Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Directed by William Crain.

1972. Rated PG, 93 minutes.

Vonetta McGee
Thalmus Rasulala
Denise Nicholas
Gordon Pinsent
Charles Macaulay
Emily Yancy
Lance Taylor Sr.

This particular chunk of 70s goodness actually starts in the 18th century. African Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) and his lovely wife Luva (McGee) are in the land of Transylvania. Where else would a vampire flick start? They are visiting the castle of Count Dracula (Macaulay), duh. For some reason, the prince asks the Count to help put a stop to the slave trade. Wait…what does Dracula have to do with…never mind. Drac laughs him off and drops a few racial epithets on Mamuwalde and his lady. Understandably, the prince gets indignant and announces that he and his wife are leaving this instant. We cut away to the door 1) to see a bunch of Drac’s minions strolling into the room and 2) to give the Count a moment to put in his fangs. Long story short, Count Dracula and company overcome the prince and his wife. Luva gets killed, but death isn’t punishment enough for Mamuwalde. The Count bites him, re-names him Blacula and locks him in a coffin. Roll opening credits.

Fast forward to “the present” in 1972 Los Angeles. A couple guys swindle some dude out of Count Dracula’s ancient artifacts for a low low price. Too bad for them, there was no ebay back then. Even worse, Blacula’s coffin is included in their catch. By the way, if you think anyone in the movie ever calls him Blacula you’d be sadly mistaken. Anyhoo, these two fools pop open the coffin, wind up as vampires and let loose Mamuwalde on an unsuspecting public.

Shortly after breathing some 20th century smog for the first time, our new favorite vampire runs into Tina who happens to look exactly like his wife. How did you know she’s played by the same person? Of course, he just has to have her, but he tells her he can’t take her by force. While waiting on her to make a decision, he nibbles on the local population.

Surprisingly, but refreshingly, this movie dispenses with the idea of getting the ancient vampire used to his new surroundings and any forced comedy that might have come from that. He never even asks anyone the date or looks at a newspaper to figure it out like most other flicks would’ve. Come to think of it, no one ever bothers to ask this dude why he walks around wearing a cape. Then again, we are talking about the 70s. So it’s no surprise that one guy does ask if he can borrow it.

I’ve said too much. Just know that Blacula is a fun, campy ride that is far better than its title gives it any right to be. There are a few strong performances in the bunch, most notably from our main two adversaries: William Marshall as Blacula and Thalmus Rasulala as Dr. Gordon Thomas. These two along with Denise Nicholas as the doc’s wife balance out a bunch of flat ones. The dialogue is hammy but these three pull it off well. Admittedly, the vampire makeup ranges from “meh” to “Is that supposed to be a vampire or a zombie?” to “Where’s your makeup?” Even out of that mix, there is one genuine scare, for me at least. The crazed vampire woman running down a hallway in the morgue is a sight that can’t be unseen (pic above). I saw this movie several time, probably thirty years ago, if not more. That’s one of only two scenes I really remembered. The other is the unexpectedly touching conclusion. It all adds up to a surprisingly entertaining vampire flick. It’s far from a masterpiece, but it’s no blight on the genre either. Blacula sticks pretty close to traditional vampire lore and gives us a solid, if occasionally unintentionally humorous effort.

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