You would think in a time where films like “Blackenstein” and “Dr Black, and Mr, Hyde,” that “Blacula” would be one of the worst blaxploitation titles of its time. Despite the title, “Blacula” is actually one of the strongest vampire films of all time, and one of the creepiest of its sub-genre. “Blacula” is a tragic character drawn a victim to his blood lust who begins turning everyone in to his spawn when he finds himself alive in the twentieth century, and it’s a shock to see such an entertaining movie arise from a concept spun off from Count Dracula.
William Marshall gives a great performance as Prince Mamuwalde, a young noble man who seeks to end the slave trade in the 1700’s. He turns to Count Dracula, whose influence can promise an end to slavery once and for all. Wouldn’t you know it? Dracula is a racist bastard who finds the concept of ending slavery laughable, and curses Prince Mamuwalde to an eternity as a vampire by biting him and burying him in a coffin. In the 1970’s, Prince Mamuwalde is re-awoken by two Gay furniture collectors that he proceeds to feast on, and brings down a reign of blood shed on the streets of New York. Marshall never really degrades himself, turning over a dignified and creepy performance as the monstrous and merciless Blacula.
Things get worse when the vampires begin popping around New York causing a near apocalyptic incident with Blacula’s victims becoming children of the night. The children of the night are nearly zombified monsters giving them an almost Romero-like aesthetic that adds to the eeriness of director William Crane’s treatment of the vampire monster. There’s just something about the vampire designs here that will send shivers down the audiences spine. “Blacula” is a very good vampire film, and one that’s often overlooked mainly due to its comical title. Don’t take it at face value and you may just discover a great vampire movie that is rarely talked about when the subject of great vampire cinema comes around.
“Scream Blacula Scream” from 1973 is the weaker movie of the pair, often bordering on idiotic, as Blacula faces off against a voodoo priestess. The goddess Pam Grier plays Lisa, the successor to a high voodoo priestess whose brother Willis is jealous of. Insistent that he is the rightful successor, he vows revenge against Lisa when banished from the voodoo cult. Willis attempts revenge when he resurrects Blacula, but finds out that he cannot be controlled or tamed. Blacula vampirizes Willis, and Willis becomes his servant, but still wants revenge against Lisa. Much of “Scream Blacula Scream” is a meandering mess with Blacula seemingly doing nothing but walking around and playing second fiddle to the bigger conflict of Willis and Lisa’s rivalry.
Blacula at one point just wanders around New York as a bat, then is confronted by two pimps while on a midnight stroll. Blacula wants Lisa to lift his vampire curse, but Lisa’s boyfriend, an ex detective stands in his way of exploiting her magical powers. The vampires also play second fiddle this time around, mostly acting as cannon fodder, while Richard Lawson plays the role of vampire mostly for giggles, moaning about not being able to see his reflection, and turning his number one booty call in to his vampire minion who happens to hate Blacula. “Scream Blacula Scream” doesn’t take the concept or premise too seriously, but it’s not the worst of its sub-genre, either. I suggest it only for fans of Grier.
The double feature Blu-Ray garners and audio commentary with David F. Walker, a filmmaker and film historian who gives a detailed glimpse in to the production of the first film, as well as the history of American International Pictures. There’s a 70 still Blacula Production Gallery, and the original theatrical trailer. For “Scream Blacula Scream” there’s an interview with actor Richard Lawson who discusses his role as Big Willis and how the role made his career. There’s a photo gallery of over 70 stills, and the original theatrical trailer.