Let’s all marvel at the fact that this blaxploitation horror flick is rated PG which was much more lenient during this era. While the boom mics are either hovering in the frame or muzzled with echoes around Count Dracula’s (Charles Macaulay) opulent manor in Transylvania, the frugal sound design is the only AIP aspect of this surprisingly baroque, sophisticated production.
Meanwhile, William Crain tackles some astute social commentary into the Dracula lore with Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) beseeching the bloodsucker to cease the slave trade in his homeland. Along with Macaulay, the caliber of thespian prowess by Marshall is royally grandiloquent. The Saul Bass animation during the opening credits is almost a parody with a bat flapping around while disco music serenades the spookiness.
Crain is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek about the taboos intermingling with Bram Stoker such as the homosexual interior decorators drolly salivating over the “camp” appeal of Dracula’s furnishings. The splotches of facial hair and bushy eyebrows during his vampire cravings would look fatuous on another actor yet Marshall is too glamorous to be a victim of crass make-up.
It is sensationally odious and prejudiced nowadays but the mortician’s “rudest nigger I’ve ever met” reply to a pathologist is side-splitting. As with most financially conservative affairs, the focus suddenly becomes fuzzy occasionally and the movie halts midway for a soul singer performance. However, technical gaffes only amplify the film’s irrepressible charm.
Marshall expertly equiparates the balance beam between winsome, tragically forlorn aristocracy and sanguinary, guttural fiend with protruding fangs. Without him, it would be glacial dreck for the black demographic.