IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)

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screamblaculascream_poster

Far out, man!

The early 1970s was such a groovy time the vampires just couldn’t keep away.  Dan Curtis’ THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) unleashed a superhuman vampire onto the streets of 1972 Las Vegas, while Hammer’s DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) resurrected Dracula (Christopher Lee) in 1970s London.

Likewise, the black exploitation films BLACULA (1972) and its sequel, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973), the film we’re looking at today, revived a vampire in 1970s Los Angeles.

When you hear the name Blacula, you no doubt laugh.  You shouldn’t.  The BLACULA films, in spite of their campy titles, are no laughing matter. They’re actually decent horror movies.

I’ve always enjoyed the two BLACULA movies, and like Hammer’s DRACULA A.D. 1972, they were dismissed back in the day as silly 1970s schlock, but they have aged well.  In fact, they’ve gotten better.

For me, the main reason the BLACULA movies have aged well and the number one reason to see them is the performance by William Marshall as Blacula.  Marshall was a Shakespearean trained actor and it shows.  With his deep majestic voice, he’s perfect as the noble vampire, Prince Mamuwalde.  In a way, it’s too bad these films came out in the early 1970s and Marshall had to star in a film called BLACULA because he easily could have portrayed Stoker’s Dracula, and had he done so, he’d be in the conversation as one of the screen’s better Draculas.  And that’s not to take anything away from Marshall’s Mamuwalde character, because he’s a memorable vampire in his own right.  It’s just that you don’t often hear Marshall’s name in the conversation about best movie vampires. Perhaps it’s time that changed.

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM continues the story of  Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), the vampire introduced in BLACULA.  In that film, Mamuwalde, an African prince, was bitten by Dracula and then locked in a coffin where he remained until he was resurrected by an antique dealer in 1972 Los Angeles.

In SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, he’s revived yet again, this time by voodoo.  In fact, voodoo plays an integral part in this movie’s plot.  The voodoo scenes in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM reminded me a lot of similar scenes in the first Roger Moore James Bond movie, LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) which immersed Bond in early 1970s culture.  I told you the early 70s was a happening time.  Even James Bond got in on the action.

Anyway, in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, cult member Willis (Richard Lawson) vows revenge against his fellow cult members because he feels slighted at not being chosen as its new leader.  He decides to use voodoo to resurrect Blacula thinking the vampire can exact revenge for him, but things don’t go as planned as Blacula has other ideas and quickly makes Willis his slave.

The young woman who does lead the voodoo cult, Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier) crosses paths with Blacula who immediately takes an interest in her.  He seeks out her help, as he wants her to use her voodoo skills to perform an exorcism to free him of his vampire curse.  But Lisa’s boyfriend Justin (Don Mitchell) and the police arrive, spoiling the moment, and Blacula vows revenge.  Now seeing Blacula as a threat to her boyfriend, Lisa changes her tune about the vampire prince and uses her voodoo powers to combat him.

As far as vampire stories go, the one that SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM  has to tell with its voodoo elements is actually pretty cool and quite different.  You don’t see that combination of vampirism and voodoo very often.  The screenplay was written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, and Maurice Jules, and it tells a pretty neat tale.  The dialogue is standard for the period, with lots of early 70s groovin and hip jargon.  You expect to see Kojak or Starsky and Hutch racing to the crime scene.  In fact, Bernie Hamilton who would go on to play Captain Dobey on STARSKY AND HUTCH (1975-79) has a small role here.

Bob Kelljan directed SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, and he’s no stranger to 1970s vampire movies, as he also directed COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) and THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971), two films that also featured a vampire in modern-day Los Angeles, Count Yorga (Robert Quarry), and these films actually pre-dated THE NIGHT STALKER, which is often credited as launching the vampire-in-modern-times craze of the early 1970s.

There’s some pretty creepy scenes in this one, as William Marshall makes for a frightening vampire, and when he gets really angry, he suddenly breaks out in wolf-like make-up. There are also some entertaining scenes featuring Blacula on the streets of L.A., and one in particular where he tangles with some street thugs.  Needless to say, things don’t turn out so well for the thugs.

screamblaculascream_blacula

Blacula (William Marshall) getting angry in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973).  You won’t like him when he’s angry.

Is it as frightening as THE NIGHT STALKER?  No, but Blacula’s scenes are as scary or perhaps even scarier than any of Christopher Lee’s Dracula scenes in DRACULA A.D. 1972 and THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA.

Again, William Marshall does a fine job as Blacula.  Marshall also appeared in the demonic possession film ABBY (1974) and went on to appear in many TV shows during the 1970s and 1980s. Probably the last film I saw him in was the Mel Gibson version of MAVERICK (1994) in which he had a bit part as a poker player.  Marshall passed away in 2003 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.  He was 78.

