Monday, 10 January 2011

Blaxploitation Goes Bats For ...


American International Pictures were prevalent in the later day horror film market, particularly during the nineteen seventies. With box office star draws such as Vincent Price on their roster they produced many a successful picture. It was in 1972 that classically trained thespian William Marshall became part of the A.I.P stable and in so doing also subscribed to the genre that became well known as Blaxploitation !.

The Afro American cycle of movies with a Grindhouse production feel to them, and a recognisable take on the blockbuster movies of the time. In the wake of the success of Hammer Films it came to be that American International Pictures wanted to deliver a Blaxploitation take on the Dracula legend, and so came to be ... Blacula.

Star William Marshall is African Prince Mamuwalde, who along with his wife travel to Europe in the Eighteenth century, to bring awareness and seek backing to abolish slavery. It is during their stay in Transylvania at castle Dracula that Mamuwalde is turned into a slave for all eternity, as he is transformed into a vampire by Dracula himself. Inturned within a sealed coffin for over two centuries, it is not until two modern day antiquities dealers unwittingly release him that Mamuwalde is emancipated from his entombed state, neither alive nor dead !. Cursed by Dracula himself Mamuwalde emerges with a blood hungry thirst and is reborn as one of the un-dead as, Blacula !.

The film truly is a camp classic, given the High Definition treatment and showing on the MGM HD Channel, that is a real curio to check out . Mostly dated by its time, but not without a few well staged moments that are effective even by today's standards. Shots done in slow motion of attacking vampires look good and deliver in the surprise moment department.

There are some wonderful over the top seventies cliches to revel in, such as large Afros, large sideburns, large moustaches and even larger than life characters.

Blacula sets about nourishing his blood lust and showing off his ability to change into a bat, a real throwback to the style employed in the old Universal Studios movies from the thirties and forties, and in acquainting himself with a beautiful young woman who is the carbon copy of his long dead wife.

Pursuing his desire for the young woman, who becomes transfixed by the charming persona of Mamuwalde, as she sees him, Blacula is outed by his nemesis Doctor Gordon Thomas. In classic Dracula versus professor Van Helsing style the two clash and their can be only one victor !.

Thalmus Rasulala plays the doctor like he is Shaft, only he packs a crucifix as well as a gun. Now this particular crucifix is well in keeping with the big theme of the movie as this holy artifact darn near needs two hands gripping it in order to lift up in the face of evil.

There's a smattering of blood and some schlock effects, along with a high camp theme and a stop motion frame delicious demise to keep a modern audience entertained. Throw in some groovy un-dead vampire / zombie types and a funky background beat, and this daddy heads up the A.I.P family album of flicks to revisit.

If you are down with seventies flares, Afro hair and devil may care attitudes, along with a negro neck nibbler, then Blacula is well worth staking out !.

Trailer For Blacula

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