Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
There's one type of movie that over the years has slowly turned into a different breed from itself, and that's the horror genre. What used to be more psychological or general trickery of the mind to imply horror slowly turned into "whore"er movies where there happens to be more T'n'A then there is actual credible scares (such as most slasher flicks). Of all the monsters out there in the cryptozoological department, the vampire has been far hit the hardest by the modern-day glam machine, going from a tragic blood thirsty creature to a sparkling pretty-boy elven equivalent in the dead-man market, and so it's not surprising that when I want to watch a vampire flick I draw from an older stash.
That being said, I have never seen the first Blacula, and didn't really know what much to expect from this one. Turns out it was a rather pleasant movie, and has some interesting takes on its main character (outside of the obvious black dracula). Clocking in at a mere 96 minutes, and easily found streamable on Netflix, let me delve more into detail about my experience.
The plot actually starts off terribly irrelevant to vampires altogether, focusing in actuality on the Voodoo belief as we find the leader of a particular group of the belief has passed on, leaving the "new ownership" up to debate as they did not name a successor. We are then aptly introduced to two characters - the very talkative and angry Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson) and the much more reasonable Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier), as Willis complains over how he's the rightful heir (being the actual son whereas Lisa was "adopted") and how a vote to see who becomes the new head of the group is out of the question. Unfortunately for Willis, everyone else in the group agrees that a vote is the way to go, and it most likely won't be him winning since he's essentially such a jerk - with a very stern talking to from Justin Carter (Don Mitchell) reinforcing the point.
From this point, Willis goes on a revenge kick, leading him to resurrect the ancient power that is Blacula (William Marshall), and things get relatively generic vampire affair for the time period (think something more akin to Lugosi Dracula then modern remakes). Where things start changing from the mold a bit is a bit later in, when Blacula meets and learns of Lisa's knack for being one of the best voodoo priestess around, and then we find that Blacula in fact resents being a vampire and his incessant desire to feed. Unfortunately that's the only real major change to the formula, with Justin catching on to the idea of vampires, convincing the rest of the police department, with the entire thing ending in on big "vampire raid."
Character's aren't exactly anything out of the ordinary textbook here, although the tie-in of voodoo culture helps to provide a bit more flavor to an otherwise normal olden-day Dracula flick. A modern (at its time) setting gets us away from big creepy castles, instead putting us on the streets and in pretty fancy manor-houses, but also allows for a bit more colorful cast (no pun intended). We have Blacula himself, how plays his role very well, and does look a bit out of place from the rest of the cast as far as wardrobe goes (he still wears a cape), but the added bit about how he treats the vampirism as more of a curse he hopes to be rid of adds an extra depth to his character that some vampires don't have without an elaborate backstory. Everything we really need to know about Willis and Lisa is set up right in the first scene, and their character's don't really change much over the course of the movie. Wardrobe wise, it's very colorful, given the lavish way some of the characters dress, but also very down-to earth without being incredibly bland.
Locations, as mentioned before, are rather elegant, or modern in their respects, which fits the movie setting well although it doesn't cause any disconnects. Willis' mansion of a house is quite impressive on the inside, and you get the impression that whoever's home it actually is must be quite well off to have such a place. It's a good thing too, as a lot of the movie takes place there.
As far as the audio department goes, actors do a pretty good job delivering their lines, although being from a time well after the 70's, I can't say my lingo is so up to date that I can verify authenticity, but I figure the liberal use of 'jive' is probably spot on. Lines are delivered audibly, and some decent emotions are put behind them as needed, even from characters that are literally not on screen (such as a police officer down the hall laughing about a vampire being the killer), and it ends up being mostly believable (with the exception of one drawn out "old school" lady scream - you know what I'm talking about, where she stands there with her hands to her face screaming bloody murder until she passes out). Music wise, we have typical 70's music intro and outro, and a party scene, but when we get to the end we are treated with a nice tribal drum beat that really helps make the action pop while still tying into the voodoo going on in the other room. It's quite well done, although none of it was particularly catchy to me to the extent that I'm still humming it at the moment.
Overall, it was an enjoyable little vampire flick. I wouldn't necessarily call it scary, although some of the use of lighting and motion they did are quite wonderful (Blacula 'gliding' across a room to get someone is awesome, in my opinion). Of course, at the same time horror always tends to be a generational thing - back in its day the original Psycho would absolutely terrify it's viewers, and there has been numerous accounts of people being frightened by the Paranormal Activity movies (I find this 'fact' more humorous than most comedy flicks) , so I can't say for certain that it appears to be not scary from the movie being that way or just a matter of I'm not afraid of it. If you wanna watch a vampire flick that has a little spin on the character, some african influences (and I don't just mean the cast), then I'd wager you may wanna check this one out.