Blacula - Urban action and fatal attraction give rise to a groove from beyond the grave in this funkadelic, fangadelic Soul Cinema sensation! The eternally cool William Marshall puts a fresh spin on the age-old legend of the vampire, condemned to wander the Earth with an insatiable lust for blood.
In 1780, African Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) pays a visit to Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending slave trade. Instead, the evil count curses his noble guest and transforms him into a vampire! Released from his coffin nearly two centuries later by a pair of luckless interior decorators, Mamuwalde emerges as "Blacula," one strange dude strollin' the streets of L.A. on a nightly quest for human blood!
Scream, Blacula, Scream - Blacula lives, and only the legendary Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) has the power to deep-six his reign of terror. William Marshall is "magnificent" (Los Angeles Times) as the noble African prince turned bloodthirsty fired in this hair-raising sequel to the terrifying hit Blacula! This time, it's voodoo power versus vampire fury when Willis (Richard Lawson), the son of a late high priestess, seeks revenge on the cultists who have chosen his foster sister Lisa (Grier) as their new leader. Hoping to curse Lisa, Willis unwittingly resurrects Blacula's earthly remains - and lets loose the Prince of Darkness and his freaked-out army of the undead!
Given that this set comes with both films, ‘Blacula’ and ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ I’ve decided to split my reviews, giving each film their due rather than judging them as a whole.
“Make mine a Bloody Mary.”
Coming at the cusp of the blaxploitation genre, ‘Blacula’ plays loose and groovy with the Vampire mythos, while also staying remarkably faithful as a contemporary retelling of Bram Stoker’s original novel.
In the late 1780s, the great African Prince Mamuwalde, the ever incredible William Marshall, and his wife Luva, Vonetta McGee, travel as dignitaries to Europe in an effort to find a way to end the disgraceful slave trade. They happen to find themselves in the home of Count Dracula, unaware of his tendencies. After enduring a barrage of insults, Mamuwalde is forced to defend himself and his wife from Dracula’s strong armed goons as Dracula aims to enslave the two. When the fight is quickly lost and Mamuwalde is laying helpless - Dracula shares his curse to the dying man as a measure to further injure the Prince’s pride as he’s renamed “Blacula!”
Entombed in a coffin hidden in a secret room of the castle, Blacula lives out the next 200 years in unending hunger and torment. His freedom comes at the hands of two rather stereotypically played homosexual interior decorators who have just purchased Castle Dracula and all of its contents disregarding all of the legends and high on the kitsch factor. When they discover the hidden coffin, they ship everything to Los Angeles where they open the coffin reviving the vampire and giving him the chance he needs to feed on the world.
In a chance meeting at the funeral home where one of his victims lays awaiting burial, Blacula meets Tina, his long deceased wife Luva reincarnated. Blacula, in an effort to regain his humanity follows the woman, ultimately earning her trust, and convincing her his evil actions are justified and that he loves her and wishes only to spend eternity with her.
Hot on Blacula’s heals is Dr. Gordon Thomas, a tenacious Thalmus Rasulala, a police pathologist who is investigating recent murders where the victims have two peculiar holes in their necks and are completely drained of blood. He slowly puts the piece together and must convince his superiors that vampires exist and he must find the creature responsible and hunt him down before it’s too late.
‘Blacula’ is a fun piece of early 70s cinema. Shot on a low budget, it’s easy to see where and how the filmmakers cut corners with cardboard standing in for stone walls, but these details make the movie all the more fun to watch. Also great is to see how they transposed a number of characters and events from Stoker’s original “Dracula” novel and fit them into the story. Dr. Thomas is very obviously Van Helsing, his girlfriend Michelle, Denise Nicholas, takes on the Arthur Holmwood character while Thomas’ unbelieving superior Lt. Peters, Gordon Pinsent, fits the doubting Dr. Seward role nicely. Adding to the fun is horror genre regular Elisha Cook Jr. of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ fame in a fun little cameo role as an ill-fated orderly with an obviously fake, overly long hook for a hand!
