Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Just Call Me Mamuwalde

The reason you watch Blacula? Because of the band in the nightclub scene. I mean I guess there are plenty of great reasons to enjoy Blaxploitation from the social critique to the badass music, from strange eyebrows on an Afro Drac to an origin story that actually makes quite a bit of sense (unlike other horror blax crossover classics like Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde). When I was a kid I was first exposed to Blacula during Fox 5’s Creature Feature Week. I’d hear that “I am… (wait for it)… Blacula” quote on repeat as the commercial celebrated the week. I didn’t actually get to watch the movie at that time. My dad record Godzilla 1985, X Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Dracula’s Great Love, Giant Spider Invasion and Alligator, but for some reason he didn’t grab the TRUE Prince of Darkness. Year’s went by and I finally enjoyed Blacula a few years ago on what would appear to be  a very worn looking edition. Fast forward to yesterday when Scream Factory created an HD Blacula double feature.

First off… no issues with transfers or resto (and I tend to be lenient but I like to think of it as fair). Both movies look great, and I’m particularly fond of the choice of menus for each movie. You get extras for both movies which may not be stacked, but it’s appropriate for a double feature of this type. On one hand you get an audio commentary with David F. Walker who is a Film Historian and Filmmaker and the other you get an interview with Actor Richard Lawson. Both movies feature a trailer as part of the extra package. The front cover preserves the art for each movie in a double feature presentation.

Now on to each movie and a bit of a discussion for each…

(when you read this title you should always hear it with an echoy effect)

I am fonder of Blacula. It’s the first one I had seen (multiple times by now) and it has a more traditional, near Gothic horror twinge. I like that the origin story involves Dracula in an older time, and the overall presentation feels more concise. It’s almost as if the lack of creativity in the underlying story actually carries over better when we realize that there’s a bit of a play on color to the point of parody rather than trying to invent a new story for Blacula. This isn’t Hammer studios; we can’t have endless tales of Blacula so far removed from the source work that it scarcely matter who plays the PoD.

As I stated before the night club sequence is one of my favorite aspects of the movie. The band has the best outfits, music and dancing. I actually dance along when I watch the damn movie. I’m sure this opinion will not be shared by most. Other than that the opening, origin story is somewhat haunting though the rest of the movie doesn’t quite honor that same creepiness. Once we fast forward to the modern era, there’s cheese and camp and campy cheese with great big eyebrows and colors flipped to inifinty. What a fun time.

Synopsis from Scream Factory

In 1780, African Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) pays a visit to Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the 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 
(not to be confused with the Rocket from the Crypt album Scream Dracula Scream… though someone needs to cover that album and make appropriate modifications).

While I always appreciate a good tale of Voodoo, somehow crossing it with the Dracula mythology it feels like the writer is really reaching for a story. Of course that’s not to say that putting Dracula in the modern era with an African Prince in the lead and calling the movie Blacula isn’t a stretch, but there’s only so far my suspension of disbelief can be stretched before it goes from camp to cheese to cornball to gonzo to … an idea that I do not feels is executed overly well. Perhaps my affinity for the original has me somewhat biased. The greatest injustice of Scream Blacula Scream was that Blacula didn’t face Blackenstein (or some other Universal-esque monster). Perhaps the trademark Gods did not find the matchup favorable, and truly, has any second feature in a Dracula picture been a monster success. Hammer’s Brides of Dracula didn’t do it for me. Nor did Dracula’s Daughter for me. 

If there’s one great reason to enjoy Scream Blacula Scream, it’s Pam Grier which is really a great reason to watch any movie. I think SBS can grow on me with time, but for now I’m still of the opinion that the original is the movie to watch.

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Blacula lives! This scintillating sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, pits voodoo power against vampire fury! Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson), the son of a late high priestess, seeks revenge on the cultists who have chosen his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier) as their new leader. Hoping to curse Lisa, Willis unwittingly resurrects Blacula's earthly remains – and unleashes the Prince of Darkness and his freaked-out army of the undead.

You can order this double feature now from Scream Factory. Watch them both. Let us know what you think. Which is do you enjoy more? Is either movie actually frightening?

Bonus Features

--- BLACULA ---
Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian/Filmmaker David F. Walker (Reflections On Blaxploitation: Actors And Directors Speak)
Theatrical Trailer

New Interview With Actor Richard Lawson
Theatrical Trailer

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