Blacula (William Crain / U.S., 1972):

The Transylvanian prologue sets up this canonical affairís droll joke. The occasion is a noble African princeís (William Marshall) dinner with bigoted olí Dracula (Charles Macaulay), shot like a meeting between Frederick Douglass and Colonel Sanders and built toward an epical bite and unembarrassed declaration of the rich title. The cursed prince enters modernity courtesy of a two-toned couple of swishy decorators, who buy the vampireís castle and bring his coffin to downtown Los Angeles circa 1972. Williamís Blacula is a tall and basso-voiced caped diplomat, given the Wolf Manís protruding sideburns when his thirst for plasma is inflamed; his doomed beloved (Vonetta McGee) is reincarnated as a foxy club-dweller, her sister (Denise Nicholas) is dating Van Helsing (Thalmus Rasulala), a forensics doctor. There are trips to the graveyard, warehouses full of blue-skinned ghouls, and gratuitous performances by The Hues Corporation. "Next year, we move to the suburbs." Socially conscious as it is, this vibrant funking-up of Hammer bloodsuckers doesnít stint on grisly frissons: A photographer parts the curtains of her makeshift dark room just in time to see Blacula gliding toward her, a freshly vampirized cabbie (Ketty Lester) sprints in slow-mo to feast on a morgue attendant (Elisha Cook, Jr.). Director William Crain could have used a bit of Larry Cohenís politicized sense of mischief, though his camera does linger on a "No smoking" sign as the protagonist staggers to his smoldering demise. Followed by Scream Blacula Scream, Blackenstein, The Blaxorcist, The Hunchblack of Notre Dame... The best critique is by Hollywood Shuffle ("Attack of the Zombie Pimps"). With Gordon Pinsent, Emily Yancy, Ted Harris, Rick Metzler, and Ji-Tu Cumbuka.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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