In the 18th Century, Prince Mamuwalde visits Castle Dracula to ask the Count to sign a petition against the slave trade. Dracula turns Mamuwalde into a vampire and chains him into a coffin. In 1972, gay antique dealers bring the coffin to Los Angeles and Mamuwalde pursues the reincarnation of his lost love while spreading vampirism through the city.
One of the great gimmick crossovers, this blends the then-popular blaxploitation movie with the classical vampire film. William Marshall, after a career playing African leaders on spy or jungle shows brings his rich voice and Shakespearean dignity to the role of the vampire prince, swanning through contemporary Los Angeles in a cloak lined with white silk. It suffers from reusing that tiresome mummy plot in which the monster bothers the reincarnation of his old girlfriend, but it has some of the excitement of the wave of vampire movies with modern settings – Dracula AD 1972, Count Yorga – Vampire, The Night Stalker – common in the early 1970s.
Perennial loser Elisha Cook Jr gets an especially memorable death (‘lifted’ by Stephen King in ‘salem’s Lot) as a morgue attendant who gets a nasty shock when a murdered lady cab driver rises from the slab to attack.
It struggles to include the mandatory blaxploitation digs at ‘the Man’, as the black Van Helsing type (Rasulala) complains to the white cop on the case ‘it’s amazing how much sloppy police work involves black victims’ but there’s a certain aptness in the depiction of Count Dracula (a very hammy Macaulay) as an arrogant racist swine. It was followed by a run of similar black horror pictures, including the inevitable Blackenstein, the more imaginative Dr Black and Mr Hyde and a superior sequel (with Pam Grier as a voodoo priestess) Scream, Blacula, Scream!
Blaxploitation meets vampire movie that's formulaic and full of holes