I’ll start off with a sentiment so simple, I hope you do not ignore it. Every film fan, film lover, film enthusiast or film historian around the world should own this movie. If you collect films not only for their entertainment but their historical value, Blacula sits alongside a shelf with Citizen Kane, Night Of The Living Dead and Do The Right Thing. It’s also one helluva an entertaining film and Scream! Factory gives you a neck biting double feature Blu-ray with Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream.
I certainly am not a Blaxploitation expert and, in fact, I know very little about the genre. Aside from the more accessible films like Shaft and Superfly, I’m out of my element. I am aware of the influence the genre had on a new generation of filmmakers, most notably Quentin Tarantino. The films, made in the early 70s, were designed for an “urban” audience, which producers smartly realized was a largely ignored group of paying theater goers. However, the low budget nature of the productions mixed with creative control given to the filmmakers, the genre expanded beyond just exploitation films and into their own artist movement. And then, they broke through the urban barrier and found audiences everywhere. The cultural revolution in America was happening and Hollywood started to take notice.
Blacula, produced by B-movie king Samuel Z. Arkoff, was the first to mix the Blaxploitation and Horror genres. That idea alone is worth the price of admission, but the film’s script has an interesting (while not so subtle) layer of social commentary about slavery and social status of African Americans in a society run by whites. The action starts in 1780 when African Prince Mamuwalde (played to great theatrics by William Marshall) meets Count Dracula. That’s one meeting you want to prepare for. Clearly not knowing Dracula’s dark vampire secret, Mamuwalde seeks the Count’s help in ending slave trade. This outrages the Count, who attacks the Prince and his wife Luva (the gorgeous Vonetta McGee). Drac bites the Prince, passing him the vampire’s curse and locks him in a coffin to live a lifetime with a thirst for blood he can never quench. In that moment, he names him “Blacula”, puts the coffin in a tomb alongside the still living Luva so she can die while hearing the screams of her Prince. Dark stuff. 200 years later, some unsuspecting interior decorators purchase all the items in Dracula’s castle, including Blacula’s casket which they bring to America. Now in Los Angeles, Blacula escapes from his centuries old prison to wander the streets fulfilling his blood lust. At a super groovy club, he meets Tina, a picture perfect match for his long dead wife Luva. This sets off a chain of events that will leave a trail freshly turned vampires as Mamuwalde attempts to seduce Tina to join him. That’s all you get from me on the story. I don’t want to spoil the fun.
Scream! Factory has done a masterful job in picture and sound quality. I wish they had some more extras, but there is a brand new fantastic audio commentary with film historian David F. Walker. In doing a quick search about him, he’s the real deal when it comes to understanding the genre – he’s written numerous articles about Blaxploitation as well as creating a documentary on the subject. His insight is fascinating and adds infinite value to this release.
What more can I say other than this Blu-ray is one you definitely want to check out. If you are ready to meet “one strange dude”, pick up Blacula today!