Will wonders ever cease?
Long before "Blade," there was "Blacula." That’s right, Dracula’s “Soul Brother” "Blacula" is finally coming to blu-ray/DVD in all its pristine remastered glory, easily replacing the sub-par standard MGM/Fox DVD released 10 years ago.
The film was a huge hit when it was first released in 1972 (it even spawned "Blacula" action figures, and other merchandising); and while it may look campy and humorous today, it was intentionally meant to be that way, while providing chills and scares.
But it also reflected the wide diversity of black films made during the so-called “Blaxploitation” era of the early to mid-70’s, when anything and everything was being made, from horror films, to comedies, to action thrillers, to romances, to serious dramas. It definitely wasn’t just "Super Fly" and a bunch of copy cats. Now it’s basically just comedies and romcoms, which as I’ve said before, are more “com” than “rom;” and all of them seemingly starring the same group of black actors.
The plot was a rather unique twist on the Dracula legend, in which William Marshall plays an African prince who travels to Transylvania to enlist Count Dracula’s help in abolishing the slave trade. Unfortunately for the prince, evidently no one had the slightest courtesy to tell him what the count really was, and before he knows it, Dracula has sunk his teeth into the African prince's neck, and turned him into a vampire.
He winds up, centuries later, in Los Angeles, after two interior decorators buy his coffin and wake him up, becoming his first victims. Now free, Blacula goes on the prowl, encountering new victims for his "legion of the undead," while falling in love with a beautiful woman (played by Vonetta McGee), who he believes is a reincarnation of his dead wife.
The film was directed by one of the very few black TV directors of the period - William Crain - who had a busy career, cranking out TV episodes, and was the right guy to make the film, with his experience in shooting fast and even cheaply. In fact, American International Pictures shot "Blacula" during the late winter, and early spring of 1972, and released it in theaters that August.
It was a box office smash.
And as a result of the role and its success, Marshall found an extraordinary new popularity after many years on the stage, and in countless supporting roles in TV and film - most of them not up to his level or talent. Not surprisingly, having a lead role for the first time in film, he rips into the role of Blacula with a ferociousness, and though it’s not seen in the trailers below, he gives his character a nobility and a tragic dimension.
In fact, it was Marshall’s choice on making him an African prince, and putting an anti-slavery element in the film, since in the original script, Blacula was just an ordinary guy by the name of Brown.
And then of course there's That Voice. Did anyone have a more commanding, more resonant voice than Marshall? Just hearing it, it immediately demands your attention and respect.
And even better, the Blu-ray will also include the 1973 sequel "Scream Blacula Scream," starring, once again, Marshall and, this time, Pam Grier. Though the film was widely regarded as something of a letdown, a sequel was quickly rushed into production to capitalize on the popularity of the first film, it’s still fun nevertheless and has its moments.
And, of course, there was Pam Grier.
So this Halloween is going to be really special, now that both films will be released in a Blu-ray set (which will also include Standard DVD versions of both films) on Monday Oct. 27.
However there is a catch…
Unfortunately, the blu-ray set will be released overseas by the British video label Eureka Entertainment, which means that, unless you live in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe, you will not be able to play the discs on your domestic blu-ray players since they will be PAL version (or Region 2) DVDs. That is, unless you happen to own an all region blu-ray player (like me, I boast), which can play DVDs from any region in the world.
However, the potential good news here is that, there’s a chance that the American video label, Shout Factory’s horror film specialty label, Scream Factory, might release the "Blacula" Blu-rays in the States, since Scream Factory has previously released a number of American International horror film titles from the 60’s and 70’s, on Blu-ray. So a Region 1 "Blacula" Blu-ray DVD could be in the works.
I mean it’s only fitting; after all, why should the foreigners have all the fun and leave us locals, out in the cold?
Here’s the trailer for "Blacula":
And the trailer for "Scream Blacula Scream":