INDB Entry – Blacula
When discussing over the top exploitation movies I frequently mention Blacula. Up till now I hadn’t actually seen the film but the title was just too perfect. Blacula came out at the height of the blaxploitation cycle that started with Shaft and Superfly. The world suddenly realized that black audiences would watch movies staring black actors and the machine began cranking out pictures at lightning speed. Never to be out done when it comes to exploiting popular trends, American International Pictures came out with a black version of Dracula.
Unlike many of the movies of it’s time, Blacula isn’t a film that reflects racial tension or mistrust. Blacula seems to exist in something of a racial utopia, 1970’s urban style. There really aren’t any villains except the vampires. All of the characters seem to have good jobs, nice clothes and live in decent apartments. The story takes place in an area where a woman in a super short mini skirt and heels is comfortable walking alone through a deserted city neighborhood late at night. The black and white characters interact with each other in an almost color blind manner. The gay community is fair game however as a black police officer utters “Those faggots all look alike to me”.
William Marshall stars as Blacula / Mamuwalde. His is one of the more unique interpretations of Dracula. Mamuwalde is probably the most noble vampire ever to put on a cape. He’s an African King who went to Transylvania to negotiate a treaty banning slavery. He was ambushed by Dracula and imprisoned until 1972. When he gets out he’s hungry and goes on an eating binge. Of course he spies a woman who looks exactly like his deceased wife. Mamuwalde is pretty much a perfect gentleman and is nice to everyone he’s not killing. The only exception is a character named Skillet. Skillet comes across like the kind of guy who has children by 4 different women and he’s not supporting any of them. Mamuwalde leaves every time Skillet shows up and he doesn’t bother showing his disdain for the horn dog.
There’s a lot to like about Blacula. It’s a different take on a classic character. It’s also a fun romp through the 70’s and there are plenty a crazy haircuts and brightly colored clothing. Did I mention mini skirts? The Hues Corporation performs a couple of lively tunes and the girl singer to makes so truely funny faces when she’s not singing. I particularly liked the photo girl who drives home wearing her playboy bunny-ish costume after work. There are also plenty of fun little mistakes and inconsistencies to hold your interest. I enjoyed the camp aspects of Blacula enough that I may end up scheduling Blackenstein later this season. We’ll see.