Blacula (1972)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/18/21
Cast: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Thalmus Rasulala, Denise Nicholas, Elisha Cook, Ketty Lester

"You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be... Blacula!"

Two homosexuals purchase Count Dracula's castle and ship a mysterious coffin back to Los Angeles. Much to their surprise, it contains a vampire named Mamuwalde (William Marshall), who was bitten by Dracula 200 years ago and locked inside the coffin as punishment over a slavery dispute. While wandering the streets of Los Angeles in search of blood, he runs into a woman named Tina (Vonetta McGee) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife Luva, and he dedicates himself to reuniting with the spirit of his lost lover. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) is working with the police to investigate a recent string of murders, which fall neatly into a vampire's pattern. Of course, no one believes him and he even goes so far as digging up graves in the middle of the night to find evidence. With Tina's life in the balance, the film builds up to a life-and-death showdown between Thomas and Mamuwalde, with surprisingly bittersweet results.

After being one of the top grossing films of the year, "Blacula" is generally credited with launching the blaxploitation movement of the 1970's. Unfortunately, it's not a very good film and it suffers from low production values, sluggish pacing, bad writing, wooden acting, and numerous continuity issues. It also contains an awkwardly long and inexplicable music number, which was common for the genre. However, William Marshall shines throughout, and gives a wonderful performance. His deep voice is both soothing and commanding, and he brings a tragic sense of longing and despair to his character. He is a proud and dignified, but pitiable monster, and his destruction is unique among vampire films. Thalmus Rasulala makes an adequate hero as Dr. Thomas, although the character is poorly developed. Vonetta McGee and Denise Nicholas are beautiful, but they appear to be struggling within the confines of the film's B-movie trappings. Ketty Lester nearly steals the show as a sassy cabbie turned vampire, and is a total hoot to watch. The writing is uncomfortably racist and homophobic, but serves as a cultural reminder of the time period. Horror buffs and vampire fans probably won't get much out of the film, but blaxploitation fans will definitely find it interesting.