Blacula – The Complete Collection | Let Dracula’s soul brother put his spell on you all over again!
Behold Blacula! America’s first African American vampire! In 1972’s Blacula, Prince Mamuwalda (William Marshall) is turned by Dracula into a ‘living fiend’ and entombed for nearly two centuries until he is unwittingly released in modern-day Los Angeles, where he goes all Fatal Attraction on Vonetta McGee’s Tina, who could be the reincarnation of his long-dead wife. Resurrected a year later, in 1973’s Scream Blacula Scream, Blacula encounters Pam Grier’s voodoo priestess who could be the answer to bringing peace to his soul…
Warm, young bodies will feed his hunger, and hot, fresh blood his awful thirst!
In the wave of Blaxploitation films made in the US in the 1970s, came the unlikely horror Blacula (1972) – the first and best of the 15 black horror titles to emerge out of the era. Though largely ignored by critics, Blacula went on to become Variety’s Top 50 Movies of 1972 and is now regarded as a cult Soul Cinema classic, alongside the likes of Shaft (1971), Trouble Man (1972) and Coffy (1973). Despite the few genuine chills on offer and a romantic reincarnation subplot that’s indebted to Universal’s 1932 horror The Mummy, Blacula is a hip and happening horror that’s not strictly played for cheesy laughs, despite its tongue-in-cheek title. There’s a police crime thriller vibe going on (director William Craine had previously done an episode of TV’s Mod Squad), while the script relishes in taking bites out of racial prejudice and homophobia (a gay interracial couple must be a cinema first).
Suave basso profondo thespian William Marshall (he was King of Cartoons on Pee Wee’s Playhouse in the 1980s) brings grandeur, menace and sympathy to the role of the vampirised African prince terrorising south LA’s notorious Watts neighbourhood in a Bela Lugosi-styled tux and cape, while putting the bite on jive-talking pimps and drug dealers like some John Shaft with fangs. The funkadelic R&B score is by the legendary Gene Page, which was later released as a soundtrack album (which is quite the collector’s item these days). Director Craine’s next black horror was 1976’s Dr Black, Mr Hyde. Love Letters singer Ketty Lester makes a cameo, while AIP regular Elisha Cook makes nifty use of a metal hook hand.
The Black Prince of Shadows Stalks the Earth Again!
Having turned to dust and bones at the end of the first film, Blacula rose again in the rushed-in 1973 sequel Scream Blacula Scream by a voodoo priest (Richard Lawson), seeking revenge on his rival (played by Soul Cinema queen Pam Grier). Believing Grier’s priestess Lisa can end his curse, Blacula becomes fixated on her with fatal results – she ends up ends up driving a stake into a voodoo doll replica of him. Though not as successful as the original, Scream Blacula Scream looks great (check out the 1970s threads on the cool vamps!) with more blood and shocks, particularly when the undead take on the police in the film’s climactic scene. These creepy moments are courtesy of Robert Kelljan, who also directed AIP’s surprisingly scary Count Yorga films, starring Robert Quarry as another vampire out of sorts in modern LA. Both Blacula and Yorga are two my favourite 1970s movie monsters, and I’ve always imagined how great a sequel would have been in which the urbane bloodsucking duo got to do a Freddy vs Jason styled face off. Sadly, that’s just a pipe-dream. However they have been immortalised as collectible action figures, so maybe someone could do a stop-motion short one day soon (anyone?) Next up for a HD resurrection – the two Yorga films, please!
THE UK DUAL FORMAT RELEASE
The Eureka! Classics release includes brand new 1080p high-definition transfers and progressive DVD encodes; plus optional English subtitles. The picture is a little grainy on my system (especially in the night scenes), but the sound is wicked. The only extras are trailers for both films and introductions from Kim Newman; however there is a very informative booklet with neat articles by Josiah Howard, author of Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide; and includes some reprints of original lobby cards and posters. This release is a real must-have for fans of schlocky 70s horror.
Posted on November 9, 2014, in American International Pictures, Cult classic, Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged 1970s blaxploitation, American International Pictures, Blacula, Blacula - The Complete Collection, Blaxploitation films, Cult classic, Eureka! Classics, Gene Page, Horror, Must See, Pam Grier, Robert Kelljan, Scream Blacula Scream, Vonetta McGee, William Marshall. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.