Friday, January 1, 2016

Superhero Media: Blacula

When I watched this, I assumed that it would be pretty awful. I mean, I have a good tolerance for poorly made cinema, what with my love of Wuxia, Kaiju and pulp Sci-Fi, but, c'mon, Blacula? All that was going through my head for the first few minutes was Jefferson Twilight saying "I hunt and kill black Draculas, I don't know the politically correct term for that". That said, once I settled in (and downed my first beer), I found that Blacula was actually surprisingly good, for the most part. The "origin" scene, in which Dracula is entertaining King Mamuwalde and his Queen, sometime in the Colonial era, has the King trying to forge an alliance with Dracula and other European monarchs to protect Africa from the ravages of Colonialism. That's some Black Panther level thinking right there. Of course, it doesn't work, he gets embraced and locked away by the father of all vampires. 

Time moves on and a couple of flamboyantly gay New York interior designers buy Dracula's castle, finding Blacula's coffin and reawakening him, there his search for his lost bride begins. Given the premise, period and obvious lack of budget, Blacula actually manages to be pretty good in parts. The "blood-drinking" scenes and vampire makeup are poor, but Blacula's motives, the police investigation into him and the final confrontation in the pump station are all quite well done. There's a strong social conscience and some great humour; "That is the rudest ni**er I have ever seen in my life." Frankly, I was shocked with how good Blacula managed to be, given the forty-odd years of pop culture that has come after, making fun of this kind of thing. It's a shame, it's independent film, from a tumultuous era and deserves a little more respect than it tends to get; even if it is shonky in places. 

Blacula is better than you think it is. Yes, it's something of a pastiche, but one with a racial conscience and a view to a world of Black Equality. Blacula himself is actually an interesting and well-rounded character, his motivations are complex and driven by his experiences of racism and colonialism; he wants his beloved back, and then it's back to his throne to make Africa strong. I can see shades of Black Panther in here, as well as the way in which Dracula exists in the Marvel Universe, I may have to go looking for some Blacksploitation miniatures.

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