Back in the 1970's, following the success of films like "Shaft", Blaxploitation movies had opened up a whole new profitable niche at the US box office and film makers were quick to flood the market with gritty, urban tales of crime in the black communities and it was with this in mind that director William Crain and writers Raymond Koenig and Joan Torres decided to produce an updated version of the Dracula legend with an Afro-American twist.
Starting off in 17th century Transylvania, a certain Prince Mamuwalde from Africa (William Marshall), arrives in Transylvania to ask Count Dracula if he would stop supporting the slave trade and free his people. The count, of course, refuses and following an exchange of racist insults Mamuwalde, being unaware of Dracula's vampiric origins, ends up slugging the count on the jaw.
This proves to be not such a good idea as the evil count, incensed by Mamuwalde's insolence, decides to return the favour by turning him into a vampire and sealing him inside a coffin, hidden in a secret chamber in his castle.
Flashing forward to the 1970's and 2 exceptionally campy art dealers have just purchased said coffin and shipped it over to the US as a display item for their LA apartment. Unfortunately, they make the mistake of cracking open the coffin and end up as Blacula's first victim.
As the bodies pile up around the city's ghetto area, the police are baffled by the recent slew of killings. Particularly when the police coroner, Dr Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), exhumes one of the victims bodies late one night and finds not only is the person apparently alive, but has fangs!!!
Realising the newcomer at the local blues club is not who he appears to be either, after he starts taking an interest in one of the Doctor's female friends (Vonetta McGee), who looks just like Mamuwalde's former wife Luva, Dr Thomas realises who the culprit behind the killings is. But of course, convincing the police they have a vampire on the loose is going to be no easy task.
With the title "Blacula" you'd be forgiven for thinking this was meant to be a campy comedy of some sorts. However, this is in fact played as a straight horror film and was simply intended as an updated vampire tale in a similar vein to Hammer's "Dracula AD 1972". Though that's not to say the film doesn't have its amusing moments. The 2 campy art dealers at the beginning, racial stereotypes and awful 70's fashions do provide some unintentionally amusing moments.
William Marshal, who was a classically trained actor, is aptly cast in the lead role. If you're a fan of 70's movies, or vampire films in general, you should enjoy this.