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Exploitation Alley: BLACULA!!

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Blame it on the weather cooling down by a few degrees, the gory decorations making their way into my shopping cart, or the 2 pound bag of candy corn that I have been feeding on for the past couple of days…but I have been all about the glorious season that is Halloween. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the special holiday than enjoying great films that contain witches, ghosts, and vampires. Oh wait…yes I can. What would we have if we grabbed a classic monster, made him about 100 times cooler, and added some funky beats? Why, we would have BLACULA of course! Ladies and gents, let’s welcome the greatest time of the year, and sink our teeth into this fine piece of cinema, ya dig?

Released in 1972, this film was directed by William Crain.  Within the first few seconds of watching BLACULA, I knew it was going to be one of those rare exploitation films that has good actors, a plot, and was going to possibly be entertaining by actually being good, instead of so terrible that it is good, well, kind of.  It starts out in 1780, and we meet Prince Mamuwalde, (William Marshall) and his lovely wife Luva. They are having a meeting with Dracula regarding his support in ending the slave trade. Although it is extremely random, and for no apparent reason other than to be a jerk, Dracula curses Mamuwalde and turns him into a vampire, and orders Luva to be killed. Poor Mamuwalde is down in his lonely coffin for a couple of centuries.  Luckily for Mamuwalde, and unlucky for the two fabulous antique collectors who awaken Mamuwalde from his extended slumber, he has the opportunity to feast, and stir up some hell in 1970s Los Angeles.

Of course, no proper exploitation film would be complete without a drop dead gorgeous female lead, which brings us to Tina (Vonetta McGee). Mamuwalde notices the striking resemblance between Luva and Tina, and instantly falls in love. It’s bad enough being stalked by a creepy guy that wears a cape, but add being an actual vampire into that situation and it becomes a whole new level of creepy. While being stalked late one night my Mamuwalde, Tina comes face to face with him and scares her so bad she drops her purse.  Being the gentleman that he is, he returns the purse to Tina and within minutes she forgets he is the creepy guy in the cape who scared the hell out of her.  You really can’t blame her, although he is wearing a cape and has a deep, sexy voice, he is also extremely charming. That is, until he is about to bite someone, then he gets these crazy looking muttonchops, and bushy eyebrows.

With the unfortunate deaths of the antique collectors, and the disappearance of a few random people who also have also suffered the same fate, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) is a little concerned. Ok, very concerned.  I guess bite marks, and vampire-like characteristics are kind of a red flag. His theory is proven correct after he digs up the grave of one of the antique collectors, only to find an unrealistic looking vampire.  Seriously…with the exception of Mamuwalde, all the vampires look like zombies in the original DAWN OF THE DEAD. So of course, Gordon questions Mamuwalde on his views on vampires. And finally, after all of that drama, the movie gets pretty intense, and a little sad. If you have seen this, you know what I mean. If not, I don’t want to ruin it because it is great, and may tug on your heartstrings. Well, maybe just a little.

I know, I know… It wouldn’t really be considered a Halloween movie.  It does have a great twist on the typical Dracula story, while being a fun vampire movie. BLACULA helped me start off my Autumn/Halloween season. Whether you enjoy laughing at the cheesy greatness in this film, or genuinely appreciate this plot, we can all agree BLACULA is a true classic.

  • Phil Fasso

    Why wouldn’t it really be considered a Halloween movie? It’s got some great horror elements, and even with the mutton chops, Blacula is scary when he goes in for the kill. BLACULA really is one of the better vampire movies in the whole subgenre, and that it’s also a blaxploitation flick makes it that much more cool.

    If only the sequel SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM were anywhere near as inspired. Have you seen that one? I’d love to get your take.