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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blacula (1972) Horror Blaxsploitation

Blacula (1972) - Its 1780 and Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) and his princess visit the castle of Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to try to get him to stop the slave trade, it is harming his African nation and he is looking for allies to stop people being poached from his country. Dracula is a total racist and instead of assisting Mamuwalde his insinuates, yeah no he says it right out, that the princess would make a fine addition to his household slave collection. Of course this failure to negotiate insults the prince and he tells Dracula they are leaving. Dracula tells him that the prince to take it as a compliment that he would even consider having his black wife as a slave. After a tussle with Dracula's henchmen Mamuwalde is subdued and Dracula decides to teach him a lesson. Dracula turns him into a Vampire by biting him. He then locks Mamuwalde in a coffin and entombs his Princess with him. So the now Blacula can not feed and has to listen to his love as she dies of thirst in the tomb. The Vampire wives of Dracula have the worst makeup possible in a vampire movie which was silly to say the least. Here is an example of crying blood as for some reason Dracula cries blood.
Modern day and a couple of gay interior decorators, Bobby (Ted Harris) and Billy (Rick Metzler) are buy all the items in Count Dracula's castle. They sign the papers and the coffin is transported across the ocean to a warehouse I believe in NYC. Now I would not mention their sexual orientation except for the extreme stereotypes they were in the film. In fact a few times during the movie characters refer to them with a particularly offensive slur I remember from my youth in the 70's. The couple comes and pries open the coffin lock. When unfortunately on of them is cut in the process and before you know it Dracula was all over them. At Bobby's funeral we meet the cast of characters, Tina (Vonetta McGee, who also played the princess), Michelle (Denise Nicholas), Tina's sister and girlfriend of Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) who is investigating Bobby's death. Gordon talks to the undertaker guy about the bite on Bobby's neck. He can't believe the coroner has put it down as a rat bite. Also there does not seem to be much blood in him even though he has yet to be embalmed. He sees it as a slight because Bobby is black and if it was a white guy there would be cops investigating it.
Blacula is watching from the other room and sees Tina, his princess in the present day. He follows Tina walking home, but she senses someone following her and run dropping her purse. She is worried that some weirdo now has her information and at the local club she tells Gordon and Michelle this. After missing his chance to talk to Tina, Blacula is almost hit by a cabbie, Juanita (Ketty Lester) so she gets to be his next meal.
Gordon is going to check out the why the coroner Sam (Elisha Cook Jr.) is not properly investigating the killings and while there he gets to see the body of the cabbie and her neck bite. Gordon is starting to get suspicious. He talks to his police buddy Lt. Peters (Gordon Pinsent) about why the investigation is going nowhere. Although Peters doesn't have all the answers he questions whether it could be a Black Panthers problem. Yeah right blame the Black Panthers that's gotta be the solution.
That night at Michelle's birthday party at the club we get to see Blacula return Tina's purse to her and he is nice and charming. She invites him to join the party where there is small talk but you can feel the connection between Tina and Blacula. Two things break up this party, one is that Nancy a waitress comes over and takes a picture of Blacula and Tina, he hates this because even though he has been dead for 200 year somehow he knows about Vampires not showing up on film. How could that be? The other thing is Gordon gets word that Bobby's body has vanished so we know that the bitten become vampires. Blacula says to Tina. "You bear a remarkable resemblance to my wife." That line is sure to get you in her pants.
When Nancy goes home to develop the film from the party, Blacula follows her to off her after she notices that he failed to appear in any of the photos she took. In the mean time Gordon and Michelle are investigating the vampire angle, having exhausted all the logical reasons for the dead people vanishing. Oh wait they never thought that out or even brainstormed any reasons other than the vampire thingy. hmmm...
There is a hold that Blacula has on Tina that seems to be some kind of mind control. He wants her to join him but we learn he can't do it with this control that she has to want it using her free will. He wants to turn her into his vampire bride. Since when Blacula was created he was not told the rules you have to wonder how he knows the whole free will angle.
Michelle and Gordon confirm the vampirism idea by digging up the body of Billy and as soon as they have the coffin open Billy attacks. Gordon prepared as always stakes him. Gordon warns Sam the morgue guy about the cabbie body but Sam is busy and after forgetting and leaving the body to thaw Jaunita come running down the hall at him in a bit reminiscent of Count Yorga. I like the scariness of the scene and wish more of the film was about horror. There really is very little tension in this film and the scares are few and far between. When Gordon and Michelle see first hand the bat crazy vampires they still don't seem to try to get the cops to get Blacula. Okay maybe they are not sure so instead lets go listen to some more soul music at the club with Blacula and Tina and ask him about vampires.
The final quarter of the film come as a chase film. Gordon having discovered the images Nancy took have no Blacula in them gets the entire police force looking for the master vampire. They chase until they have him cornered in Chemical Plant #2 at the corner of 6th and Church St. Probably now the Steven Alan Showroom :) When Blacula is finally gets it that he and Tina are not going to be lovers forever he makes his final decision as the sun rises.
This is not a great film but it is not without merit either. Gordon is a diligent and serious character who works through the story against all odds. Blacula tells the basic Dracula in love story and has a fine bitter sweet conclusion. The music by Conductor Gene Page and Coordinator is great, just enough background for the scenes with a mix of funk tracks for the more exciting scenes. Then on top of it we get a mini concert in the club scenes. Director William Crain does a very good job weaving us through the story and the acting is not as stale as some of the films I have seen in this genre. Certainly the film could have used a more fluid story and particularly the action scenes were unfocused and weakly thought out. Still this is an enjoyable go round on the vampire myth.
Rating (5.7) 5.0 and up are recommended Zombiegrrlz rating Rent It!

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