Pam Grier is also very good as Lisa.  Grier has and still is appearing in a ton of movies.  The last film I saw her in was THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012), and arguably her most famous role was in Quentin Tarantino’s JACKIE BROWN (1997), an homage to her own FOXY BROWN (1974).

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Pam Grier and William Marshall in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973).

Also in the cast is Michael Conrad as the sheriff.  Conrad would go on to fame for playing Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on the TV show HILL STREET BLUES (1981-1984).

But it’s William Marshall who gives the most biting performance in SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM.  Marshall is thoroughly enjoyable as Blacula/Prince Mamuwalde, and his work in both BLACULA films is noteworthy enough to place him among the better screen vampires.

So, don’t be fooled by the title.  SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM is more than just a silly 1970s exploitation flick.  It’s well-made, it has an engrossing story that implements voodoo into its vampire lore, and as such it’s all rather refreshing.  It’s also done quite seriously.  It’s not played for laughs, and William Marshall delivers a commanding performance that is both dignified and frightening.

If you haven’t yet seen SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM or the first BLACULA movie, you definitely want to add them to your vampire movie list.  They’re part of a special time in vampire movie history, when the undead left their period piece environment and flocked to the hippie-filled streets of the 1970s.

Get your voodoo dolls ready.  It’s vampirism vs. voodoo!  It’s SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM!

Just watch where you stick those pins.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

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THE HORROR JAR: Movies starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee; And Movies starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing

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THE HORROR JAR:  Movies Starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee; and Vincent Price and Peter Cushing

By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to another edition of THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature lists of odds and ends about horror movies.

 

Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price all share birthdays in May:  Cushing on May 26 and both Lee and Price on May 27.  Last year to celebrate this occasion we looked at movies in which all three stars, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price appeared together.  It was a brief list, since it only happened twice.

This year to honor their birthdays we’ll look at movies starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, and movies starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.  This list is brief as well.

Here we go:

Movies starring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, without Peter Cushing:

Believe it or not, there’s just one.

THE OBLONG BOX (1969)oblong box poster

Directed by Gordon Hessler

Screenplay by Lawrence Huntington, with additional dialogue by Christopher Wicking, based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe

Julian:  Vincent Price

Dr. Newhartt:  Christopher Lee

Edward:  Alister Williamson

Running Time:  91 minutes

Lurid tale about premature burial, voodoo, and revenge in this story about a vengeful brother who goes around terrorizing the countryside while wearing a red hood.  Vincent Price plays the lead, the man who tries to control his lunatic brother but constantly does more harm than good.  Christopher Lee is solid in a supporting role.  This film would have been so much better had Lee been cast as the evil brother Edward.  Still, as it stands, this flick is a heck of a lot of fun.

 

Movies starring Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, without Christopher Lee:

PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

Directed by Robert FuestDoctorPhibesRisesAgain-poster

Screenplay by Robert Fuest and Robert Blees

Dr. Phibes:  Vincent Price

Captain:  Peter Cushing

Darrus Biederbeck:  Robert Quarry

Running Time:  89 minutes

Sequel to THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971) isn’t as good as the first one but comes darned close!  Barely counts as a Price/Cushing pairing, since Cushing’s role is only a cameo.  Blink and you miss him.  Once again, Price steals the show as Dr. Phibes.  Robert Quarry adds fine support as Phibes’ rival.

 

MADHOUSE (1974)

Directed by Jim ClarkMadhouse poster

Screenplay by Ken Levison and Greg Morrison, based on the novel by Devilday by Angus Hall

Paul Toombes:  Vincent Price

Herbert Flay:  Peter Cushing

Oliver Quayle:  Robert Quarry

Running time:  89 minutes

Price, Cushing, and Quarry are reunited in this effective yet flawed thriller about a horror actor (Price) making a comeback in the midst of a series of murders which seem to implicate his famed alter ego from horror movies of old, Dr. Death.  An odd movie.  At times, it’s really good, but at others it’s aimless and without direction.  The best part is finally, at long last, both Price and Cushing have sizable roles, Price as the haunted horror film star, and Cushing as his friend and screenwriter. They get to spend considerable screen time together.

 

And just for fun, here’s a reprint of last year’s list of the two films which starred all three, Price, Lee, and Cushing:

SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970)

An Amicus Production

Directed by Gordon Hessler

Screenplay by Christopher Wicking, based on the novel The Disoriented Man by Peter Saxon

Dr. Browning:  Vincent Price

Fremont:  Christopher Lee

Benedek:  Peter Cushing

Running Time:  95 minutes

 

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983)

Directed by Peter Walker

Screenplay by Michael Armstrong based on the novel Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers

Lionel Grisbane:  Vincent Price

Corrigan:  Christopher Lee

Sebastian Grisbane:  Peter Cushing

Lord Grisbane:  John Carradine

Running Time: 100 minutes

Sadly, neither of these movies is very good.  But you can’t beat the cast!

Thanks for reading!

—Michael