Alabama’s Ghost (1973)

The film Alabama’s Ghost defies classification. Is it horror? Is it comedy? Is it sci-fi? Is it a musical? Regardless of the genre, one thing’s certain: there were copious amounts of LSD involved. The movie is perhaps best summed up by a line uttered by shady agent Otto Max (Steven Kent Browne) as he tries to sell our hero Alabama (Christopher Brooks) on his vision for a magic act: “Surrealism’s where it’s at.”

If you keep this in mind, you may not care that you understand only a third of the plot, which is partly summed up in the opening minute via a voiceover describing an early 20th-century Nazi scientist and robot technologist named Caligula who went to India to find the magician Carter the Great, who had discovered a substance known as Raw Zeta that resembled a form of hashish called Cartoon Khaki and that when refined and introduced into a human body via acupuncture, could form Deadly Zeta, which would give the human the power to hypnotize people. Got it?

And what better way to follow up that convoluted intro than with a wacky, Music Man-esque theme song? “Who’s the ghostest with the mostest? / Who’s the best from coast to coastest? Carter’s come back to Frisco land; / He’s the ghost from Alabam.” Alabama is a black nightclub janitor and all-around cool cat who utters ridiculous lines like, “That was smooth like a hundred yellow pussycats dancing on jade,” and who seems to be as perennially high as, say, the writers of this film. He’s also an incompetent boob who runs a forklift straight through the club’s wall, inadvertently discovering magician Carter’s stash of magic tricks, riches and, naturally, hash.

He decides to use the tricks to become the greatest magician ever: Alabama, King of the Cosmos. He tours to sold-out crowds, performing tricks like levitation and the old swords-in-a-box gag, plus something involving a sailor, a witch and a monkey. Use your imagination. But all is not well. Carter’s ghost (E. Kerrigan Prescott) shows up to warn Alabama not to use his tricks with greed and ambition in his heart, lest he fall prey to the vampires. Did someone say vampires? That’s right; turns out that Alabama’s new entourage is full of vampires looking to use him to take over the world.

Alabama dismisses Carter’s warning, though, assuming that the ghost is racist and doesn’t want a black man taking his place as the best magician ever. Carter’s ghost becomes further incensed when Alabama makes a deal with the evil Jerry Gault (Ken Grantham) to reveal the secret behind the “vanishing elephant act.” (The secret: tiny elephants?) However, when Alabama realizes that vampires are involved, he freaks out and runs to see his mom, who takes him to a voodoo witch doctor (which all black people must have on speed dial).

Meanwhile, Gault creates an Alabama robot double to use as a sieve to convert Raw Zeta to Deadly Zeta in order to hypnotize people who attend the big show so that the vampires can feed on them…or something like that. I watched the ending, but I still can’t tell you what happened. Some people were bitten by vamps, some vamps were shot by lasers from a magic wand, someone got stepped on by a tiny elephant and I think I got a contact high.

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