Ahh yes, yet another flick that got constant play in my house growing up. What happens when Dracula gets a little soul? This one is going to be a little long in the tooth, so bare with me. Get it? Long in the tooth, because vampires.
Yeah, I know. I’m lame.
An Article by Kristen Dowd
Blacula is the second and last big screen directorial effort from William Crain. He also directed Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde and a few episodes of Starsky and Hutch and The Rookies. The story starts in 1780 and follows Manuwalde (played by Shakespearian actor and the King Of Cartoons himself, William Marshall), an African Prince. He and his wife Luva (played by Vonetta McGee in a duel role) visit Count Dracula (played by Charles Macaulay) to discuss ending the slave trade in Drac’s neck of the woods. Of course, Drac is a racist asshole and makes a comment about taking Luva into his coven and Mamuwalde should be happy that a man of his “stature” is interested in one of their “color”. Mamuwalde decides he ain’t got time for that shit and they try to leave.
Drac has his goons attack Mamuwalde and knock him out with a vase that completely misses his head. Drac curses Mamuwalde and dubs him Blacula. Drac locks him in a coffin and throws Luva in a basement with him, so she can hear Mamuwalde’s screams as she slowly dies. After a funky opening sequence, we are in present day 1972. Here we meet Billy and the Ladies Man inspiration, Bobby; two gay antique dealers. Normally I wouldn’t even bring that up since it doesn’t really add to the story in any real way but the movie gets a little homophobic later on so I felt it necessary to mention. They are raiding Drac’s castle for its macabre Feng shui.
The old British dude selling the antiques tries to tell them of Drac and they laugh, not believing in his stories. They bring back the shit on a ship to their place in Los Angeles, where they check out their haul. Billy gets the bright idea to open the coffin they found and manages to cut himself pretty badly on a crowbar. While Bobby helps him, Mamuwalde awakens. His hunger is 100s of years old, so his eyes all but light up at the sight of Billy’s bleeding arm. Bobby tries to help but gets bitch slapped across the room. Mumwalde feasts on Billy, then makes short work of Bobby. Satisfied, he finds a cool cape, lets out a belly laugh and goes back to sleep in his bitching coffin.
Crazy Cabbie: 70s Edition
Later Bobby’s body is on display for his family and friends at a funeral home and Mumawalde peeps out the situation. He sees Tina (Vonetta McGee’s other role), who he believes is Luva reincarnated. He follows her and when he confronts her, she gets spooked and runs home, accidentally dropping her purse. Tina tells her sister and rommie Michelle (the awesome Denise Nicholas in her debut role) what happened and she reassures Tina everything will be fine. Mumawalde flies back to his pad and gets intimate with the purse. Consensually of course.
The next day we meet Michelle’s boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (played by badass Thalmus Rasulala). He shows up at the morgue to check out a body that was called in. It’s a cabbie ‘ol Muma killed after she hit him with her cab. Dr. Gordon notices bite marks on her neck and realizes Bobby and Billy’s bodies also had them. He goes to see Lt. Jack Peters (played by Gordon Pinsent) and asks for the reports on Bobby and Billy. Peters asks if the (Black) Panthers might be up to it, but Gordon doesn’t think they’d go after a female cabbie and two gay guys (I put it a lot nicer than the movie did, fucking 70s). We jump to later that night and the gang go to a local club for Michelle’s birthday. The band there performs “There He Is Again”, I imagine right before they did “Rock The Boat” since they are The Hues Corporation, the same band that made that song.
Meh, that’s what I look like in the morning
Mamuwalde shows up and explains himself to Tina. She intros him to the group and Gordon takes an immediate dislike to Mamuwalde. Gordon gets a call from the funeral home and gets wind that Bobby’s body has disappeared. Nancy the waitress (played by Emily Yancy) pops by to take some party pictures and Mamuwalde makes for the door. Tina follows him, asking when she can see him again. While they are talking, Nancy takes a photo of them and Mumawalde storms off, pissed. She goes home to her place next to the club to develop the pics. She finds it odd that Tina showed up in the picture but Mumawalde didn’t. He sneaks in, finishes her off and destroys the photos. What a dick.
Gordon goes back to Jack, bitching that he never got the reports he asked for. They wonder who would want Bobby’s body (again, I put it nicer than the movie did). Gordon wants a permit to dig up Billy so he can examine him and maybe get some answers. Jack can’t get it so he decides to go anyway and asks Michelle to tag along. She isn’t happy about it but being the loyal lady love she is, goes along with his bullshit anyway. Meanwhile Mumawalde shows up at Tina’s and lays his vampirehood on her. He explains his story and how he believes she is his lost love. She takes it pretty fucking well all things considered and he asks her to run away with him. She is unsure and he says she must come to him by love and not force. This is a really good scene and showcases Marshall’s true talent as an actor.