This movie is nothing but fun. To expect anything else would be disadvantages to the film. Perhaps time hasn’t been the biggest friend to ‘Blacula’ but if there is any hope with this Blu-ray release via Scream Factory, it is that people rediscover this gem of 70s horror. It’s ride well worth taking.
Scream Blacula Scream:
“Now you be thankful that I’ve chosen not to rip out your worthless heart.”
‘Scream Blacula Scream’ is like the ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ of the ‘Blacula’ movies. It sports a marked improvement in production values, budget, visual effects, and an improved cast with the appearance of exploitation genre favorite Pam Grier. The pace of the film is much steadier and works to build real tension. The visual effects work is a lot cleaner and the blood and the vampire makeup effects feel more natural rather than tacked on, but still maintains a rough, independent vibe.
Blacula, being reincarnated through the powers of Voodoo, is unleashed upon the world to kill. After the death of a high priestess, Willis - who proclaims himself the rightful heir to her position within the cult, is slighted when he learns that in the absence of a declared heir, the group will put the position to a vote, and therefor elect his step sister Lisa, Pam Grier, as high priestess. For revenge, Willis then turns to the ostracized former high priest for help. It just so happens this man is in the possession of the bones of the greatest force of evil the world has ever known. Through the rights of Voodoo, Willis resurrects Blacula, and frees him to feed upon the world once more.
Following the success of ‘Blacula,’ ‘Scream Blacula Scream,’ does a far better job managing the horror genre tropes while also keeping the level of 70s funk and camp alive and well. Back again in the title role is William Marshall, bring gravitas and dignified presence as he did in the previous film. He is a man(or creature) of a bygone era. While the advancements in transportation and modern lighting don’t seem to phase him, it’s the way he sees the progress of his people that angers him above all. There is a notable bit of social commentary as he refuses the advances of a prostitute and then makes quick work of her pimps.
Pam Grier is also a welcome addition to this series. Released the same month as ‘Coffy,’ Pam, as should be expected, gives the movie some real heft as well as an expression of innocence since she’s the single person that Blacula cares for above anyone else. This isn’y just because she’s beautiful, but because she just may have the power to restore him to humanity. It was evil that lead to his rebirth, it could be good that saves his soul.
Sure there are some plot contrivances such as another black scientist character whose white counterparts refuse to believe, and then there is the repeat of the clever photograph trick from he first film only it’s not as impactful the second time around. But so what? There is enough new and interesting going on here to make this an improvement over the first film and an easy recommend for an awesome double feature.
if you’re going into either of these movies to nitpick this or that, you’re missing the point. These movies are pure entertainment. You could be scared or you might be giggling - either way you’re going to have a great time if you give yourself to the experience. Whether you want to call these films “exploitation” or “blaxsploitation,” no matter what way you cut it they make for great cinema. Not having seen these films in a number of years, I’m glad to see they hold up well and are just as entertaining as ever. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they should reboot, reset, restart, or remake the franchise, but I will say that it is a shame that they made only two films to feast upon. William Marshall is a name that should be up there with the likes of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee for contributing to the vitality of the vampire genre.
Scream Blacula Scream: 4/5
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Blacula’ and its sequel ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ arrive on Blu-ray via Scream Factory on a Region A locked BD50 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case, there is reversible artwork that features a look at the international posters and marketing for both films. The disc opens to a film select menu after a flashy 30 second intro featuring stills, sounds, and music from both films. Once you select a title, a new menu opens featuring background video clips and music from that specific film.
Scream Factory brings one of the coolest 70s horror movies to life with a decent 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Film grain is visibly intact, and lends itself to a fantastic sense of detail, in particular the fine details in the clothing and in closeups, you get a full appreciation of the makeup effects for this moderately budgeted film . Colors are quite bright and lively, reds get a lot of play for obvious reasons, but flesh tones can waver scene to scene. Considering the prominent repetitive patterns of 70’s era clothing, there is little to if any banding present.
