The 1970’s was an interesting time for the movie industry. Bruce Lee made Kung-Fu movies cool, Steven Spielburg made us afraid to go in the water, and we took our first trip to a place “A long time ago… In a galaxy far, far away…”. Yes the 70’s was a decade that saw some of the most iconic films of all time made. Oh, and it was also the time when director William Crain got his funk on with the “Blackspolotation” classic BLACKULA.
When an African prince named Mamuwalde (William Marshal) visits Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania, he gets more than he bargained for. Dracula decides that the prince’s wife, Luna (Vonetta McGee) might make a good addition to his household. Mamuwalde fights back, but is no match for the undead Count. Instead of killing him Dracula bites the African prince, turning into one of the undead. Then he locks him in a coffin to suffer an unquenchable hunger for blood for all eternity.
Flash forward two hundred or so years and you find two interior designers from America who’ve come to Transylvania to buy antiques. They purchase the contents of castle Dracula and ship it all, lock, stock and coffin, back to their warehouse in Los Angeles. It doesn’t take long for them to unwittingly release Mamuwalde from his long imprisonment and thus Blackula is born!
Following the Stoker tale to some degree, Blacakula soon encounters a young woman named Tina (also played by McGee) who he believes is the reincarnation of his lost love Luna. A family friend and scientist, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalamus Rasulata) who is investigating the mysterious deaths of the interior designers, becomes the “Van Helsing” of the story as he uncovers the vampire’s true nature and tries to save Tina, whether she wants to be saved or not. Will Blackula escape with his love or will he meet the pointy end of a stake?
BLACKULA puts a very 70’s jive twist on Bram Stoker’s dark tale of eternal love. William Marshall is excellent as the African prince turned prince of darkness. The filmmaker’s also took an interesting turn with the make-up effects for the character. When he is in a rage or blood thirsty, his face becomes hairy and brutish looking, reminiscent of Mr. Hyde to Mamuwalde’s Dr. Jekyll. Unfortunately, the same creativity wasn’t put into Blackula’s minions. Heavily caked on blue and grey make-up plus less than realistic looking fangs are all the effort given to those characters. The film also glosses over Blackula’s amazing ability to wake up after 200 years of isolation in a sealed coffin to fit right in to modern society without ever once even seeming impressed by horse-less carriages or electric lights.
Still, if viewers are willing to put on your “suspension of disbelief” glasses and sit down with the film, it actually has a good, if somewhat melodramatic, story. The character of Blackula, while a killer by nature, is more of a tragic figure who wants only to be reunited with his lost love. Unfortunately for him, his special dietary requirements preclude a story book ending. So if you’re ready to bring out your disco shoes and dig some funky 70’s jive, check out BLACKULA. He may not be Bela Logosi, but that Blackula is one bad mother… “Shut your mouth!” Hey I’m just talking about Blackula!