Blacula (1972) / Horror-Thriller
MPAA rated PG for disturbing images, violence, sensuality and language (would be PG-13 today)
Running time: 93 min.
Cast: William Marshall, Thalmus Rasulala, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent
Cameo: The Hues Corporation
Director: William Crain
Screenplay: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig
William Marshall (The Boston Strangler, Demetrius and the Gladiators) stars as Mamuwalde, an African prince in the 18th century, who is turned into a blood-sucking vampire by none other than Count Dracula (Macaulay, The Big Red One) himself during a visit to Transylvania to appeal to abolish the rampant slavery of the era. He doesn't rise out of his locked coffin home until the early 1970s in Los Angeles, where he stalks the streets for easy prey. He soon discovers Tina (McGee, Shaft in Africa), a woman he begins to stalk due to her striking resemblance to his former love, and he is sure she has come back reincarnated. Meanwhile, he is stalked himself by a forensic pathologist named Dr. Gordon Thomas (Rasulala, Willie Dynamite), who grows suspicious he's dealing with something otherworldly in the kills he's been investigating, particularly when he finds the telltale bite marks on the victims'' necks.
A campy but not as complete comical as its humorously exploitative name would imply, and even more impressive is that it is better than anyone might reasonably expect from the main premise. Par for the course, stereotypes abound, though non are as egregious as the two homosexuals working as interior designers who discover the infamous coffin. Notable is the work by William Marshall, who bucks the trend of the blaxploitation genre by playing, not a crook or sexualized womanizer, but an educated prince who treats others with respect (well, everyone but his victims that is).
A respectable effort by director William Crain (Dr. Black Mr. Hyde, Midnight Fear), working off of a script by Koenig and Torres, mixing obvious laughs with moments of eerie horror, drama, tragedy, and a little bit of romance as well, especially given the miniscule budget they have to work with.
A staple for blaxploitation fans, Blacula should have appeal to conventional horror flick fans as well, especially those who enjoy all things vampire.
-- Followed by Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
©2011 Vince Leo