Scream, Blacula, Scream
U.S.A. / 1973
Directed by Bob Kelljan
Starring
William Marshall
Pam Grier
Don Mitchell
Color / 96 Minutes / PG
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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2009 Blacula reissue

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7
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Guest Review by Troy Howarth
When Willis (Richard Lawson) is passed over as the new head of a voodoo sect, he swears revenge. To that end he obtains the bones and ashes of Prince Mamuwalde, AKA "Blacula" (William Marshall), whom he brings back to (un)life. The vampire transforms Willis into his servant and then sets his eyes on Lisa (Pam Grier), a powerful voodoo priestess who possesses the power to release him from his suffering...
    The box office success of Blacula in 1972 inevitably led to a sequel. While most sequels invariably pale in comparison to their predecessors, Scream, Blacula, Scream is pretty much in the same class as the original. Though more stylishly shot and directed than the first one (thanks to the participation of Bob Kelljan, who helmed the equally fine Count Yorga films), it lacks the same sense of freshness and urgency that made the original so effective. In the long run, both films offer plenty of camp enjoyment and some genuine scares
and remain at the top of the list of 'modernized' vampire films of the period (Hammer was far less successful in its attempts to 'mod' Dracula in Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula).
    Key to their success is distinguished Shakespearean actor William Marshall (called "the best Othello of our time" by at least one critic, and known to pop culture enthusiasts for his appearances on Star Trek, Maverick and Pee Wee's Playhouse). Marshall plays the potentially ludicrous role with such conviction and sincerity that he literally lifts them out of the blaxploitation gutter. Few elements in either film match his brilliance, but that they survive is a solid testimony to his indelible characterization. Marshall is one of the few screen vampires to elicit genuine pathos and scares
his transformation from cultured, dignified statesman to feral vampire being so utterly convincing and complete.
    Among the supporting cast, Pam Grier, of course, has the most name value
but it's not one of her stronger roles, even if she ultimately puts Blacula under for good. Those expecting an ass-kicking, 'fro-bopping heroine a la Coffy may be disappointed. Michael Conrad, best known for his recurring role on Hill Street Blues, plays the obligatory dumb cop.
    As mentioned earlier, Scream, Blacula, Scream is a far better crafted film than the original, actually offering up some moody moments as well as some genuinely funny ones (Willis throwing a fit, for instance, when he finds that he can no longer see his reflection in a mirror). Composer Bill Marx offers up a soundtrack full of funk that reminds one of the Count Yorga films
no surprise, since he scored them both for director Kelljan. A laughably inappropriate end title song spoils an otherwise solid finale, and one wishes the film would have performed better so that we could have seen a third entry.

MGM's presentation of Scream, Blacula, Scream is every bit as stellar as their release of the first film. The anamorphic 1.85 transfer looks terrific, with only some minor print damage typical of a '70s exploitation item. The mono soundtrack is solid and does equal justice to the dialogue and score. Extras are limited to an appropriately funky theatrical trailer. 1/29/04
UPDATE This DVD (and that of the original Blacula) went OOP in 2008. On September 1, 2009 MGM is reissuing the discs in a nicely priced Soul Cinema "two-fer" set, in tandem with a number of blaxploitation titles.
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