Long before “Blade,” there was “Blacula.” That’s right, Dracula’s “Soul
Brother” “Blacula” was finally released on blu-ray this year, in all its pristine remastered glory, easily replacing the sub-par
standard MGM/Fox DVD released 11 years ago.
The film was
a huge hit when it was first released in 1972 (it even spawned “Blacula” action figures, and other merchandising); and while it may look campy and
humorous today, it was intentionally meant to be that way, while providing some chills and scares.
But it also reflected
the wide diversity of black films made during the so-called “Blaxploitation”
era of the early to mid-70’s, when anything and everything was being made, from horror
films, to comedies, to action thrillers, to romances, to serious dramas. It
definitely wasn’t just “Super Fly” and a bunch of copy cats. Today it’s basically just
comedies, romcoms, and, more recently, historical dramas – all of them seemingly starring the same group of black actors.
The “Dracula” plot was a rather unique twist on the Dracula legend, in which William Marshall plays an African
prince who travels to Transylvania to enlist
Count Dracula’s help in abolishing the
slave trade. Unfortunately for the prince, evidently no one had the slightest courtesy
to tell him what the count really was, and before he knows it, Dracula has sunk his teeth into the African prince’s neck, and turned him into a vampire.
He winds up, centuries later, in Los Angeles, after two interior decorators buy his coffin and
wake him up, becoming his first victims. Now free, Blacula goes on the prowl, encountering
new victims for his “legion of the undead,” while falling in love with a beautiful
woman (played by Vonetta McGee), who he believes is a reincarnation of his
The film was
directed by one of the very few black TV directors of the period – William Crain – who had a busy career, cranking out TV episodes, and was
the right guy to make the film, with his experience in shooting fast and even cheaply. In fact,
American International Pictures shot “Blacula” during the late winter, and early spring of 1972, and released it in theaters that August.
It was a box office smash.
And as a
result of the role and its success, Marshall found an extraordinary new popularity after many years on the stage, and
in countless supporting roles in TV and film – most of them not up to his
level of talent. Not surprisingly, having
a lead role for the first time in film, he ripped into the role of Blacula with a
ferociousness, and though it’s not seen in the trailers below, he gave his
character a nobility and a
In fact, it
was Marshall’s choice on making him an African prince, and putting an anti-slavery
element in the film, since, in the original script, Blacula was just an ordinary guy
by the name of Brown.
And then of course
there’s That Voice. Did anyone have a
more commanding, more resonant voice than Marshall? Just hearing it, it immediately demands your
attention and respect.
The Blu-ray package (which contains a double feature) released this year, also includes the 1973 sequel “Scream Blacula Scream,” starring, once again, Marshall and, this time, Pam Grier. Though the sequel was widely regarded
as something of a letdown (it was quickly rushed into production to capitalize
on the popularity of the first film), it’s still fun nevertheless, and has its moments.
And, of course, there was Pam Grier.
So for your Halloween, both films are now on Blu-ray in a set that also includes Standard DVD versions of both films.
Here’s the trailer
And the trailer
for “Scream Blacula Scream”: