Review of “Blacula” (1972)

trailer from YouTube

I’d long heard of our Saturday pizza and bad movie feature but had never seen it. We watched it with Svengoolie, who issued several warnings for explicit scenes and “stereotypes.” The violence isn’t the-top for a horror film, but it’s definitely not one for the kiddies.


In 1780, lightning streaks across the sky, and thunder rolls across the hills outside Castle Dracula while Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) entertains Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) and his wife Luva (Vonetta McGee) from… somewhere in Africa. Mamuwalde seeks diplomatic relations with Europe and, as it turns out, the cessation of the slave trade. Dracula is dumbfounded, but that doesn’t keep him from showing his white supremacist leanings.

The men get into a fight. Dracula bites the prince, turning him into a vampire. “You shall pay, black prince,” he tells him. “I curse you with my name. You shall be Blacula, a vampire like myself.” He then seals him in a coffin in a secret room with Luva, who will presumably starve to death.

After the interminable credits, it’s a lovely, sunny day in 1972 in Transylvania. Two gay antique dealers, Bobby McCoy (Ted Harris) and Billy Shaffer (Rick Metzler), come to Castle Dracula to buy items, dickering with the real estate agent (Eric Brotherson). When they ask about secret passages, they find the secret room where Mamuwalde and Luva were imprisoned. A couple of additional coffins seemed to have appeared.

It’s perfect. They’ll take the coffin back to L.A. with them.

While they’re unpacking things at the warehouse, Billy cuts his arm seriously enough to draw blood. Bobby tends to his wound, telling the young man to calm down. He has already opened Mamuwalde’s coffin. With the two fuss over Billy’s arm, Mamuwalde arises. He’s hungry. The two put up a good fight, but—

At Bobby’s funeral, Mamuwalde sees a woman that looks just like his wife. He follows her and scares the living daylights out of her. She drops her purse.


On one level, this vampire story borrows a lot from the old mummy movies. On another, there is a lot of subtext. First, it’s a love story. Mumuwalde wants to turn the woman he finds in the present (now called Tina), but won’t do it without her consent. What a gentleman.

Tina doesn’t remember him, but she is charmed but him, especially after he returns the purse she dropped. She introduces him to her sister, Michelle (Denise Nicholas), and her sister’s boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), the latter of who happens to be a cop.

After seeing all the odd deaths lately, Gordon starts to wonder about a supernatural connection. He reads and reluctantly comes to believe a vampire is responsible for the deaths.

Rather strikingly, this speaks to people outside the mainstream. First, there is the interracial same-sex couple. The viewer knows they are a couple not because they say so but because of their stereotypically exaggerated mannerisms and affected voices. This provides an attempt at humor, especially in Billy’s near hysterics over cutting himself at the warehouse. (“I’m bleeding to death!” he says at one point. The viewer, watching the vampire close in on him, thinks, “Not yet, anyway.”)

In the present, the limp-wristed, eye-brow arching, and octave-jumping voices of the two might be looked at as in bad taste. Such domestic arrangements are almost routine. In 1972, same-sex households were scandalous—so kudos for dealing with the topic.

At the beginning of the movie, when Dracula is hosting Mamuwalde, several tropes arise that herald back to the time of segregation. While these are not the point of the film, they are there. When Gordon asks the (black) mortician handling the funeral preparations for (black) Bobby McCoy if he’s also handling the funeral arrangements for (white) Billy Shaffer, the mortician replies, “I don’t get a lot of white people here.”

This is also what’s known as a blaxploitation film, a term coined by Junius Griffin, the president of the Beverly Hills–Hollywood NAACP branch. (What would we do without the Internet?). It referred to films popular in the 1970s that generally depicted crime and violence as a way of life for black people and communities, perpetuating white stereotypes about black people. Not to say that this film says vampirism is a big problem among black communities.

The film has a high body count. There was some humor and absurdity. Nevertheless, the movie leaves me with several questions. How did Luva, who starved to death in the 18th century in central Europe, make it to 20th-century Los Angeles? How did Mamualde adapt so well to the modern world after nearly two hundred years of being out of the loop? Traffic doesn’t freak him out, nor do electric lights or (one presumes) the many wonders of indoor plumbing. Where did he learn English? Why didn’t his clothes—or his joints—disintegrate from time in the coffin?

Yeah, nitpick.

This isn’t one I’d see again. I enjoyed it, but it is definitely in the all-right category.

Blacula won the 1973 Golden Scroll Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for the Best Horror Film.

The movie can be watched here free with ads.

Title: Blacula (1972)

Directed by
William Crain…(directed by)
Writing Credits
Joan Torres…(screenplay) and
Raymond Koenig…(screenplay)

Cast (in credits order)
William Marshall…Blacula / Mamuwalde
Vonetta McGee…Tina / Luva
Denise Nicholas…Michelle
Thalmus Rasulala…Dr. Gordon Thomas
Gordon Pinsent…Lt. Jack Peters

Released: 1972
Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Rated: PG

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

7 thoughts on “Review of “Blacula” (1972)

  1. I own that film. It is my wife’s favorite “horror” film in my collection. We both agree it is more love story than anything. Love William Marshall (shakesperean actor) as Blacula, Love Thalmus (Mr. Thomas from Whats Happening?) Rasula as the hero. Love the Hughs Coroporation (Don’t rock the boat) and their musical interlude at the club. This film landed them a record deal. Love Skillet talking about ONE STRANGE DUDE.

    1. Oh, the actors are great. Marshall and Thalmus did great. The love story between Michelle and Gordon is sweet. When they dig up Bobby (…or Billy?) it’s almost funny.

      1. There is a lot campy humour and anti lgbt that would probably get the film canceled today…but even my Gay family members aren’t offended

      2. Well there are two scenes where cops refer to them as Faggots. Including one that takes it to, seen one seen em all

      3. I don’t remember that. It’s possible I missed those scenes or Svengoolie’s producers sanitized the broadcast.

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