Finally, something I can sink my teeth into. As a horror fan, I was intrigued to see Dracula re-imagined as a seventies soul Brutha. Did Blacula deliver? Actually, it did. Blacula doesn’t aspire to be anything more than funky b-movie fun, and it works. Of course, it launched a whole sub-genre of Horror/Blaxploitation films that includes; Scream Blacula Scream, Blackenstein, and Homer Simpson’s favorite, The Blunchblack of Blotre Blame.
The film stars William H. Marshal, known by later generations for his portrayal of the King of Cartoons on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Here Marshall plays Prince Mamuwalde, the ruler of the Abani African nation in the year 1780. During this time Mamuwalde and his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) seek help from who else but Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to suppress the slave trade. It’s a history lesson come to life! But because Dracula is a dick, he kills Luva and turns Mamuwalde into a vampire, imprisoning him in a coffin for 192 years.
Mamuwalde is awoken in modern day after a mixed race gay couple (now that’s progress!) purchase his coffin as part of an estate transaction. Mamuwalde rises kills the couple and seeks revenge on mankind. Mamuwalde later finds purpose when he falls for Tina Williams (Vonetta McGee) the spitting image of his former wife. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), a street-smart pathologist for the L.A.P.D is hot on Mamuwalde’s trail. Throw in a funky soundtrack, jive talk, and you got one badass bloodsucker of a B-movie.
If there’s one thing that sells Blacula, it’s William H. Marshall. Marshall has one of the finest bass speaking voices I’ve ever heard. He gives such an elegant and refined performance, it’s almost a shame it’s going to waste in a B-movie. Though that’s not to count out Thalmus Rasulala, who provides some big laughs as Mamuwalde’s sharp-tongued adversary. One of the best scenes in the entire film is a conversation between the two about man’s fascination with the occult.
Blacula isn’t without its blunders. The pacing can drag and some of the acting and dialogue is kind of bleh, or should that be “BLAH?” In the immortal words of Sesame Street’s The Count. Still, I like the lead, I like the laughs, and I love the music. A cameo from soul group “The Hues Corporation” of “Rock the Boat” fame is one of the highlights of the film. Overall, Blacula is worth a watch and William H. Marshall deserves a bigger cult following. I don’t care if he has to rise from the dead and kill honkies to get it.