Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)

APRIL 29, 2011


I was surprised how much I enjoyed Blacula, and thus I was looking forward to seeing its sequel. But while it's perfectly entertaining, Scream, Blacula, Scream doesn't quite live up to the first film - the romance is limited, the Van Helsing type foil isn't as interesting, and it hits too many of the same beats, complete with a climax where Blacula and his minions lay waste to a bunch of anonymous cops.

In fact I was being reminded of other movies I've seen for most of its running time. It's directed by Bob Kelljan, who directed the Yorga movies, and he brings along Craig T. Nelson's sergeant character for the ride (whether it was SUPPOSED to be the same character or not, I don't know - I liked to think that it was), and there's a touch of Sugar Hill in there as well, with a power struggle between a Pam Grier-esque lady (played by the actual Grier this time though) and some angry dude setting off the voodoo tinged plot. To be fair, this came before Sugar Hill, but the point remains that there was nothing really setting this one apart; even if Hill was actually copying those elements from this one, the rest of the movie was pretty different. Here, it just recycles too much from its predecessor, which most certainly ISN'T a coincidence. Photographs where cops notice Mamuwalde is missing, check. Mamuwalde having a fun little face-off with the guy who is trying to expose him, check. Mamuwalde turning a few folks to be his minions and ignoring the irony of the fact that he was against slaving and now makes his fellow "brothers and sisters" into his own unwilling slaves, check.

Also, did he sound this much like Christopher Lee in the first movie? If so I found it far more distracting here, and it just sort of kept reminding me of Lee's own series' ever-diminishing appeal. Part of the problem with doing a Dracula sequel is coming up with a reason not only to bring him back, but also giving him something new to do, and they really only worried about the first part of it - the bad guy revives him using voodoo, hoping to have him do his bidding and take down Grier's rival voodoo priestess. And that could have been a cool plot, but that's not what happens; Blacula rises and immediately turns the guy into HIS slave, which is kind of funny in a "so much for your plan" way, but then the movie just treads water for far too long, until Blacula decides he wants to be just plain ol' Mamuwalde again and asks Grier to help remove his vampire curse. There's just no real drive, and the guy who revived him never really becomes a rival to EITHER of their characters (hence why I can't even remember his name - he's just far too underused).

And the ending didn't have quite the same punch to it. The first film's tragic ending was actually kind of sad, but this one's is just a traditional vampire movie ending, with the love interest and "Van Helsing" (a cop named Willis) taking him down. It would have been cool if Grier actually managed to end his curse and then Willis burst in and killed him without realizing what had just happened, as it would retain the tragic element and add some irony for good measure, but he's just a generic vampire villain in his final scenes, gnashing his teeth and raising his arms up to strike and what not.

But while it lacks a compelling new storyline, it's still fun to watch. William Marshall is endlessly entertaining to watch, particularly in the stand-alone scenes that don't involve the plot, such as when he is approached by the most conservatively dressed hooker of all time and then accosted by her pimps after rejecting her offer. Grier is of course a total knockout, and it's actually kind of fun to see her in a more typical female horror role instead of the badasses she usually plays (at least in the movies I've seen her in). And they do use the LA scenery a bit more this time around (the aforementioned hooker scene is at least set up as being on Hollywood Blvd), so that's always a trip, seeing the places I drive/walk by every day as they looked 40 years before.

I also dug the "zombie" like minions that he amasses over the course of the movie. Even though it's the same damn thing as the original, it's kind of a creepy image when the cops arrive in order to take down Blacula and are met by a dozen undead. The action is a bit more exciting than the original's too; I particularly liked the one guy who sort of flew up behind one poor bastard and took him down without the guy ever realizing he was in danger. And even though he scoffed at the idea of vampires (his reaction to the photos is amazing, he suggests "maybe the film was faulty" as a theory for why there's a photo of two paramedics putting nothing onto a stretcher), the chief changes his mind pretty quickly and gets in a great staking scene.

While on the subject, I liked that the white chief may not have believed his black officer's claims, he backed his man up and went along with it instead of being a cartoonish (read: racist) "whitey". In fact, the film as a whole is a lot less racially driven than the original. No use of the N-word that I can recall, and the plot doesn't seem as racially charged (it's essentially blacks against blacks; the chief is pretty much the only significant white character in the movie). There are two ways to look at this; one is that the movie is less dated, because you won't be distracted by as much "I can't believe they used to talk like this without anyone batting an eye!" feeling, but the other is that they stripped it of its personality to make it an easier sell for a wider audience. I can't remember what movie it was, but there was one of these where the white cops had no respect for the black ones, and I'm glad that they were all working as a unit here instead of being hateful for no reason. Blacula does kill a guy for calling him a "faggot" though, so there's something.

The wikipedia page for this movie points out that "as of 2010, it is the only sequel", as if part 3 is just in development hell like Ghostbusters III or something. Marshall is no longer with us, and I don't think an audience would accept a new guy in the role anyway (even if there WAS an audience for a direct sequel). There's always a chance of a remake, but with the title sounding like something Tracy Jordan might star in (it would make a good double feature with Blaffair To Rememblack), I doubt the movie would be taken (or even produced) seriously. Still, vampire movies traditionally have the least amount of social commentary in their films compared to zombies or werewolves, so if someone smarter than me/Hollywood could come up with a fresh way to make a more serious minded Blacula film with an eye toward current social issues, I'd be all for it. Long as he kept that bitchin' cape.

What say you?


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