After a dying Voodoo queen chooses an adopted apprentice as her successor, her true heir is outraged. Seeking revenge, he buys the bones of Blacula the vampire off of a dealer, and uses voodoo to bring the vampire back to do his bidding. In turn, Blacula turns him into a vampire and makes him his slave. Meanwhile, a police officer with a large collection of African antiques and an interest in the occult investigates the murders caused by Blacula and his vampire horde.
After the death of his mother, gang-member Willis, (Richard Lawson) is voted out and swears revenge on the newly-voted leader, Lisa, (Pam Grier) a voodoo priestess. Using voodoo himself, he resurrects Mamuwalde, (William Marshall) the vampire known as Blacula, to do his bidding, but comes under his vampiric spell instead. As he starts satisfying his blood-lust with the members of the gang, he gets wind of Lisa’s powers and longs to rid himself of his curse. When her policeman boyfriend Justin, (Don Mitchell) is brought in due to all the bodies, he believes that Willis is behind it all due to his grudge against the group. When the real culprit is revealed behind the murders, the police race to stop him before he can put his nefarious plans into motion.
The Good News: As a sequel to a good movie, this one features some really great moments. The film’s best quality is that it really raises the bar by showcasing a vampire who is struggling with his own inner blood-lust. This humanizes the main vampire character a bit, who prior to this had most vampires relished their monstrous existence and sought for nothing more than to become the most fearsome nightmare in the land, by instead showing the lengths he is willing to take to get rid of his vampiric side. We also see an interesting new evolution in the vampire personality dynamic. Here, there seems to be a noticeable distinction to be made from the Manuwalde character and that of the Blacula character. Firstly, there is the obvious physical difference. Blacula has shadowy eyes, stark cheekbones, a frizzed out widow’s peak and some wild hair-patches smeared across his face. And of course he has the fangs and the all-night-martini eyes. Even the Manuwalde persona is affecting and interesting. He’s calm, cultured and seems amicable enough to want to genuinely mingle with modern society. This isn’t really a guy who is trying to cover up for his more dark nature, but rather is one who is warring with himself, striving to overpower his own sinister urges. Key to this success is actor William Marshall. Marshall plays the potentially ludicrous role with such conviction and sincerity that he is a real joy to watch Blacula in his scenes. Marshall is one of the few screen vampires to elicit genuine pathos and scares in his performance and is a testament to his ability, and comes across as being so utterly convincing and complete. Lot of scenes stick out, including a vampire woman rising from her coffin as an unsuspecting character watches in shock, highlighted by a raging thunderstorm that illuminates the set sporadically, Blacula’s and Willis’ vampiric assault on two intruders while one screams at the top of their lungs, and a quite ingenious attack on a woman who can’t see him creeping up as there is no reflection in the mirror, and the climatic vampires and police fiasco set in a dark mansion is a highlight. This also includes some genuinely funny ones, for instance, where one character throws a fit when he finds that he can no longer see his reflection in a mirror. This one really has a lot to like about it.
The Bad News: As in the first one, there isn’t a lot that doesn’t work. The gore here is typical vampire fare, as we get the expected bloody bites on the necks of the victims but that’s pretty much it. Although minimal, the bite effects aren’t really that good. The blood is way too thick and bright to be convincing, and very often, it’s obvious that no contact is made between the fangs and neck, a far cry from the first where the bite marks always looked authentic. This, thankfully, puts a grateful end to the old tradition of vampires turning into bats. There is now a tradition that has evolved to the point that vampires now transform into were-bats, and this is partly to credit for that. This is a thankful element that has been dropped and is the source of a lot of unintentional humor in the genre. For starters, they can’t fly, they’re not very fast, and they have the directional acumen of a moth on crack. There’s a really hysterical scene in here that proves this where Blacula transforms into a bat and we can see him fluttering side by side with cars and buses on a busy metropolitan highway. Realizing that there plenty of other ways of making more progress down the street than the way he is, Blacula decides to fore-go his embarrassing flying foolishness and turns back into a human. This goofy scene alone proves that those scenes are no longer needed in vampire films. The worst problem is that the film has no clear-cut ending. It simply ends, without much fanfare or much of anything being resolved. It’s quite a disappointment over the great ending that the first one had, and it lowers the film somewhat.
The Final Verdict: While there’s a few problems, this has enough going for it that it’s more of a positive than anything. It’s a recommended viewing for fans of the first one, who might find enough to put this one over the first, but it’s still a really good entry nonetheless.