Friday, May 9, 2014

#1,362. Blacula (1972)

Directed By: William Crain

Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas

Tag line: "Blacula! - Dracula's Soul Brother!"

Trivia: A sequel to this film titled Scream Blacula Scream was released in 1973

You hear the title, and odds are you're thinking this 1972 film is a comedy, a spoof of classic monster movies. But make no mistake: director WIlliam Crain's Blacula is a deadly serious motion picture, and one hell of a frightening horror flick!

Blacula tells the story of Mamuwalde (William Marshall), an African Prince who, in the latter part of the 18th century, traveled to Europe with his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) to negotiate an end to the slave trade. Unfortunately, the first aristocrat he meets with is none other than Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay), who put the bite on Mamuwalde and transformed him into a vampire. To add insult to injury, Dracula then locked the Prince inside a coffin, dooming him to spend the remainder of his unnatural life cut off from the human blood he now craves.

Almost 200 years later, a pair of interior decorators (Ted Harris and Rick Metzler) travel to Transylvania and buy up all of Dracula’s dusty belongings, shipping them off to America to sell in their antique shop. Once back in L.A., they pry open Mamuwalde’s coffin, inadvertently unleashing the bloodthirsty vampire on an unsuspecting populace. 

Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), a forensics expert working with the Los Angeles Police department, is the first to notice something strange is going on; when he inspects the bodies of several recent murder victims, he finds they’ve been completely drained of their blood. While Gordon and Lt. Jack Peters (Gordon Pinsent) are busy piecing together the clues, the fully-revived Mamuwalde is wooing Tina Williams (also played by Vonetta McGee), who is the spitting image of his late wife Luva. 

As more and more of Mamuwalde's victims rise from the dead, each with a hunger for human blood, Dr. Gordon and the police quickly realize they’re dealing with a vampire, and work tirelessly to bring the chaos to an end.

With its funky soundtrack (including a few live performances by The Hues Corporation) and urban setting, Blacula has the look and feel of a '70s "Blaxploitation" movie. What sets it apart, of course, is its focus on horror as opposed to crime, yet while Mamuwalde is definitely a monster, he’s also the film’s most sympathetic character. As portrayed by Marshall, Mamuwalde is a tragic figure, a loving husband whose fight for justice came to an abrupt end when he crossed paths with a vampire. 

When his thirst for blood is at its strongest, Mamuwalde looks downright terrifying (he almost resembles The Wolf Man), but most of the time he’s a normal guy, longing to rekindle a love that was stolen from him so many years ago. With his strong voice and commanding screen presence, Marshall is excellent as both lover and killer, giving us a lead character we feel sorry for, yet who can also scare the daylights out of us (the scene where he surprises a victim in her home is arguably Blacula’s most frightening).

Marshall’s performance, combined with a solid turn by Rasulala (essentially playing this films version of Van Helsing) and some spine-chilling vampires (looking damn creepy with their pale skin and sharp teeth, and acting like animals at feeding time whenever they get hold of a new victim), Blacula strikes the perfect balance between exploitation and horror, making it a must-see for genre fans.


Unknown said...

Classic blaxploitation! Nice write up!

hurdygurdygurlCANADA said...

"Blacula strikes the perfect balance between Blaxploitation and horror, making it a must-see for genre fans." - I will be sure to pass on this cool write-up on Blacula, because it IS that time of year. Spooky and scary!

Unknown said...

it's spelled Mamuwalde