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Blu-ray Review: Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream [Double Feature]
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Blacula
Blu-ray
Director: William Crain
Screenwriters: Raymond Koenig, Joan Torres
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay, Thalmus Rasulala
Scream Factory
Rated PG | 92 Minutes
Release Date: March 3, 2015

“Warm, young bodies will feed his hunger, and hot, fresh blood his awful thirst!”

Directed by William Crain (Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde), Blacula was one of the top grossing films of 1972. The blaxploitation horror flick was also the first film to receive an award for Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards.

After 1971’s one-two punch of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft, the blaxploitation genre erupted in 1972 with films like Super Fly, Across 110th Street, Black Mama, White Mama, Slaughter, and Trouble Man.

And then there’s Blacula, a low-budget American International Pictures mash-up of blaxploitation and horror. Instead of a haunting orchestral score, the soundtrack by Gene Page utilizes soul, funk, and rhythm and blues to capture the inner-city vibe of ’70s Los Angeles.

Synopsis:

In 1780, African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) pays a visit to Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the slave trade. Instead, the evil count curses his noble guest and transforms him into a vampire! Released from his coffin nearly two centuries later by an interracial homosexual couple of interior decorators, the undead Mamuwalde emerges as “Blacula,” one strange dude strollin’ the streets of L.A. on a nightly quest for human blood!

Aside from Christopher Lee in Hammer’s Dracula films, Marshall’s Blacula is perhaps the coolest, most interesting vampire of the ’70s. Marshall brings class, swagger, and a touch of humor to the character, with some seriously next-level facial hair. He’s an African prince like Black Panther, a vampiric bad-ass like Blade, and a smooth-talking, cape-wearing ladies man like Lando Calrissian – he’s got it all!

Like The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Blacula longs to be reunited with his wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee), who was imprisoned by ol’ racist-ass Count Dracula and left to rot. While cruisin’ the streets of L.A., Blacula meets Tina, a woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his deceased wife.

Mamuwalde continues to prey upon (and transform) various people as Tina begins to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), Lt. Peters (Gordon Pinsent), and Tina’s sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas) follow the trail of victims and determine that a vampire is responsible.

Ultimately, Blacula is a sad and somewhat sensitive vampire story in the trappings of blaxploitation. It’s over-the-top absurdity, of course, but Shakespearean actor William Marshall provides a sympathetic performance as Mamuwalde and makes you care for the character, which is more than I can say for most Dracula-inspired movie vampires.

Crain’s film comes to Blu-ray with an excellent 1.85:1 1080p transfer that retains a nice amount of grain. In addition to making this ’70s blaxploitation flick look brand new, Scream Factory the best audio possible with a Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio track. I would highly recommend this double feature Blu-ray for horror fans – it’s a really fun, entirely watchable film that manages to out-perform its questionable premise with great performances and a slick soundtrack.

Scream Blacula Scream
Blu-Ray
Director: Bob Kelljan
Screenwriters: Maurice Jules, Raymond Koenig, Joan Torres
Cast: William Marshall, Pam Grier, Don Mitchell, Michael Conrad, Lynne Moody, Richard Lawson
Scream Factory
Rated PG | 96 Minutes
Release Date: March 3, 2015

“When it comes to voodoo, Lisa has more natural power than anyone in the last ten years!”

1973 saw the continued popularity of blaxploitation films with titles like Black Caesar, Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, The Mack, and Bob Kelljan‘s Scream Blacula Scream.

By ’73, Pam Grier had already starred in several exploitation films like The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, Hit Man, and The Big Bird Cage. In June of that year, however, Grier exploded with Coffy and Scream Blacula Scream, a one-two punch of exposure that would lead to starring in 1974’s Foxy Brown.

Synopsis:

Blacula lives! This scintillating sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, pits voodoo power against vampire fury! Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson), the son of a late high priestess, seeks revenge on the cultists who have chosen his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier) as their new leader. Hoping to curse Lisa, Willis unwittingly resurrects Blacula’s earthly remains – and unleashes the Prince of Darkness and his freaked-out army of the undead!

This sequel is less dramatic than Crain’s 1972 film, but what it lacks in pathos it makes up for in pure absurdity. Scream Blacula Scream is almost a parody of Blacula, with some out of sight performances by Grier, Richard Lawson, and the returning William Marshall. The Universal Horror vibe of vampire romance takes a backseat to the voodoo cult craziness of zombie films from the ’30s and ’40s.

Scream Blacula Scream is a lot of fun, even if Blacula himself is barely in it. While the film wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, American International Pictures corned the market on blaxploitation horror films – following up Kelljan’s film with 1973’s Blackenstein, 1974’s Sugar Hill, and 1976’s Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde.

Scream Factory’s Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream double feature is another must-own for die-hard horror fans and completists. This two-pack is now available at Amazon. For more information about Scream Factory’s upcoming releases, visit their website.

Bonus Features:

* Audio Commentary with author and film historian David F. Walker
* New Interview With Actor Richard Lawson
* Theatrical Trailers

Trailers

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