordon C. Layne. Directed by Girdler. Screenplay, G. Cornell Layne, from a story by Girdler and Layne; camera (Movielab color), William Asman; production design, J. Patrick Kelly 3d; music, Robert O. Ragland; songs, Carol Speed, George Gentre Griffin, Patti Henderson; editors, Corky Ehlers, Henry Asman; sound, John Asman, Chuck Hallau; assistant director, Hugh Smith. Reviewed at AIP screening room, Dec. 23, '74. (MPAA Rating: R.; Running time: 89 MINS.

 

Bishop Garnet Williams - William Marshall
Abby Williams - Carol Speed
Rev. Emmett Williams - Terry Carter
Cass Potter - Austin Stoker
Mama Potter - Juanita Moore
Dr. Hennings - Charles Kissinger
Russell - Elliott Moffitt
Taft Hassan - Nathan Cook
Voice of the Demon - Bob Holt
Mrs. Wiggins - Nancy Lee Owens

 

Abby is a black version of The Exorcist, with the mysterious talisman turning up in Nigeria this time and the demon possessing a black minister's wife instead of a white girl. AIP release often hovers close to parody in its cartoonish approach to character and plot, but director William Girdler does a fairly good job in using modest budget to best advantage. Pic should do okay in its intended market.

William Marshall is the exorcist, a prominent black churchman whose archaeological dig with Nigerian minister Nathan Cook liberates a demon to possess Carol Speed, his Louisville daughter-in-law. Demon turns her into a foul-mouthed, sexually wanton creature who causes the death of church organist Nancy Lee Owens and goes on a bar-hopping spree until Marshall can break the spell with some African incantations.

Special effects by Gene Griggs won't fool anyone who saw The Exorcist but Girdler uses rapid cutting to minimize disbelief. Bob Holt is this film's Mercedes McCambridge, doing the demon's growling voice, again as an inferior but not ineffective imitation.

Screenplay by G. Cornell Layne, from story by Layne and Girdler, is utilitarian and doesn't do much with the situation but milk it for shock and gag value. However, some black humor in both senses of the term is generated by the possessed woman's shocking effect on her staid husband Terry Carter and the other members of the congregation. Pic is never especially scary or emotionally gripping, but is enjoyable on the level of a "Mad" magazine film parody.

Carter comes off best in the cast with his convincing portrait of a worried, reserved minister. Marshall is overly pompous and stentorian, and his exorcism sequence lacks passion. Speed throws herself with abandon into the possessed role, but is less adroit as the carefree housewife of the prolog and epilog. Austin Stoker and Juanita Moore are okay as family members, and Elliott Moffitt is amusing as the shy deacon who succumbs to temptation with Speed.

Lensing by William Asman is routine. Other credits are okay, considering production cost.