Abar: The First Black Superman
Abar: The First Black Superman 1977
The first year of running this site, I wanted to do something for Black History Month and so I covered all of the Black superhero movies that I could find, and there weren’t very many. After running this site for a couple more years, I have gotten a large enough list that there are a couple more obscure Black superhero movies that I can still cover. Unfortunately I hit a snag when I couldn’t find a ready copy of Up, Up, and Away, a Disney Channel original movie. But I was able to find one for this film, Abar: The First Black Superman. I didn’t know a whole lot about this film aside from the fact that it was a low budget, blaxploitation flick that had very little with the traditional Superman. It was a lot more preachy than I expected, and the superpowered elements of the story don’t show up until the last thirty minutes. But those thirty minutes made the movie worth it through its complete incredulity.
Through most of the film, it actually follows Dr. Kincaid, a well off Black doctor who moves into an all white neighborhood who does not want him there at all. Luckily for him, a group of Black social justice warriors going by the BFU come to the rescue on their motorcycles led by Abar. He eventually agrees to be the family’s bodyguard to help protect against the bigots in the neighborhood, but he doesn’t do a very good job as their son gets run over. There’s plenty of talk from Abar about how Dr. Kincaid should move back to the ghetto and use his wealth to give back to the Black community along with several clips of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech to further punctuate the racial politics of the film.
It’s not until near the very end of the film when Dr. Kincaid reveals the details of this serum that he’s been working on. One that apparently makes rabbits bulletproof, and takes three hours before it takes effect. I wonder how many bunnies died before he figured out the three hour timeline. But when Abar takes it, he only gets to show off his bulletproof powers once after already getting shot apparently before the three hours were up. But instead of gaining the power to leap tall buildings with a single bound and shoot heat and x-ray radiation out of his eyeballs, he has the psychic ability to affect the minds of those around him to enact an ironic revenge. He’s also able to control the elements around them to further punctuate those feats of justice. Things like when he controls a prostitute to go kung fu on her pimp right after he gives her the pimp slap, or when he transforms a minister’s fancy car into a more humble horse and buggy. He also manages to wreak havoc on the racist neighbors through such means as a plague of rats, a hurricane force wind, and a boa constrictor in a woman’s bed. Not to mention that these are all punctuated with a close up of Abar’s face to help show that he’s the one making these things happen. It’s a shot that becomes more and more hilarious after about the 12th time it happens.
Since this is a low budget blaxploitation movie, there are a lot of pretty weak elements to it. The special effects are essentially non-existent. The boy who gets run over is done through some pretty weak quick cuts and a small blotch of red on his shirt in front of his heart. None of the people in this film are actors by any means. Dr. Kincaid has a bit of a speech impediment with a slight lisp, and he delivers all of his lines as if he were reading them straight from the page with little to no emotion, especially noticeable after his son dies. Abar himself is probably the best of the bunch, who speaks rather eloquently when he’s giving his racial diatribes either to a crowd in the ghetto or to Dr. Kincaid himself. But it’s also written in a way that no one ever actually speaks, even in the 70’s. It also seemed like there was no sounds recorded on set, as none of the actor’s lips seemed to move correctly with the sound, giving it an overly dubbed feel to it. Even the music was handled fairly poorly. The one good track was a very 70’s blaxploitation version of the Mission Impossible theme, but it was used ad nauseum, at points it even seemed to get to the end of the track and had to be restarted because they weren’t quite done with it yet.
There is a lot of good intentions to be had in this film as far as a dialogue for race relations in the 70’s which are still frighteningly relevant today. The problem is that it’s just handled so poorly so that any impact it could have had is lost in translation and instead is just a running joke in this so-bad-it’s-good movie. Unfortunately, it’s not even that recommendable as a so-bad-it’s-good movie as the moments of hilarity are so few and far between. Most of the film is just incredibly dull until it hits that last act when Abar finally gets his super powers. If you are a fan of bad movies like this, I would recommend skipping the whole first half of the film and skip straight to the end, there’s not much that will be lost, and you’ll be all the better for it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.