Blacula

Review by Mike Finkelstein

We start in Dracula's Castle, the late 1770s. The Drac man is meeting with an African Prince, Mamuwalde, about the future of the African nations. Mamuwalde, wants there to be an end to the slave trade. Dracula sees this as being costly and dumb, and feels that he and his rich friends would be better off without this Black Prince around.

Of course, one has to wonder why the hell Dracula cares what happens in the slave trade or why he has rich friends. I though by this point he had gone off to England to eat some English girls or something...

Regardless of that glaring lack of continuity/logic, Dracula turns the Prince into a vampire and renames him "Blacula" (presumably because it's easier for Dracula to remember and to spell). He also traps him in a coffin, and then locks his wife in the chamber with the coffin, where she will live out her days listening to her hubby scratch at his wooden prison... at least until she dies of hunger.

Flash forward a couple hundred years, and Blacula's coffin has been found and moved to America. He's freed (lucky for him, unlucky for everyone else), and promptly goes about eating people and chasing down a girl that looks surprisingly like his lost love.

Much as I might pick on the plot, Blacula isn't a bad film. It's actually a pretty decent flick. Although not the most engaging tale of vampirism ever written, it gets some props for semi-originality. You also have to forgive it the era it was made in and the lack of budget. It was a blaxploitation flick.

When watched, one will begin to realize that, barring the setting, Blacula is a simple retelling of Dracula. The vampire comes to the new country, eats women (for blood, of course), and tries to gain a bride. He doesn't have the three wives of Dracula, but the plot (speedy as it is) really doesn't allow for all the elements of the original story to play out in this "reimagining". Otherwise, it sticks fairly faithful to the setup. Rename some characters, update the settings, and voila, Dracula for the urban, 1970s youth.

The script, as far as dialogue, is rather awful; not much can be expected when most of the characters have to act stereotypically black (there's only so many times one can stand to hear "sucka" or "brotha" before one tunes out the dialogue entirely). Presumably this was another way to appeal to the urban, 1970's youth market, but it ends up being quite distracting when every character fits the stereotypical mold (well, except Blacula, but he's awesome, so I'm sure that's why he was allowed to act differently).

Seriously, even the scientific doctor, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) -- obviously modeled after van Helsing -- ends up saying things like "Solid" once in a while. Much as his character is interesting (the only really smart character in the bunch, aside from Blacula), his use of slang to seem "hip" is simply distracting.

Really, with a bit of a tweak to the script, and a slightly bigger budget to afford some better supporting actors, the movie would have been fantastic. It's only relatively "decent" in its current form.

If you're a fan of Dracula movies, or (and there aren't a lot of us around) blaxploitation movies, then this is a natural "must watch" flick. For everyone else, you probably won't really care for it at all. It's good to laugh at, but harder to enjoy on its own merits.