Abby (1974)

USA,
92m
35mm film, colour
mono, English

An American horror film directed by William Girdler. It was taken out of theatrical distribution shortly after its initial release in the USA after Warner Bros. accused producers American International Pictures of copyright infringement, claiming the film was too similar to their recent hit The Exorcist (1973). As a result of this and ongoing uncertainties as to the owner of the distribution rights, Abby remained out of circulation for many years.

Plot Summary

A black American Bishop unleashes the demon Eshu, god of sexuality and evil-doing while on an archaeology trip to Nigeria. Eshu possess Abby, the wife of the Bishop's priest son and the two men, aided by the woman's brother, must do battle with the demon to free her soul.

Credits

Crew
Directed by: William Girdler
© MCMLXXIV American International Pictures Inc
American International [logo]. A William Girdler production [opening credits]. A Mid-America picture. An American International release [closing credits]
Produced by: William Girdler, Mike Henry, Gordon C. Layne
Screenplay by: Gordon Cornell Layne
Story by: William Girdler and G. Cornell Layne
Director of Photography: William Asman
Edited by: Corky Ehlers and Henry Asman
Music Composed and Conducted by: Robert O. Ragland
Sound: John Asman, Chuck Haillau
Wardrobe: Diane Landers, Rosalyn Smith
Make-Up by: Joe Kenney
Special Effects: Sam Price
Production Designer: J. Patrick Kelly III
Locations: Louisville, Kentucky

Cast
William Marshall (Bishop Garnet Williams)
Terry Carter (Rev Emmett Williams)
Austin Stoker (Cass Potter)
Carol Speed as Abby
Juanita Moore (Mama Potter)
Charles Kissinger (Dr Hennings)
Elliott Moffitt (Russell Lang)
Nathan Cook (Taft Hassan)
Nancy Lee Owens (Mrs Wiggins)
Billy Bradford (Doctor Rogers)
Joann Holcomb (Lois)
Claude Fulkerson (Benny)
Bill Wilson (Dan)
Chuck Broadus (Joe)
Don Henderson (Flip)
John Miller (Hal)
Julia Jones (Louella)
Joan Ray (Sue)
George Robinson (George)
Mary Minor (Lolly)

Alternative Titles

Possess My Soul – shooting title

Press

1974
Hollywood Reporter vol.234 no.25 (26 December 1974)
This is American International's black exorcist, a crudely made, obvious imitation but with some scary moments rehashing the hysterical mood and some of the less expensive special effects of the William Friedkin original… The dialogue is laughably literal (“Whatever possessed you to do a thing like that?”). William Girdler's direction involves television-style shooting and unoriginal staging – John H. Dorr

1975
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.42 no.499 (August 1975) p.171
Comic effects tend to win out over horror effects in this version of The Exorcist, both because of the cheapness of the production, which makes the Nigerian ‘location' (where the evil is first unleashed) look like the tattiest backlot in some ancient serial, and because, in its rather limited notion of evil-doing, the demon has the diminutive heroine running tirelessly amok in a night-club, in the style of her sisters from the Coffy/Cleopatra Jones school. The special effects also leave something to be desired, especially the ‘voice of the demon', which sounds rather like Mr Magoo played at the wrong speed – Richard Combs

Variety 1 January 1975 p.14
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 is never especially scary or emotionally gripping, but is enjoyable on the level of a Mad magazine film parody. – Mack

References

Periodicals
Castle of Frankenstein no.25 p.58
Fangoria no.264 (June 2007) pp.78-83 – illustrated article (Blacula: blood brother by David Konow)
The Hollywood Reporter vol.234 no.25 (26 December 1974) pp.3, 7 – review (by John H. Dorr)
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.42 no.499 (August 1975) p.171 – credits, synopsis, review (by Richard Combs)
Variety 1 January 1975 p.14 – credits, review (by Mach)
Weng's Chop no.9 (August 2016) pp.8-9 – illustrated article (Rhythm & blues & ghouls: Blacula and the blaxploitation horror sub-genre by Troy Howarth

Books
American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography by Rob Craig p.27
American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson p.248 – credits, synopsis, review
The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.288 – credits, review
Creature Features Movie Guide Strikes Again by John Stanley p.10 – credits, review
Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.320
Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures by Mark Thomas McGee p.300
Film Review 1976-1977 by F. Maurice Speed p.159 – credits
Hoffman's Guide to Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Movies p.14 – credits, review
Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.2 – credits
The Horror Film Handbook by Alan Frank p.11 – credits, review
Horror Films of the 1970s by John Kenneth Muir p.308 – credits, note
Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Film and Television Credits Volume II p.732 – credits
Psychotronic Video Guide by Michael Weldon p.1 – credits, review
Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990 by Brian Albright p.212
Rock ‘n' Roll Monsters: The American International Story by Bruce G. Hallenbeck p.294
The World of Fantasy Films by Richard Myers p.33