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The Schlock VaultRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Blacula (1972)

There are some films that genre fans just have to see.

“Blacula” is one of those films.

Part vampire movie, part look at the 1970s, all glorious funktastic cheese.

Blacula stars William Marshall as African Prince Mamuwalde, who, sometime in the 1700s treks up to Transylvania with his wife (Vonetta McGee). His mission is diplomacy: speak with Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) in an effort to quell the slave trade into Europe.

Dracula wants to hear none of it, suggests he’d like to buy Mamuwalde’s wife from him, then, when Mamuwalde tries to leave, sics his undead minions on the couple. Dracula bites the African prince and tells him he’ll be damned for all eternity with the curse of the undead, and slaps the moniker “Blacula” on him (if you’re unsure why he chose that name…well, I can’t help you). Then he locks him in a coffin to thirst for blood for all eternity.

Flash forward 200 years or so into the future. It’s the 70s, and two hep cats buy Castle Dracula (what happened to the count himself is unknown) and want to turn it into a disco palace. They stumble upon a secret passage that leads to the coffin where Blacula lays in wait.

Of course he escapes and heads out to wreak havoc on the disco scene, meeting a woman who looks exactly like Mamuwalde’s long lost love. He is of course drawn to her, and she to him.

My handy Netflix slipcover tells me “Blacula” is rated PG, hardly a rating that will inspire fear for horror fans, and indeed there are few real scares to be had. The makeup is bad (who knew so many vampires had afros and green skin?), and the blood is spare.

But there’s plenty of high comedy. Two personal favorites: Blacula, unfamiliar with the concept of automobiles, wanders into the street and is hit by a cab. The driver, a black woman, jumps out to help, and when the African Prince stands up unhurt, she immediately chides his stupidity. Blacula takes it, until she dares call him “boy.” At that point he instantly vamps out and bites her.

The second involves Blacula and his maiden fair (who he met in a club) are talking in her apartment. Blacula spills his guts to her, tells her everything about how he’s an African Prince from the 1700s and how Dracula bit him and damned him to the eternal curse of the undead and how he thirsts for blood. Not only does the woman not flee in terror, moments later they’re hitting the sheets.

It’s a gleefully silly, wink-wink take on blaxploitation. It’s not particularly brutal for a vampire movie, and is in many ways old fashioned horror fun with a early-70s racial justice theme that resonates well. It’s prevalent enough to be forced in, but there’s enough levity that you don’t take it too seriously (but just seriously enough).

You can’t go wrong watching “Blacula.” It’s as safe a movie to watch as any horror picture is for children, but isn’t particularly bloody or scary, but has more than its share of memorable moments.

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