Blacula is one of the best examples of the 70’s blaxploitation films refered to in today’s politically correct times as Soul Cinema. Not only does it properly represent the era, but it is also simply a good horror flick, providing some legitimate chills and thrills, as well as, a bit of bittersweet romance, too. As directed by William Crain, the tale of an African prince cursed to become the undead by Dracula himself and released from his ages old prison in modern day (at the time) Los Angeles, is a very entertaining movie even without the added 70s nostagia factor. There is lots to enjoy as Blacula builds his undead army and romances a woman who is the striking image of his long dead wife. A big part of the film’s success is the casting of Shakespearean actor William Marshall (know to many of today’s movie fans as The King Of Cartoons from Pee Wee’s Playhouse) in the lead role. Marshall brings a sense of power and nobility to the cursed African prince, Mamuwalde and knows exactly how and when to bring the monster to life when called upon. He even succeeds in making him sexy and sympathetic at the appropriate moments. He is supported by a good cast that brings life to what could have been two dimensional roles including Vonette McGee as Tina, a beautiful woman who resembles Blacula’s lost wife Luva (also McGee) and veteran actor Thalmus Rasulala as a Dr. Gordon Thomas, a forensics investigator who serves as the film’s Van Helsing character and is helping the police investigate a rash of mysterious deaths. Three guesses who’s responsible for those. Sure it’s campy fun at this point and the FX are cheesy by today’s high standards, but that doesn’t negate the work of those in front of and behind the camera as Blacula delivers lots of spooky entertainment. A classic of more than one genre.
EXTRA TRIVIA: It is said that William Marshall himself worked with the filmmakers to give the character nobility and is responsible for his origin as an African Prince which was not part of the original script.
A solid 3 and 1/2 fangs
SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)
Blacula was a big success and so it was a no brainer that A.I.P. rushed into production with a follow up that was released less than a year later. Sequel tries to up the ante by adding the legendary Pam Grier to the cast, but is a weaker effort do to a somewhat lighter touch by director Bob Kelijan and a weaker script by writers Maurice Jules, Raymond Koenig and Joan Torres (Torres and Koenig wrote the original). Grier plays Lisa, a voodoo priestess on whom a rival (Richard Lawson) seaks vengence by resurrecting the vampire Mamuwalde. But Mamuwalde has his own ideas as he sees Grier’s Lisa as a way to finally lift his curse and end his eternal torment. But will his quest to be free cause him to finally embrace the monster within? There is still plenty to enjoy in this lesser sequel and William Marshall is once again strong in the role that sadly didn’t continue after this entry. His commanding presence and intense stare dominate every scene he’s in and who wouldn’t want to stare at Pam Grier who holds her own with Marshall quite well. There are still some very creepy moments, too, especially when a squad of unprepared cops enter a vampire infested mansion at the spooky climax. And the 70s nostagia helps make up for some of the shortcomings by adding some charm to the proceedings. Plenty of entertainment to be had if you liked the first entry, or just enjoy a good dose of 70s B-movie horror. Sadly, Scream’s box office performance scrapped plans for a third entry. Had they only taken time to craft a worthy sequel, this series might have gone on and made a star out of Marshall as Hammer’s Dracula series did for Brit legend Christopher Lee.
EXTRA TRIVIA: Yes, that is Starsky and Hutch’s boss Bernie Hamilton playing Ragman.
My video review segment for Blacula