Thursday, 2 October 2008

Start Here : An Essential Taster of...Blaxploitation Horror

Blacula (1972)

To most people, Blaxploitation conjures up images of big black dudes with afros, in loud, natty clothes, and a cast of pimps, drug dealers and ladies of the night, all set to a funk/soul soundtrack, set in the ghetto. The US movie genre which began in the early 70s was born out of a new self confidence from the emancipation of a minority, and was kitsch, and definitely loud, black and proud, with notable movies like Shaft, and Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song leaving an indelible mark on popular culture.

A lesser known strand in this genre was the reinvention of existing horror narratives, which began with the release of 1972's Blacula, a commercial success which has since gained status as a kitsch underground classic of the decade that taste forgot.

The story begins with an African prince, Mamuwalde, who calls upon the help of Count Dracula in countering the slave trade. It emerges that Dracula is in fact a racist, and so the evil Count turns the prince into a vampire, christening him with Blacula, and imprisons him in a coffin. Years later, the box is then transported to 70s LA where it has been bought by two gay interior decorators, where it is opened and all hell (literally) breaks loose, and the body count begins piling up.

The film was so successful that it spawn a sequel, and effectively, the whole genre. As the story shows, Blaxploitation's contribution to the history of horror movies is an interesting take which highlights a decade when racial tensions were still rife, where the bogeymen are misunderstood black men, who are typically victims of white society. More importantly, they're a bit silly, and lots of fun.

Next Stop: Dr Black, Mr Hyde (1976) , Blackenstein (1973), Bones (2001).

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