Film / Blacula
Deadlier than Dracula!

Blacula is a 1972 horror film, produced by American International Pictures, featuring the blaxploitation version of the Dracula character. It stars William Marshall (who some may recognize as The King of Cartoons from the later Saturday-morning television series Pee-wee’s Playhouse) in the title role. The movie was successful enough to spawn a sequel a year later and also inspired a number of imitators, including Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (which like Blacula itself was directed by William Crain). Blacula was also prominently featured in the fanfilm Bloodsuckers Anonymous as one of the main protagonists.

The plot: In 1780, African Prince Manuwalde and his lovely wife Tuva (Vonetta McGee) visit Transylvanian Count Dracula, to dine and discuss a proposition put forth by Manuwalde: end the slave trade out of Africa. Dracula finds this ridiculous, given the "merit" he feels is inherent in slavery. He then makes a pass at Tuva. This leads into a fight between Manuwalde and Dracula's mooks, and both are captured. Dracula turns Manuwalde into a vampire, names him "Blacula," and seals him in a coffin, leaving poor Tuva to die helplessly beside the coffin in a chamber in the dungeon below the castle.

192 years later, a pair of gay American interior decorators purchase several antiques from the now-long-abandoned castle and have them transported to Los Angeles (including the coffin, which—unbeknownst to them—still contains Blacula). Sorting through the items in a warehouse, they find the coffin and decide to open it—only to end up attacked and killed by the freshly-released and seriously hungry vampire. Blacula roams the city's streets at night, a handsome and debonair black gentleman who happens to suddenly grow a pair of wild sideburns when his hunger rises, and the body count increases around the neighborhood. This draws Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), a forensics expert with the LAPD, to the case. Meanwhile, Blacula has discovered a young woman named Tina (McGee) who looks exactly like his long-deceased wife.

The story was continued in a 1973 sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, in which Mamuwalde is resurrected by an angry young man to kill Lisa (Pam Grier), the new leader of a group of voodoo practicioners. Instead he tries to get her help in curing him of his vampirism.

This film provides examples of:

  • Animated Credits Opening: Which, like the rest of the '70s, is funky as hell!
  • Antagonist Title: The film is named after its bad guy.
  • Anti-Villain: Blacula, who doesn't seem particularly unsympathetic for a vampire.
  • Blaxploitation: The film's genre is a cross-over between horror and this.
  • Camp Gay: The two men who unwittingly purchase Blacula's coffin are very flamboyant. Well, they are from California and all.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Manuwalde encountering the reincarnation of his wife in the exact time and place where he's freed from his long confinement certainly counts.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Dr. Thomas and his girlfriend exhume one of Blacula's now-vampirized victims in one of these.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Blacula easily takes down anyone who picks a fight with him.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The African Prince Mamuwalde approaches the European nobleman Dracula suggesting that all of the slave trade in Africa be ended. Dracula does not agree, finding the very notion laughable. Indeed, as he shows with his undead harem of girls at the beginning of the film, he makes a habit of turning people into his unwilling slaves — and proceeds to do exactly this to Mamuwalde.
  • Driven to Suicide: Blacula drags himself out into the daylight after Tina is shot, and thus lost to him forever.
  • The Future Is Shocking: Oddly averted. Vampire or no, you'd expect Blacula to be at least somewhat nonplussed by the abrupt transition from the 18th Century to 1972 L.A., but if so he doesn't show it.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Count Dracula in this movie. He never appears again beyond the prologue, but he is very much responsible for Manulwade's condition and far more evil than the eponymous Anti-Villain.
  • Jive Turkey: Blacula himself speaks in a very refined manner, but several other characters are very much a product of their time and place.
  • Karma Houdini: Count Dracula does not reappear after the prologue. Then again, the beginning of the movie is set before the main novel, so he did eventually pay for his crimes, just not by Blacula's hands.
  • Kill It with Fire: Several vampires (but not Blacula himself) are dispatched in this manner.
  • Male Gaze: During one of the musical numbers at the nightclub, we get some gratuitous closeups of the female singer's (and various female dancers') scantily-clad anatomy. Not to mention Tina's legs, when Blacula is following her from the funeral parlor.
  • Messy Hair: The vampires all gain wild and unkempt hair once they turn.
  • Mugging the Monster: Attempted by a couple of pimps in the sequel.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Everyone Blacula kills comes back as a vampire themselves. Sometimes they take long enough to come back for them to be buried, sometimes they come back almost immediately. They are vulnerable to crosses, to the point where one vampire is apparently killed by one.
    • Further, vampires cannot be photographed, and Blacula can turn into a bat.
    • Blacula himself gains both fangs and a wild set of sideburns whenever he gets hungry and attacks.
    • The vampires also seem to gain wild features when they turn, to the point they almost look like zombies (Dracula's brides are all green skinned, for example). The sequels play this up a bit, as two turned characters, Willis and his girlfriend Denny, are shown looking like normal humans when not showcasing their fangs.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Dracula finds slavery a good idea in the intro. Again, he is a monster that makes a habit of turning people into his undead slaves.
  • Red Shirt: Most of the uniformed cops in the movie's climax.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Manuwalde's wife, Tuva, is apparently reincarnated as Tina, whom he pursues relentlessly.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Blacula, in the climax:
    "Dr. Thomas! You and your dear friends are dead! Not one man shall escape my vengeance! Not one man shall leave here alive! Search out every shadow, every corner! This will be your inglorious tomb! Your tomb! Your tomb! Your tomb!"
  • Salt and Pepper: Gordon Thomas and Lt. Peters.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Blacula, trapped for over nearly two centuries in a sealed coffin, until the two Camp Gay men unleash him.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Manuwalde wishes for you to understand that he does not wish to engage in an exchange of banalities with pseudointellectuals and dilettantes, when dignitaries of your stature could instead be lending the weight of your statesmanship to the fulfillment of his objectives.
  • Sequel: 1973's Scream Blacula Scream, which has the vampire revived by Voodoo cultists (and co-stars Pam Grier).
  • She's Got Legs: Reflecting the fashion of the period, Tina wears extremely short dresses in a couple of scenes.
  • Sideburns of Evil: Blacula. When he vamps out, it's like his face grows fangs, too.
  • Suicide by Sunlight: Blacula ends his un-life this way, once he decides that there's nothing to keep him in the world anymore.
  • Time Skip: From 1780 to 1972 after the intro.
  • Tragic Monster: Blacula himself, turned into vampire by Dracula and forced to give in to his vampiric urges. He actually seems like a decent person most of the time, and the sequel goes a little further, with him trying to get Lisa to undo the vampirisim on him via a voodoo ritual.
  • Undeathly Pallor: All the turned victims sport this.
  • Unexplained Accent: Dracula speaks with a British accent, despite being a Romanian played by an American. The accent would make sense if he was getting ready for his trip to Britain, but this takes place over a hundred years before he leaves.
  • Vampire Hunter: Dr. Gordon Thomas.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: One of Blacula's unfortunate victims rises from death after her body is removed from the freezer and defrosts.
  • Wicked Cultured: Blacula, even moreso than Dracula.

Alternative Title(s): Scream Blacula Scream