Blacula (1972)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 19, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. French and Spanish Subtitles. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director: William Crain
Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala
Screenplay: Raymond Koenig Joan Torres
Music: Gene Page
Tagline: "His bite was outta sight!"
Country: USA
When Melvin Van Peebles hit the cinema with the film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, he probably didn't realize the effect it would have on American cinema. With that release the African American person could finally, after years of 'Uncle Tom' roles, have positive, pro-black, ass-kicking, hard-hitting, heroic cinema heroes and heroines that wouldn't take shit from anyone - especially not the man! Blaxploitation was born, and reined in the cinemas for several years, giving us stars that are still loved today: Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Kelly and Jim Brown. Guys and gals who punched first, and asked questions later, with little or no remorse! Of course the big studios got wind of the genre's popularity, and started releasing more and more films, until the target audience realized it was being taken advantage of… and steered away.

During this blaxploitation heyday, between 1971 and 1975, many genres were mimicked; horror being just one of them, and Blacula was born. Written by the writing team of Joan Torres and Raymond Keonig (whose only other screenplay was Scream, Blacula, Scream!) and directed by Dr Black, Mr. Hyde's William Crain, Blacula won the 1973 Golden Scroll for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

Blacula tells the tale of African prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) and his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) who, in 1790, are meeting with Transylvanian statesman Count Dracula (Charles MacCaulay). The Count insults the pair with a racial slur, and when Mamuwalde prepares to leave, he is set upon by Dracula and his men, and as punishment, is bitten by Dracula and locked in a coffin in a secret room, to starve forever, his wife locked with him in the room so her last thoughts will be of her husband screaming from his vault.

Flash forward to the present day (which appears to be 1972) and two of the most flaming of stereotypical gay interior decorators Bobby McCoy (Tim Harris) and Billy Schafer (Ricky Metzler) have purchased the entire contents of Dracula's castle to sell back in the USA. When they arrive home, they start to go through the contents of the shipment, until they inadvertently release Mamuwalde, aka Blacula, onto an unsuspecting world. Mamuwalde kills them, and while attempting to revive the now undead Bobby, he comes across the lovely Tina (Vonetta McGee again), who bears a striking resemblance to his long dead beloved wife. He pursues her; unaware her sister Michelle (Denise Nicolas) and her husband Dr Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) are investigating the strange murders that are happening in town, where corpses are found, drained of blood…and eventually, go missing…

While this is, by no means, a brilliant film, it has a persistent irresistible charm, that at times is pure blaxploitation, and at other times, pure Andy Milligan styled horror-camp. A wild ride for sure, and being a PG film, kids can roll their eyes along with you. Most people would probably be more shocked, in our post PC world, at the atrocious stereotypes, and the bandying about of both the 'N' word, and the 'F' word (no, not that one, the one that describes male members of the gay community).

This film has been released as a part of MGM's 'Soul Cinema' brand, which has also release such blaxploitation classics as Coffy, Truck Turner and Hammer!
This film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and is a mainly clear with the occasional artifact or cigarette burn. The more annoying factor of this film is Crain's shaky, and occasionally out of focus camera work, which detracts from the films enjoyment. Sure it's low production values, but that's part of its charm.
Presented only in mono, but it stills sounds OK. Again, the sound suffers badly more from the way it was filmed, than the way it was transferred: echoing voices and hollow sounding background noises are predominant, but you can excuse them for that, when you start enjoying the funky soundtrack, brought to you in part, by the Hues Corporation, those responsible for the song 'Rock the Boat'.
Extra Features
Only a trailer for the film, I'm afraid.
The Verdict
Is it blaxploitation? Is it horror? Who cares…it's Blacula! Enjoy it for it 70s kitsch and outrageous stereotypes, but don't take it too seriously.
Movie Score
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