Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Brides of Blacula

First I want to apologize because if you've seen these films you know that "the brides of Blacula" technically don't exist.   At least not in the manner as it does in the Dracula franchise.  With that being said, in the United States February is black history month so I've been doing my part by including films with black vampiresses for a majority of the month.  With two days left I'm going for broke with my contributions to teach a little black history (centered around sexy vampiresses of course) each day.

Today's entry as you can see revolves around the 1970's blaxploitation franchise "Blacula".   First a little background.  "Blaxploitation" is the nickname given to the film genre from 1970 to 1979 which revolved mainly around black main characters.  Basically in the 70's people in the US got so tired of seeing the same "type" of people in films that film makers made a killing just by putting ethnic characters as the stars of their films (not just with blaxploitation as Kung Fu films also rose in popularity at this time as well).  Even the James Bond franchise had a blaxploitation flavored film with 1973's "Live and Let Die" (which marked the debut of Roger Moore). It was so successful that the Blaxploitation era basically ended because black characters became so popular that main stream film and television almost required them in most scripts by the 1980's destroying the need for a separate genre (though directors like Spike Lee, John Singleton and Tyler Perry have done their part to keep the "urban" film genre alive). 

Blacula (which obviously comes from a mash-up of Black and Dracula) would be the first blaxploitation horror film and is incorrectly credited as the first horror film of any type to feature a black vampire (The actual first film to feature a black vampire would be Jacqueline Sieger in the Jean Rollins film "Rape of the Vampire" which came out in 1968, a full 4 years before the first Blackula film).  The title, along with some of the more infamous low budget craptacular blaxploitation horror movies which followed this franchise turns a lot of younger audiences away from it as you automatically think of one of those bad movies you'd see on Mystery Science Theater 3000 where you would have a jive talkin pimp-like Dracula running around some place like Harlem slapping people (a caricature actually used in the 90's cartoon "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy").    That's why so many people are surprised if they do give it a chance and they find that it's the very opposite.

 Blacula is the story of an African prince named Mamuwalde who is attacked, turned and imprisoned in a coffin by Count Dracula.  Two centuries later he is released from his coffin prison where he spends the movie lusting after a girl named Luva (Vonetta McGee) who looks exactly like the wife he had prior to his imprisonment (making her his Mina) and the rest of the time is him trying and failing miserably at holding back his blood lust.  That latter making the film a true vampire horror film as unlike many others, bloodlust trumps better judgement every time thus making vampirism somewhat like the werewolf curse where all is fair game when the wolf takes over (not to mention he gets VERY hairy when he is in vampire mode to help with the scare factor).

My one problem with the franchise came down to the makeup used for the creatures of the film.  There was so much the undead were almost blue.  They in some cases were whiter then some of the actual white people in the movie after they died which wasn't flattering.
The above female wasn't bad looking at all when she was alive but as a vampire she looked HORRIBLE and that goes for all of them.  Weird makeup, crazy hair the whole nine yards.
 This problem gets slightly fixed in the followup film, 1973's Scream, Blacula Scream.  Mamuwalde is brought back to life via a voodoo ritual in order to do a voodoo priests dirty work but it ends up being turned around and the priest as well as anyone else who crosses his past get turned into a vampire.  In other words Mamuwalde pretty much becomes Count Yorga at this point creating an army of undead vamp women (and a couple guys) with bad makeup and frizzy hair.
  To make it even more memorable the film also pretty much lifts the casket scene from "Brides of Dracula" where we have an undead Gloria (Janee Michelle) pleading with a freaked out Lisa to join her as one of Mamuwalde's brides.
This gets stopped by Mamuwalde just after the groping but right before the biting.  Sadly preventing us from seeing a vampire Pam Grier!

If you don't understand how horrible the idea of not having a vampire Pam Grier in her prime is, I've provided a picture of what she looked like back then below.
Now here's the thing, what do you do when the first films were great but technology and skill could make it so much better.  A REMAKE!  They've remade Shaft so why couldn't someone write a retelling of the Blacula story (under a better name of course)?  Who wouldn't want to see top black actresses like Halle Berry, Beyonce Knowles or Vanessa Williams fanging out under Mamuwalde's spell and no I don't count Vampire in Brooklyn (though it was pretty obvious that's what they were going for). 

Come on Hollywood.... lets make it happen!

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