I am not the biggest fan of horror movies. I'm not sure why. I remember watching all of the Halloween and Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street movies when I was younger, but somewhere along the way I tired of horror films and generally avoid watching them. There are some exceptions, however. Two films that I enjoy watching are Blacula (1972) and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream (1973). It often shows on television during the Halloween season. I happened to catch it on television the other day when it came on. Each time I watch these movies it is a treat.
Although they are both horror films, they aren't very scary and the acting is really good. William Marshall, a Shakespearean actor, plays the role of a Mamuwalde, an African prince who is enslaved by Dracula and cursed to become a vampire, whom Dracula names Blacula.
In the first film, Blacula, Mamuwalde is reawakened when his coffin is purchased by collectors. He is released and reunites with Tina whom he believes to be his wife, Princess Luva, who died in the 1700s. The role of Tina is played by the beautiful Vonetta McGee and her sister, Michelle, is played by the equally beautiful Denise Nicholas. Michelle is involved with Dr. Gordon Thomas played by Thalmus Rasulala. Blacula has to make his way through 1970s Los Angeles and all the while trying to convince Tina that she is indeed his former love, Luva, and destined to be his lifelong mate. But because Blacula is a vampire, he has left victims in his wake and it isn't long before Dr. Thomas is on to him and has convinced the police that Blacula is the cause of all the deaths and must be stopped. In the end, he loses Tina (Luva) yet again and then faces the sun in the final scene which was supposed to cause his death.
In the sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, Blacula is brought back to life by a voodoo priest, Willis, played by Richard Lawson, who uses his bones to reawaken him. Blacula then makes Willis a vampire and enslaves him. Willis is at odds with another voodoo priestess named Lisa, played by none other than Pam Grier, and wants to see her punished. Lisa is dating another voodoo priest, Justin (who was played by Don Mitchell) , who is also a collector of African art and an educated man. In fact, when Blacula meets Lisa and Justin at a party where they are discussing artwork from the Ibani tribe, the very tribe that Blacula was a part of when he was Prince Mamuwalde.
But when Blacula discovers that Lisa is a powerful voodoo priestess, he believes that Lisa can save him from his curse by conducting a voodoo ceremony and unleashing the demon from within him. He then orders that no one touch Lisa, including Willis. In the course of Blacula trying to convince Lisa to help him and before she can actually perform the ceremony, Blacula of course commits more murders and Justin becomes suspicious of him. In the end, just as Lisa is performing the ritual that will release Mamuwalde from the curse of Dracula, they are interrupted by the police and Justin. When Blacula confronts Justin and is going to kill him, Lisa has to make a choice between helping Blacula and her boyfriend, Justin. She then kills Blacula by sticking pins into the voodoo doll that she created for Blacula. As he dies, Blacula screams loudly and swings his cape wildly in the last shot.
What is it that I like about these movies?
Well, in addition to being a fan of films from the Seventies, I like the interesting characters and lifestyles portrayed in this particular film. William Marshall plays Blacula/Mamuwalde as an intelligent royal creature who is tragically and infinitely cursed and misunderstood. There is nothing he can do right and though he has love in his heart, his unending desire for blood always ruins his quest for love or freedom. I also like that his opposing characters are other intelligent and professional men, who are loving to their women and simply want to stop Blacula from hurting more people.
For me, the most intriguing scenes in both films are when Blacula is face to face with Dr. Thomas in the first film,and Justin in the second film, just before the climactic scenes. The opposing forces make it clear that they are aware that Mamuwalde is not just some strange but intelligent person, but that he is indeed Blacula. They are aware that most people think that vampires are a myth and that they did as well, but are now sure that they are dealing with a vampire. And Blacula, speaking in a resounding voice, informs them that they are correct, that vampires do exist and that if they are not careful they will become the vampire's next victims---all without fully admitting that he is indeed a vampire.
I also like the music that created the soundtracks of both movies. In Blacula, the Hues Corporation, a trio that performed soul, funk and disco music in the 1970s, performed live for a party scene. They also sang songs that spoke to the situations of the characters and the tension within the film. In the sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, the soundtrack is equally impressive. I loved, Spread My Love, which is played during the scene where Blacula kills Lisa's friend, Gloria, and the last song which was called Tortured, but I am not sure the names of either singers.
Good music was something that was prevalent in the movies of the 1970s which often had soundtracks that were as good as the film, or in some cases, were better. I have purchased several movie soundtracks from this era and will continue to do so.
The Blacula films are not perfect and some people may not see the beauty or the uniqueness of such films, often dismissing them or giving them low ratings. But I think its their imperfect qualities that I appreciate ---that and all of the hard work by the casts of these films and other films like this. Check it out if you can!
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Director: William Crain
Writers: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig
Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, and Thalmus Rasulala
Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Director: Bob Kelljan
Writers: Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, Maurice Jules
Starring: William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Richard Lawson