The Principles: William Crain (Director). William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, Gordon Pinsent, Charles Macaulay
The Premise: When African Prince Mamuwalde visits Transylvania to lobby for Count Dracula to help end the slave trade he gets bitten by the White Devil and locked in a coffin. Fast forward 200 years and some interior designers buy the coffin and inadvertently unleash Blacula on modern-day Los Angeles.
Is It Good: It is. Surprisingly so, actually. For being one of the most famous Blaxploitation movies there are, I found myself surprised at just how non-exploitive it really was. A few throwaway lines and a funktastic soundtrack aside, it was all fairly straight-forward. After awhile of watching William Marshall play the titular monster with a straight face amidst a supporting cast of diverse characters and without more than a slight trace of stereotyping, you forget it was an exploitation flick at all and you just start seeing it as a decent, if not slightly middling, vampire movie. It’s not great, but it’s fun and it’s a pretty good class in how to embrace your low budget as opposed to trying to make up for it.
Is It Worth A Look: Definitely, and not only because of its place in cinema’s history. William Crain puts together a brisk little movie that may not hit a lot of original beats creatively, but the beats it does hit are square and solid and true. Aside from a rather clumsy title sequence that causes a stumble between the prologue and the main narrative, there’s a nice breezy flow from beginning to end and an attention to believability and realism that you don’t normally find in horror movies of that era. Aside from Vonetta McGee’s Tina, all the characters make smart, reasonable choices and decisions and never really find themselves in ridiculous situations that only serve to up the body count or transition us from set piece to set piece.
And none of that even mentions William Marshall, who turns in a damn near flawless performance as “Dracula’s Soul Brother.” In the prologue when he asks Macaulay’s Count “Are you ILL, sir?” you know you’re in for a treat.
Random Anecdotes: I mentioned earlier that the film itself wasn’t necessarily exploitive, but the marketing certainly could be labeled as such. “His bite was outta sight” indeed. I also just realized my last Movie of the Day was also about a vampire film. Hooray for consistency, I suppose.
Cinematc Soulmates: Hahaha.