Blacula (1972)

Well the original Blacula proved out to be only slightly better made movie than its sequel, and only because it’s far better structured and written. It has, you know, actual competence behind it. The movie is still a complete mess, but in an oddly endearing way. What we basically have here is an adaptation of Dracula with a blaxploitation coat of paint, and for what it is, it’s not that bad actually. Of course they couldn’t just turn Dracula black, that’d be too easy, so instead what they did was come up with a very over top and funky back story of a noble man called Manuwalde, an African Prince who visits Dracula in the 18th century to seek his support in, get this, abolishment of slavery, only get attacked by Dracula and then imprisoned along with his accompanying wife inside the walls of Castle Dracula, with Manuwalde also locked inside a coffin for that extra douchebag flavor. Oh, and before Dracula closes the casket, Dracula turns Manuwalde into a vampire and decides to dub him as Blacula because hey, we got get the name there somehow. So when you think about it, even the black prince of darkness, Blacula himself, was oppressed by the white man and is an allegory for the evils of slavery. Now if that isn’t the greatest plot device to start a horror blaxsploitation flick, I don’t know what is.

The real trouble starts to rear its head soon after we are transported to modern day of the early 1970s. The movie just is not a particularly entertaining as a more urban Dracula retelling. The blaxsploitation angle ends up mostly just meaning that the cast is largely black who hang at nightclubs. You do have small gems that are quite amusing in the movie, like the fruity interior designers releasing Blacula and being his first victims because they oh so conveniently break the lock on Blacula’s coffin only seconds before one of them gets a bad cut on his arm while opening another box and they become too distracted to notice a vampire waking up right behind them.  Another thing I love is how Blacula has literally no problem at all adjusting to the future. He’s entirely composed from the second he wakes up after over a century of slumber and shows no signs of being amazed by his surroundings. He gets run over by a car at one point and this guy doesn’t as much as blink. He even somehow knows what a photograph is and tries to avoid from having his picture getting taken, as it would reveal that he’s a vampire. I might have thought the make up in the second movie was bad, but brother, in this we actually get green pastel colors painted on black faces level of vampire make up. In a kitsch sort of way it kinda works, but initially it just throws you out of the movie for a second.

The final nail on the coffin is that the ending is entirely anti-climactic. Blacula does get to slap around a gang of police like a true pimp lord of the darkness ought to, but it’s incredibly dumb because he mainly just does it after his reincarnated/lookalike bride has been badly shot, and he’s forced to turn her into one of the damned. He couldn’t just stash her in a safe spot and then more or less blitzkrieg the cops, like he basically does after she’s shot? I know love makes you do stupid things but come on, movie. And to make matters worse, Blacula just kinda gives up when his now turned vampire bride gets killed. Rather than going scorched Earth, Blacula instead decides to commit by walking outside where it’s now bright sunny day. It’s suppose to be a bit sad because he has no will to live anymore, but the death scene is done so terribly that it fails utterly to be even slightly sombre. The death scene looks incredibly cheap. They seem to have not afforded to make Marshall look as if he was smoldering when he slowly walks out in open sunlight, so rather than the sun taking away his powers and killing him, it appears as if Blacula more or less was just super dehydrated and passes out, like he had a heatstroke. They do end up showing his face melting away, with maggots (I have no idea why) in his eyes as he’s decomposing, and it slowly fades into a skull before the film stops and credits start. But everything about the entire sequence is so cheap that it doesn’t salvage anything. I wish I could laugh at it, but there seems to be no point to it.

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