Friday, October 2, 2009

Blacula (1972)

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"Dracula's soul brother!"
Starring William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas and Thalmus Rasulala
Directed by William Crane
From AIP

Blacula is arguably the best of the blaxploitation horror films and a pretty solid vampire flick. This is mostly thanks to the terrific performance by William Marshall in the title role.

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The film starts with the origin story of our Black Prince, Mamuwalde and his Princess, Luva - who, on a mission from his African country to seek the end of Europe's slave trade, pays a visit to the nobleman Count Dracula. However, this mission of peace is soon destroyed when Dracula bites Mamuwalde thereby enslaving the Prince. It is Dracula who then curses his victim with his name - "Blacula" - and seals his undead body in a coffin in a secret room. He leaves Luva alive in the room to torment her for the rest of her days.

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Quickly the narrative shifts to then-modern times, where the vampire is released from his coffin prison by two - a-hem - effeminate interior decorators. Once released, Blacula encounters the spitting image of his now deceased wife. He becomes obsessed with this reincarnated beauty, and becomes entangled in not only her life, but that of her sister and doctor husband who is investigating a recent string of murders in the city. Quickly the doctor realizes a vampire is to blame, and the hunt is on!

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Blacula also has two very creepy scenes of note. The first involves a beautiful female nightclub photographer in her darkroom. As she is developing the photos she snapped earlier in the night, she realizes that Mamuwalde does not show up in any of them.........she has discovered the vampire’s secret! She is bathed in an eerie red light, and the scene is highly atmospheric and representative of how the vampire sees his victim - nothing but red- nothing but blood.

The second features a crazed undead cab driver who recently revived after being taken out of the freezer. Her insane dash down the hallway in slow motion, coupled with the strange sound effects, bizarre makeup and hairdo make for a very chilling scene!

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Of course, we are also treated to fab 70s lingo, fashions, soul brothers and sisters, and some funky nightclub numbers (I actually own the soundtrack on vinyl!).

There is also a much deeper political and social context to the film, and some scholars have studied this film, its sequel Scream, Blacula, Scream!, as well as other blaxploitation horror. I hope to talk about those articles in a future post.

All in all, a flick you should definitely check out this Halloween!

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