William Girdler Sr. remains one of Hollywood history's most prolific and unappreciated B-Movie directors, even long after his death in the late 70s. He's probably best known for his Grizzly, a bleak but very effective Jaws knockoff, the mediocre Day of the Animals and the Tony Curtis supernatural extravaganza The Manitou.
Girdler's Abby is an unbelievably B-Movie bouillabaisse of horror and blaxploitation that is as bad as they come. The film was initially withdrawn from theaters after Warner Brothers threatened legal action for similarities with The Exorcist which led Warner to sue Abby’s producers and thus gave the picture its notoriety. Abby made it into the Golden Turkey Awards book as a nominee for the Worst Blaxploiotation Film of All Time and it's easy to see why. Abby is truly a dreadful film on just about all levels, but it is also a lot of fun to watch.
Theologian Dr. Williams (William Marshall) travels to Nigeria to study a cult that resides in the area that worships a phallic shaped entity named Eshu. When Dr. Williams finds a hollow phallic container and opens it, dust flies, wind blows and his crew is tossed around in midair by the liberated spirit. We see flashes of some sort of green demon thing with bushy eyebrows, a poorly executed imitation on the way that William Friedkin used subliminal shock cuts on his Pazuzu in the original The Exorcist.
Meanwhile, back in Louisville, Dr Williams' son, Emmet , Emmet's mother in law and his young wife, Abby (Carol Speed), have settled into a new home. They all take a break from moving to eat a fried chicken dinner on the porch. In this scene one can spot a bucket of Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken in the background. In fact throughout the film there are three or four fried chicken eating scenes. There is a sad theory that this has nothing to do with product placement but of an incredibly insensitive script filled with cliché stereotypes portraying African Americans in the South as eating fried chicken and watermelon all the time.
The next morning while Abby showers a big phallic shadow creature as seen through the shower curtain drives Abby to an unexpected orgasm. Before long, Abby is demonstrating signs of demonic possession and unbridled sexual hunger. At church Abby starts to cough and choke loudly. Mama and Russell, the church funeral director, help her out of the church. She throws Russell to the ground, dry humps him, then vomits in his face. From here we have Abby, getting upset while cutting chicken, rolling her tongue around, having spells and speaking in a frighteningly demon voice. Soon she begins raping men and terrorizing everyone she comes in contact with.
Dr .Williams realizes that Eshu has possessed his daughter-in-law and returns from Nigeria to save the day and Abby’s marriage. Abby runs amok killing more people, beating up an entire hospital staff, and finally heads for the local disco to loose some steam. The climatic scene in Abby is the inevitable showdown between Dr. Williams, Emmet, Abby's brother, and of course Abby. The climactic exorcism happens at the "Bea's Den," a disco club trimmed in the excesses of 70's blaxploitation filmsconsisting of blow-out afros, soul music, pimp hats and polyester pantsuits. There's also exploding Disco balls, flaming Mai Tais, flying dakiris, vomit, levitations, white eyes and lots of colorful ghetto language. The ending of Abby ranks up there, way up there, in all the history of exploitation cinema.
The dialogue in this film must be heard to be believed. Emmet proudly informs Mama that Abby just earned her certificate for marriage counseling. Mama gushes, "Oh really? On top of the youth program, and working with the junior choir?" When Emmet quotes some sexy bible talk to Abby, she replies, "I'm not your ho. Shit. You ain't got enough to satisfy me, you impotent son of a bitch!" In a counseling session with one of her clients Abby turns nasty by stating "I have a few special tips for Sue. All men are NOT created equal - better make sure what he's got first. As a matter of fact, I'm going to take old long George upstairs, and fuck the shit out of him!" Abby starts ripping off her clothes. A traumatized Emmet cries, "My God, Abby! Whatever POSSESSED you to do a thing like that?"
The performances range from functional to quite good. The best comes from the always dignified, commanding William Marshall (Blacula) as Dr Williams followed by Carol Speed (from Sesame Street) who tries hard as Abby. Paula Henderson's main theme, "Will We Find Our Tomorrows," is silly, memorable and totally irrelevant to the story. I have to admit that although often ridiculous, Abby is never dull and a hoot to watch.