I hate to admit it, but this is my very first viewing of this 70’s vampire romp. I’m not sure why, but despite catching a glimpse here and there I had generally avoided watching Blacula over the years.
I think the title put me off…oh come on, can you blame me, I thought it was going to be some low-brow cheese-fest (and not in a good way either.) As it turns out though, I had a completely wrong impression…hey, it happens, I can’t be right all the time.
Now the titular Blacula is actually an 18th century African prince named Mamuwalde (William Marshall…oh my gawd it’s the King of Cartoons from Pee wee’s Playhouse…a suave, imposing man with the most gorgeous baritone) who, while on a trip to Transylvania (?) to try and negotiate the end of the slave trade, becomes a victim of Count Dracula. It turns out that instead of an eternally young Transylvania prince, this Dracula is an aged British douche with a racist streak and very little imagination. The latter is probably why he chooses the name Blacula for his latest victim…right before imprisoning him in a coffin to suffer the throes of bloodlust throughout…well you get where I’m going with this.
Two hundred years later a pair of flamboyant, gay antique dealers purchase the bulk of Dracula’s estate and transport the lot, including an entombed Mamuwalde, to Los Angeles.
You’d think one would check that a coffin was empty before transporting across it international borders…but I guess these things were way lax back in the 70’s.
Mamuwalde is soon set free (cause the antique dealers want the coffin for a guest bed) and the vampire gets his first taste of blood…followed swiftly by his second. Of course shortly after his release, the vampire stumbles upon a young woman named Tina (a stunning young Vonetta McGee) who is a dead ringer for his murdered wife…seriously how does this happen in EVERY vampire movie.
The story isn’t exactly what one would call original, but it works, mainly due to the incredibly commanding presence of Marshall, who brings an air of sophistication and poise to a role that could have been all camp and no substance.
As it stands there’s plenty of 70’s camp to be had, but it isn’t overwhelming. Everyone from Marshall to McGee to this movie’s own version of Dr Van Helsing (a fantastic Thalmus Rasulala) and all the rest of the supporting cast (which includes veteran canuck actor Gordon Pinsent) are all accomplished actors who own their roles and play it straight. I have to admit, its a pleasure watching good actors do their thing and do it well.
Side Note: Look for an awesome cameo by The Hues Corporation as the local nightclub act.
Blacula was one of a string of blaxploitation films released in the 70’s, although unlike other genre classics like Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Superfly and Shaft (to name a few), Blacula focuses more on story and less on reinforcing stereotypes and thrives on stellar casting and earnest performances.
There is (of course) a sequel called Scream Blacula Scream which I’m looking forward to checking out, but in the meantime, here is the trailer to the awesome original Blacula.
Have you seen this 70’s vampire flick horror fans? Let me know what you thought of it…and as always give a girl some love and click that Like button.