At the graveyard, Gordon and Michelle dig up Billy and he attacks Gordon. Gordon gets the upper hand and stabs him in the heart with a stake. Michelle rightfully freaks the fuck out, believing Billy to have been alive. Gordon explains that Billy was killed by a vampire and they were just putting his reanimated corpse out of its misery. Gordon had been reading up on vamps and kept it to himself until he had proof. Michelle realizes Bobby must be a vamp and recommends telling Jack. Gordon suddenly remembers the cabbie from earlier and runs to a payphone. He tells Sam, the morgue attendant, (played by Elisha Cook Jr.) to take her out of the freezer and lock her ass up until he gets there. Sam gets distracted by a ringing phone and doesn’t get to lock the door. Gordon drops Michelle off to a safe place and heads to pick up Jack, but its too late for Sam. The crazy cabbie has him for dinner before they can get there.
AND I just shit my Jordache jeans
Back at Tina’s, she and Mamuwalde finish up their mating. He tells her he must leave and she can’t come with just yet. As Gordon and Jack look around for Sam, cabbie attacks them. They bust out a cross and kill her with sunlight, even though it was pitch black outside a second ago. Jack believes Gordon now and they go over vamp shop. Gordon gets an idea and goes to the club to talk about vamps with Mumawalde. Gordon tells him the cops have a theory about the recent deaths. He tells him even with most in the force not believing in the supernatural, they are organizing a search to find the potential coffin anyhow. Mamuwalde whisks Tina away from the group. Their friend Skillet (played by Ji-Tu Cumbuka) asks if anyone has seen Nancy. Gordon realizes they haven’t in a few days and goes to her house to investigate. He finds the negative of the photo she took of Mumawalde and Tina and puts two and two together. He rushes over to Tina’s to rescue her and Mumawalde backhands him before fleeing.
On the street the cops very nicely ask Mumawalde to hold it, but he ignores them and they chase on foot. He takes one out after being shot, then vanishes. Gordon and Jack go back to the office to talk about what’s up. They tell Tina Mumawalde killed a cop and she cries. Michelle takes her to lay down and Gordon says they have to find his coffin before daylight. Next we see two cops tailing Bobby and they manage to be homophobic AND racist at the same time. I’m NOT supposed to want Mumawalde to fucking kill them, right? Bobby picks up a dude and they follow them. They lose them and Jack asks for the names of all the nearby buildings. They rattle off names until Jack hears the name of the warehouse where Bobby and Billy were killed, where all the crap started, so they book it over there. They step in and the front door closes. Bobby leads a group of vamps and they attack the fuzz. Gordon and Jack throw nearby lanterns and they set the vamps on fire. They tussle with the remaining vamps and make a run for it when the coast is clear.
They run into Mumawalde who informs them that he got wise and moved his coffin. He tells Gordon he could get rid of him now, but he has shit to do so he turns into a bat and bails. Back at Tina’s they try to talk her into being bait to lure in Mumawalde. She’s apprehensive but they guilt trip her so she agrees. Mumawalde uses his mind meld powers and tells Tina where to meet him. She leaves the apartment and heads out. The gang notice Tina is gone and send cops out to look for her. She enters an underground chemical plant and the group goes to fetch her. Tina finds Mumawalde and they embrace. Cops swarm the place and a few go down. One shoots Tina in the back and Mumawalde goes bananas on his porky ass before apologizing for having to turn Tina in order to save her life.
Not bad, 1972. Not bad
Mumawalde then taunts them from his position, telling them this will be their tomb. He throws a guy into a electrical device and laughs as another shoots at him before bitch slapping him. What is with this guy and bitch slapping people? He throws barrels at cops below a walkway like Donkey Kong before fleeing. A cop finds Mumawalde’s coffin sitting in the center of a room. Gordon and Jack advance on it. Gordon opens the lid and Jack rams the stake into the occupant’s chest. Sadly he didn’t look before he got stabby stabby and Tina is on the receiving end of a well done stake. Mumawalde appears and tells them to fuck off from Tina. He mourns her, then waxes poetic about not having a reason to live now that she’s been taken from him again. Mumawalde decides to end it himself, and walks out into the sun, where he melts. The fucking end.
This is one hell of a fun movie. It was one of the highest grossing films of 1972 and inspired a ton of Blacksploitation horror flicks in the following years. A behind the scenes story goes that Marshall wanted his character to have a level of dignity. His name was changed from Adam to Mumawalde and he received the prince backstory we’ve all come to know. There are some silly parts, some unexplained things but Marshall succeeded big time in making Mumawalde tragic and even relatable. I don’t know how Mr. Marshall felt about it, but he should have been proud of his performance.
The film did so well it spawned a sequel; Scream, Blacula, Scream, with Marshall returning for the title role. I’m going to go ahead and save that for another article. Both films are available on a Blu ray combo pack for less than $15 bucks. Well worth the scratch.