The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Scream Blacula Scream (dir by Bob Kelljan)


Am I correct in assuming that everyone knows who Blacula was?

Blacula is often described as being the black Dracula but actually, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.  In life, he was an African prince named Mamuwalde who, in 1780, went to Dracula’s castle and asked for the count’s help in suppressing the slave trade.  Dracula turned him into a vampire instead and, after declaring that Mamuwalde would forever be known as Blacula, he proceeded to lock Mamuwalde in a coffin.  That’s where Mamuwalde remained for 290 years, until he managed to escape.  By that point, his coffin had been relocated from Transylvania to Los Angeles.

All of that was revealed in the 1972 film, BlaculaBlacula, which starred a distinguished Shakespearean actor named William Marshall in the lead role, was a surprise hit so, of course, Mamuwalde (played again by Marshall) returned the following year in a sequel.  It didn’t matter that the first Blacula ended with Mamuwalde deliberately ending his existence by walking out into the sunlight.  Blacula would return!

It also didn’t matter if anyone in the audience for Scream, Blacula, Scream had somehow missed seeing the first movie.  Scream, Blacula, Scream features lengthy flashbacks to the first film.  It makes sense, really.  Why waste money on all new footage when you can just pad the sequel with scenes from its predecessor?

I’m disappointed to say that Scream, Blacula, Scream did not feature any disco action.  When I saw that this movie would be airing on TCM Underground, I decided to watch it specifically because I figured there would be at least one scene of Blacula dancing underneath a spinning disco ball.  I mean, it was a movie from the 70s, right?  Honestly, I think that if Scream, Blacula, Scream had been made later in the decade, it would have featured at least one disco dance scene.

What the film did have was a lot of voodoo.  Judging from this movie, Live and Let Die, and the House on Skull Mountain, it would appear that people in the early 70s were really obsessed with voodoo.  When the movie opens, a voodoo priestess named Mama Loa is dying and she’s just named her apprentice, Lisa (Pam Grier), as the new head of the cult.  Mama Loa’s son, Willis (Richard Lawson), isn’t happy about this decision so, for some reason, he decides that it would be a good idea to bring Blacula back to life.

Willis apparently thought that the revived Blacula would be his servant but it doesn’t work out like that.  First off, Blacula was perfectly happy being dead.  Secondly, he is no one’s servant.  Blacula promptly bites Willis on the neck and then proceeds to vampirize nearly everyone that he comes across.  Soon, Blacula has an army of vampires but all he wants is to be human again.

And who can help him reach that goal?

How about the city’s newest voodoo priestess, Lisa?

Now, I will say this about Scream, Blacula, Blacula.  The main character is named Lisa and that automatically makes it an above average movie.  The entire movie features people saying, “Lisa” over and over again and you know I loved listening to that.

Other than that, though, the movie was kind of a mess.  It was obviously written and filmed in a hurry and, as a result, a lot of the action felt like padding.  For a subplot that wasn’t that interesting to begin with, the voodoo cult power struggle got way too much screen time.  On the plus side, William Marshall and Pam Grier were both a hundred times better than the material that they had to work with.  Regardless of how ludicrous the dialogue was, Marshall delivered it with dignity and just the right hint of ennui.

Scream, Blacula, Scream is not a particularly good film but it’s worth seeing for Marshall and Grier.

 

6 Trailers For October 15th, Inspired by TCM Underground!


It’s time, once again, for another October edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers!

This week’s edition was inspired by watching TCM Underground last night.  In fact, the last two trailers features are for the two films that I watched.

  1. Abby (1974)

This film was also released under the title Black Exorcist.  Warner Bros. actually brought suit against Abby, claiming that it was such an obvious rip-off of The Exorcist that it should not be allowed to play in theaters.  Warner Bros. actually won their suit but not before Abby made a lot of money.

2. Sugar Hill (1974)

Sugar Hill is a popular film here at the Shattered Lens.  Check out the reviews from both Arleigh and Gary!  And be sure to watch the trailer.

3. Blackenstein (1973)

Blackenstein is one of those titles that sounds like it has to be a parody but no, it’s a real movie.  There’s even a trailer to prove it.

4. Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976)

Again, the title might sound like a parody but this is a very real film and, from what I’ve read, apparently a rather highly-regarded one as well.  This is on my list of films to see, though I have a feeling that Gary will probably beat me to it.

