Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blacula (1971)

Directed by:
William Crain

African prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is bitten by racist Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay), who also kills his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee), imprisons him in a casket and seals him up in a tomb. Two-hundred years later, some gay antique dealers transport the coffin to L.A., open it up and unleash Blacula, in a black suit and cape. They bite it (typical first victims), then he goes after the beautiful Tina (also played by McGee), who resembles his lost love, while killing off anyone else he can get his hands on. Tina's sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas, doing a nice job in her film debut), her boyfriend Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala, doing a sturdy job in what is essentially the Van Helsing role), police lieutenant Jack Peters (played by prolific Canadian character actor Gordon Pinsent) and others end up getting involved. Blacula appears normal most of the time, but when he attacks, his face turns hairy and green. Generally considered the best blaxploitation horror from this era (a stance I'm not going to argue), this has some amusing animated opening sequence, some laughs, some blood, some great music (particularly "There He Is Again" performed by The Hues Corporation, who would have a hit record years later with "Rock the Boat"), a few genuinely creepy scares and afros, bell bottoms and other hilarious fashions of the day.

Most of the cast is solid if not infectiously enthusiastic (particularly Ji-Tu Cumbuka as the animated club fly Skillet and Ketty Lester as a frantic female cabbie) and Mr. Marshall (a trained Shakespearian actor) is exceptional, regal and very dignified in the lead role. Elisha Cook, Jr. also has a small role as a coroner. Samuel Z. Arkoff was the executive producer of this surprise box office hit, which was followed by the immediate sequel SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM (1972), also starring Marshall.


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