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DVD Review: Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Scream1 Many years ago, I saw a TV documentary on blaxploitation that described the Blacula movies (rather aptly) as 'the final nail in the genre's coffin'. Well, over 30 years on since they first shocked and amused audiences, the movies are still as popular as ever - and now back with a bite on DVD.

With a plot even Hammer would be ashamed of, Blacula somehow manages to tie the original Count Dracula to the slave trade. When tribal leader Mamuwalde (William Marshall) goes over to Transylvania with his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee), he falls foul of the Count, finding himself under a vampire curse, confined to a coffin for eternity. Fast forward 200 years and two camp interior designers from L.A. are buying up the castle's fittings for 'kitsch value', unwittingly shipping over Blacula to cause mayhem on US streets.

Indeed, his lust for (mainly) black blood sees a trail of victims including a taxi driver, several policemen, a photographer, a doctor and the two designers, all left in a zombie-like state to clock up their own body count. But there's a couple of twists - Blacula's wife Luva has been re-incarnated in the city as Tina - with Blacula desperate to get her back. And local pathologist Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala) is on his trail. Can he stop the vampire? Will Tina fall for Blacula's charms? Or will she be his downfall? All will be revealed in an action-packed final few minutes.

Scream2

In 70s horror terms, all of the above should be more than enough to make Blacula a cult classic. But this is a blaxploitation flick, so you can throw in some street talk, a superbly funky soundtrack (must pick that up), the biggest afros in the business and some seriously loud fashions. That raises the bar from enjoyable cult classic to top-notch Friday night party flick, making it something of a must-buy for fans of the camp, the kitsch, the weird and the wonderful, as well as any fan of 70s horror. But there's more.

Yes, after the 'success' of Blacula, a follow-up was made - Scream Blacula Scream.  voodoo is the name of the game here. After a dying voodoo queen chooses an adopted apprentice as her successor (Lisa - the ever-wonderful Pam Grier), the 'real' heir to the title (Willis, played by Richard Lawson) goes out for revenge, acquiring the bones of Blacula, bringing him back to life to aid in his mission. Except things don't quite go to plan - Willis is enslaved by Blacula and Blacula heads out on a search for blood.

No-one is safe, except for Lisa. Blacula knows she has the power of voodoo - and the ability to remove the curse of Dracula from his body. But will she use her power to save Blacula, especially with the body count increasing all around her?

In some ways, Scream Blacula Scream is a better movie than the first. It's played straight, the production values are higher and the story overall has a little more substance. William Marshall (as in the first movie) is excellent, as is Grier as the voodoo queen. But it doesn't quite have the same impact as the original. There's less 'street' style around, much less humour and an ending so obvious, you can probably guess it in the first 20 minutes. As sequels go, it's not bad at all, but for pure entertainment, it doesn't quite match up to Blacula.

Still, it's hard to complain when you can pick up both of those movies together for just over £10. With Halloween approaching, this is perfect double bill for a spooky-but-fun night in - horror doesn't get any funkier!

Find out more about the DVD at Amazon.co.uk

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