On a bit of a down note, crush is constantly apparent throughout the film - considering it takes place at night. Black levels, while inky, don’t have much in the way of grey tones visible enough to give the image a great sense of depth. Things improve when there is more light in a scene, but this is a darkly lit film throughout, so crush is seemingly always apparent to some degree. Also, whenever the camera pans or a character moves across the scene very quickly, there are noticeable instances of motion blur. There is some slightly noticeable print damage in the form of small black or white flecks here or there, but otherwise the print is in fine form.
Scream Blacula Scream:
‘Scream Bacula Scream’ fairs a bit better than its predecessor, maintaining the 1.85:1 1080p aspect ratio, detail is a bit stronger - all you have to do is look at the awesome 70s clothing to appreciate that. Black levels and shadows are a bit improved allowing for fewer instances of crush, and colors and flesh tones look much better than the first film. Grain structure is solid and appears to be unaltered giving it a nice film-like presentation. ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ is an improvement over the first film, but not a vast improvement.
There is still some heavy crush issues when scenes are particularly darkly lit, and there still appears to be a nagging sense of motion blur when the camera pans or a character moves too quickly. There are also several soft moments where things don’t look quite as crisp as they could and appear overly soft which leads me to think this is indicative of the film elements and not a transfer issue.
All in all, these aren't the best HD presentations to make it to Blu-ray, but they aren't the worst either. Considering two films are packed onto a single disc and their 40 year old age, we should be grateful that A: the source prints are in as fine shape as they are, and B: while imperfect, they do look pretty incredible on Blu-ray. If you’re like me and only saw these films on VHS or the previous muddy-looking DVD’s with an old Tube TV, you should be impressed with the results. However, I can’t help but wonder how much better these two films would have looked if they had been given their own separate discs to occupy, rather than sharing a single BD-50.
Scream Blacula Scream 3/5
Where these films really come to life is in their respective English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 tacks. Both tracks sport real range and life. There isn’t a single discernible instance between them of hiss, pops, or drop outs. Both do a pretty decent job with imaging, making sure that sound effects are giving appropriate room to live and fill the scene while the creepy, yet funky 70s soundtracks and the voices of the cast reside in the mid ranges. Obviously there are some pretty high pitched screams for your ears to consume, but they don’t rattle the mixes or cause any kind of negative distorting effect. Both films have areas where voices were done in ADR or re-recorded that sound a bit off since they don’t quite match the mouth movements, but those are few and far between and true for many movies of that era.
Thankfully these are strong sound mixes all around and any fan should appreciate the work put into their mastering.
Scream Blacula Scream 4/5
Audio Commentary by David F. Walker: Film Historian and Filmmaker David F. Walker offers incredible incite into the production of the film, from the get go pointing out how the intro origin scene was in fact the idea of William Marshall himself. He also goes into the notable filming practices of AIP: American International Pictures. A great commentary and a cool listen for film buffs and genre picture fans.
Blacula Photo Gallery: Aptly titled, this is a series of 70 production stills and set photos. They’re interesting if only because they some scenes and extensions to the movie that were evidently cut from the final film.
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:54): this unrestored trailer is a fun piece of 70s marketing. It’s fun that they say “Blacula” more times in this trailer than they do throughout the entire movie. Also helps you to appreciate the restoration work of the main feature.
Scream Blacula Scream:
Interview With Richard Lawson (HD 13:25): Actor Richard Lawson recounts his experiences of getting the part of Big Willis and how it impacted his career. It’s a cool 13 minutes of interesting behinds the scenes story telling about the production.
Scream Blacula Scream Photo Gallery: Just as the first film, there are 70+ behind the scenes, press, and production photos to devour.
Original Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:03): This trailer rides on the successes of the previous entry and the rising popularity of Pam Grier. It shows more of the main highlights of the film without giving away much of the plot. It’s rough looking to say the least, but a fun extra.
Considering how amazing these movies ultimately are, it’s incredible to me to think its taken until now for anyone to release them on Blu-ray. With that, Kudos to Scream Factory for getting the job done in fine form. While the transfers are a tad rough in spots, it gives you a lot to appreciate considering, in my memory, they’ve never looked that great to start with. The audio tracks are robust and really help bring the films home. Considering you’re getting two great films for the price of one with a decent amount of extras - this is an easy set to recommend.