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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)

Following the success of the first Blacula film, AIP were confident in producing a sequel the next year and managed to inject some {ahem} fresh blood into the formula in a number of ways.
Keeping the continuity of the classy lead actor William Marshall as the urbane Mamuwalde, this time the same writing team of Koenig and Torres add something new to the plot and also greater humorous flavour (or flava?) to the dialogue. Firstly, the added exoticisim here of voodoo mythology became almost a sub-genre itself within Blaxploitation horror, used the same year in the Blax-inspired Bond film Live and Let Die and in 1974 with Abby and (Zombies of) Sugar Hill.

The vampire master is resurrected by Willis (Richard Lawson, having a whale of a time) who believes he can have Blacula serve him. The poor deluded cat is soon disabused via the medium of fangs and on being sucked into vampirism himself is depressed at his inability to preen at his now-absent reflection: “I don’t mind bein’ a vampire and all dat shit, but this ain’t hip!”

Later, as Blacula elegantly prowls the city, after a dodgy bat/human optical transmutation, there is more inventive fish-out-of-water cultural comedy mined when he is perplexed by the availability of a modern hooker offering her services on the street. His old-world breeding is lost for how to respond to such a direct offer of female sexuality.  When along roll her pimps teasing: “Don’t you dig our merchandise?” they attempt to mug him. He gracefully deflects their threats of violence with “As for ‘kicking my ass’ I strongly recommend you give it some consideration before trying” – and promptly makes nourishing use of them.

Another cast member who clearly has fun with his lines is the weary but heroic Michael Conrad as Lt Dunlop (later to find fame as Sgt ‘Hey, let’s be careful out there’ Esterhas in TV’s Hill Street Blues). He crosses wits with ex-cop Justin Carter (Don Mitchell) before helping him to raid the Mamuwalde house in the vampire battle.  Fans of the TV series Soap and Roots will also recognise the lovely Lynne Moody as Denny.

Pam Grier is another welcome sight in the movie, although as voodoo devotee Lisa Fortier she seems a little awkward, possibly finding it difficult to essay a more subservient type than the strong action heroine she plays in other Blaxploitation vehicles like Foxy Brown. Either way, she gets to perform the all-important dispatching of Blacula at the end, stabbing pins into a voodoo doll till he expires staring up at the heavens.


Overall, Scream Blacula Scream is a fun fresh sequel – however if the franchise continued one could imagine it suffering from the same flaw as the later Christopher Lee  Dracula instalments; namely that as the supporting parts grow in interest, William Marshall may well have become increasingly marginalised to virtual guest-star status. The studio closed the coffin lid before the entertainment turned to a bloodless husk...

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