5. Blacula (1972)

From William Crain, the director of Dr. Black and My Hyde

And starring William Marshall, the star of Abby

It’s Blacula!  This is the first film that I watched on TCM Underground and it’s a legitimate classic.  Check out Gary’s review here!  And watch the trailer below:

6. Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)

Of course, any successful film is going to get an inferior sequel.  This was also the second movie that I watched on TCM Underground last night.

 

A Movie A Day #235: Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977, directed by Robert Aldrich)


In Montana, four men have infiltrated and taken over a top-secret ICBM complex.  Three of the men, Hoxey (William Smith), Garvas (Burt Young), and Powell (Paul Winfield) are considered to be common criminals but their leader is something much different.  Until he was court-martialed and sentenced to a military prison, Lawrence Dell (Burt Lancaster) was a respected Air Force general.  He even designed the complex that he has now taken over.  Dell calls the White House and makes his demands known: he wants ten million dollars and for the President (Charles Durning) to go on television and read the contents of top secret dossier, one that reveals the real reason behind the war in Vietnam.  Dell also demands that the President surrender himself so that he can be used as a human shield while Dell and his men make their escape.

Until Dell made his demands known, the President did not even know of the dossier’s existence.  His cabinet (made up of distinguished and venerable character actors like Joseph Cotten and Melvyn Douglas) did and some of them are willing to sacrifice the President to keep that information from getting out.

Robert Aldrich specialized in insightful genre films and Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a typical example: aggressive, violent, sometimes crass, and unexpectedly intelligent.  At two hours and 30 minutes, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is overlong and Aldrich’s frequent use of split screens is sometimes distracting but Twilight’s Last Gleaming is still a thought-provoking film.  The large cast does a good job, with Lancaster and Durning as clear stand-outs.  I also liked Richard Widmark as a general with his own agenda and, of course, any movie that features Joseph Cotten is good in my book!  Best of all, Twilight’s Last Gleaming‘s theory about the reason why America stayed in Vietnam is entirely credible.

The Vietnam angle may be one of the reasons why Twilight’s Last Gleaming was one of the biggest flops of Aldrich’s career.  In 1977, audiences had a choice of thrilling to Star Wars, falling in love with Annie Hall, or watching a two and a half hour history lesson about Vietnam.  Not surprisingly, a nation that yearned for escape did just that and Twilight’s Last Gleaming flopped in America but found success in Europe.  Box office success or not, Twilight’s Last Gleaming is an intelligent political thriller that is ripe for rediscovery.

And Then There Were Six More…


I recently came to the realization that my destiny is to list and share 666 of my favorite grindhouse and exploitation film trailers.  Previously, I’ve shared 12.  Here’s 6 more.

Part One and Part Two of my trailer survey can be found here.

1) Liquid Sky — Have you seen Liquid Sky and if the answer is no, why not?  Liquid Sky is one of the great underground films of the early 80s, an epic about drugs, aliens, bisexuality, and performance art.  Quite simply put, you must see this movie.

2) BlaculaWhen I first saw this trailer, my first thought was, “Oh, that is sooooo wrong.”  But, the movie actually isn’t that bad.  William Marshall is wonderfully dignified and haunted as the tragic title character.

3) Bio-Zombie I haven’t actually seen this movie but I love this energetic trailer (and the Hello Kitty reference, as well).

4) Martin — This trailer for George Romero’s vampire movie features the film’s star, John Amplas, speaking to the audience in character.  Martin is one of the unacknowledged great vampire movies.  Supposedly, there’s a remake in the works which, needless to say, is not necessary in the least.  The original is more than good enough.

5) Near DarkSpeaking of vampire movies, here’s Near Dark.  Before Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, she made her debut with Near Dark.  Of the two, Near Dark is the better film.

6) RabidThis is an early David Cronenberg film and probably one of his first stabs at being a “commercial” filmmaker (I would have to ask R-Lee for sure on this as he’s the resident Cronenberg expert).  The late Marilyn Chambers plays a young woman who gets infected with rabies and proceeds to spread the disease throughout Montreal.  As you might expect with a Cronenberg film, the Canadian government quickly turns fascist and a lot of Canadians die as a result.  The movie’s not totally succesful but the trailer is.  As a sidenote: in 2004, Marilyn Chambers Taylor was the vice-presidential candidate of the Personal Choice Party.  I cast my first vote ever for her.