Blacula He's the black avenger. He's Dracula's soul brother number one. He's the baddest creature to hit the midnight hour since Dr Funkenstein was risen from the groove. He may be one of the slickest, meanest vampires ever unleashed onto the silver screen but he ain't no sucker. He's Blacula and he's one strange dude with a thirst that needs to be satisfied. Brilliantly inventive and overflowing with atmospheric horror chills, Blacula's bloodthirsty celluloid legacy makes the perfect midnight double bill. With a magnetic performance from thespian actor Marshall Williams as the black Prince of Shadows and a funked up, killer soundtrack from famed producer/composer Gene Page, Blacula raised the standards for blaxploitation cinema. Along with Superfly, Shaft, and Coffy, it remains a cult classic.
Scream Blacula Scream Scream Blacula Scream rises above its b-movie status with enough lush cinematography to give Hammer Horror a run for its money. Taking things to a new level is seventies icon Pam Grier as a shapely voodoo priestess in this tale of black magic and revenge.
In the opening to this film, William Marshall as Prince Mamuwalde visits Charles Macaulay’s impressive Count Dracula about suppressing the slave trade. Dracula is more interested in Mamuwalde’s wife Luva (Vonetta McGee), and when his advances are spurned, sentences Mamuwalde to vampirism and death to Luva. With a film entitled ‘Blacula’, and the mantle of ‘blaxploitation’ regularly directed at it, this kind of serious and violent opening was not what I expected. Only after the credits, and when things move from 1780 to the (then) present day, do we enter more familiar, somewhat expected territory.
William Marshall is EXCELLENT as the noble vampire. Literally towering above everyone else, he exudes charm, melancholy and – despite some over-the-top vampire make-up – rage and terror. Yet he resists the temptation overplay anything, something other Draculas could not manage. His attraction to the character Tina Williams is played absolutely for real and the audience is completely on their side, despite the growing number of vampiric ‘deaths’.
As with Blacula himself, the make-up on the vampires is (probably deliberately) heavy-handed, making them appear as green-tinged zombie-types when they could have been terrifying. But is that the aim of the film? Probably not – this prefers to settle for being a compelling supernatural comedy/thriller (although very much ‘of its time, the humour is held pretty firmly in check throughout) that aims to entertain, which it does.
Having said that, a few deaths stray happily into ‘shock’ territory, not least Blacula’s climactic demise. We aren’t glad to see the back of the reign of a tyrant, or even the killer he is, but rather sad, admiring of his nobility. One of my favourite Dracula actors. This is a fine film lifted by Marshall’s consistently brilliant performance. Luckily ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ was released a year later, presumably resurrecting Marshall’s character.