‘Bloodsucker! Deadlier than Dracula!’
Blacula is a 1972 American horror feature film produced by American International Pictures (AIP). It was directed by William Crain and stars William Marshall in the title role.
Blacula was released to mixed reviews in the United States but was one of the top-grossing films of the year. It was followed by the sequel Scream Blacula Scream in 1973 and inspired a small wave of blaxploitation themed horror movies such as Blackenstein.
In 1780, Prince Mamuwalde (William H. Marshall), the ruler of an African nation, seeks the help of Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) in suppressing the slave trade. Dracula refuses to help and transforms Mamuwalde into a vampire and imprisons him in a sealed coffin. Mamuwalde’s wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee), is also imprisoned and dies in captivity.
In 1972, the coffin has been purchased as part of an estate by two interior decorators, Bobby McCoy (Ted Harris) and Billy Schaffer (Rick Metzler) and shipped to Los Angeles.
Bobby and Billy open the coffin and become Prince Mamuwalde’s first victims. At Bobby’s funeral, Mamuwalde encounters Tina (Vonetta McGee), who Prince Mamuwalde believes is the reincarnation of his deceased wife…
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“If the title screams trashy exploitation, the actual films are more thoughtful. Much of this is down to William Marshall, who brings the titular character rather more gravitas than you would’ve thought possible. ‘Dignity’ is the word most often used to describe the properties of his performance, which is a word loaded with racial suggestion perhaps, but is also accurate. His Blacula is dignified.
This is a character than could – and indeed should – have been cheesy, comedic, stereotyped. Marshall, much to his credit, works hard to ensure that isn’t the case. His vampire is at once tortured, savage and romantic, able to move from urbane to monstrous in a moment, and he is one of the few vampire figures of the era to be a somewhat sympathetic character, as much victim as villain.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“…Blacula is a hip and happening horror that’s not strictly played for cheesy laughs, despite its tongue-in-cheek title. There’s a police crime thriller vibe going on (director William Craine had previously done an episode of TV’s Mod Squad), while the script relishes in taking bites out of racial prejudice and homophobia…” Kultguy’s Keep
“The placement of an old-fashioned, Bela Lugosi-type Dracula—albeit much, much sweatier—in a modern black neighborhood is a great idea, but the amateurish production leaves Marshall as stranded in the film as his Mamuwalde is stranded in the times.” The Dissolve
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“An enjoyable attempt to cash-in on the market for Black-orientated films in the seventies, given dignity by Marshall’s Blacula and throwing in a couple of gay vampires for good box-office measure.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
“It is certainly a curiosity but, despite the smoking Gene Page soundtrack and cool opening credit sequence, everything else is pretty run of the mill.” Mikel J Koven, Blaxploitation Films
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Cast and characters:
William Marshall … Blacula / Mamuwalde
Vonetta McGee … Tina / Luva
Denise Nicholas … Michelle
Thalmus Rasulala … Gordon Thomas
Gordon Pinsent … Lt. Peters
Charles Macaulay … Dracula
Emily Yancy … Nancy
Lance Taylor Sr. … Swenson
Ted Harris … Bobby
Rick Metzler … Billy
Ji-Tu Cumbuka … Skillet (as Jitu Cumbuka)
Logan Field … Barnes
Ketty Lester … Juanita
Elisha Cook Jr. … Sam (as Elisha Cook)
Eric Brotherson … Real Estate Agent
The Hues Corporation … The Hues Corporation
Los Angeles, California
Hyperion Outfall Treatment Plant, Playa del Rey, California