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Blackenstein, also known as Black Frankenstein, is a 1973 American blaxploitation horror film loosely based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Released on August 3, 1973, It was made in an attempt to cash in on the success of Blacula; released the previous year by American International Pictures. However, Blackenstein a fared poorly in comparison to its predecessor, with most reviews agreeing that the movie was "a totally inept mixture of the worst horror and blaxploitation films".
- John Hart – Dr. Stein
- Ivory Stone – Dr. Winifred Walker
- Joe De Sue – Eddie Turner
- Roosevelt Jackson – Malcomb
- Andrea King – Eleanor
- Nick Bolin – Bruno Stragor
- Karin Lind – Hospital Supervisor
- Yvonne Robinson – Hospital Receptionist
- Liz Renay – Blonde Murder Victim
According to director William A. Levey, non-actor Joe De Sue was cast in the title role because he was a client of criminal lawyer turned writer/producer Frank R. Saletri, as was celebrity cult icon Liz Renay. Saletri also wrote, produced and directed the never-released Black the Ripper and wrote the screenplays for two unmade Sherlock Holmes movies, Sherlock Holmes in the Adventures of the Werewolf of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes in the Adventures of the Golden Vampire which was to star Alice Cooper as Dracula. In 1982 Saletri was found murdered "gangland style" in his home, a mansion formerly owned by Bela Lugosi.
Despite all the talk of DNA and laser surgery, the movie's laboratory set uses Kenneth Strickfaden's original sparking and zapping electrical equipment from the 1931 Frankensteinfilm. Except for the soulful songs written and sung by Cardella DiMilo, the musical score consists of stock music taken from classical composers and old horror movies.
Surprisingly for a blaxploitation movie of this time period and despite its title, Blackenstein features little, if any, overt displays of racism, with even the angry tirade the white orderly directs toward the bedridden Eddie motivated more by bitter jealousy about not being able to join the army than any form of bigotry. Several sequels were announced by various producers, including The Fall of the House of Blackenstein and Blackenstein III by one and Black Frankenstein Meets the White Werewolf by another, but were never made. The Return Of Blackenstein is not a sequel but merely a retitled re-release of the original film. The Mexican lobby card for Blackenstein is actually "swiped" from the American posterfor the 1965 Japanese kaiju flick Frankenstein Conquers the World with the title loincloth-clad monster repainted brown.
Other appearances/Home video release
Blackenstein has appeared in skits on Saturday Night Live and on MADtv where he was re-dubbed "Funkenstein". The movie was referenced in the 2003 South Korean film Save the Green Planet!. Blackenstein is given a surprisingly serious scholarly examination as an aspect of a larger cultural perspective in Elizabeth Young's Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor published in 2009 as part of the America and the Long 19th Century series from New York University Press. Blackenstein was first released on video in the late '70s by Media Home Entertainment and again on DVD and VHS by Xenon Pictures in 2003. Severin Films released the Blu-ray on May 30, 2017; fully restored, it features two versions of the film: the theatrical release, at 87 minutes, and the video release, at 78 minutes. Extras include the original theatrical trailer, as well as numerous interviews.