—Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, 1991
—Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, 1991
Today at ComicsAlliance, I’ve rounded up a gallery of the worst vampire merchandise the Internet has to offer (and one, see above, that is totally rad), and while this might come as a shock, Twilight merch only accounts for 20% of it.
Special thanks for this one goes out to Dave Campbell, Dr. K, Anna and Piers for their help with this one, although since in Anna’s case, “help” meant showing me things that were absolutely terrifying, I’m not sure if “thanks” is the right word. Seriously, though, I couldn’t have done it without them.
As to the contents of the article, the title’s a bit misleading, as it doesn’t have the absolute worst piece of vampire-related ephemera to ever hit shelves, for as all ISB die-hards know, that is an honor that belongs to one thing and one thing only:
Seriously you guys. It’s just the worst.
As I’ve already established with my look at his myriad apperances in comics, Dracula’s status in the public domain is one of the best things about him. With such an iconic work to set his origin, the fact that anyone can do a story about him makes him one of the most perfect characters ever created, as he’s constantly being reinvented by creators who take the bits that they like and fashion him into their ideal version so that he can or be blown up by super-heroes in new and exciting ways.
And that, of course, means movies.
According to the Wikipedia, Big D’s been the subject of over 200 films, starting with Nosferatu and the 1931 Bela Lugosi picture that defined him for modern pop culture, and going all over the place from there. But there is only one franchise, one cinematic juggernaut inspired by the Lord of Vampires, that is rad enough to be featured on the ISB.
I speak, of course… of Blacula.
Long-time ISB readers will probably recall that I have an intense love for Blaxploitation movies, but even among those, Blacula is awesome. I mean, dude’s name is Blacula. BLACULA. That is the best name for anyone ever. If Batman had been named Blacula, Wertham would’ve been too scared to write Seduction of the Innocent, and that is a fact.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the gist, the original radio ad from 1972 sums things up pretty well:
The short(er) version: Mamuwalde is an African prince who gets on Dracula’s bad side because the latter–as established in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Marvel Comics–is crazy racist. Thus, he throws up the horns (really) and curses Mamuwalde to become Blacula, which somehow makes them “soul brothers,” because Blaxploitation radio spots are awesome.
He eventually shows up in the present (well, the present of 1972) and dies, and that brings us to the subject of tonight’s post: The 1973 sequel, Scream Blacula Scream! Why go with the sequel instead of the original? Two words, folks:
After Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Slammin’ Pam is probably the most iconic star of the Blaxploitation era, starring in flicks like Coffy, Sheba Baby and the unforgettable Black Mama/White Mama (“A thousand nights without a man! A thousand reasons to kill!”), which led to a role in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, as his obsession with the ’70s makes pretty much everyone else seem like a piker. Here, she stars as Lisa, whose leadership of a group of voodoo enthusiasts is challenged by this guy:
This is Willis, and in addition to being one of the snappiest dressers in cinema history, he’s desperate enough for cult leadership that he decides it’s a good idea to purchase Mamuwalde’s bones from a local mystical artifacts dealer and resurrect them with his voodoo powers.
This, as we’ll soon see, is the second worst life choice made in this movie.
The voodoo works–as voodoo tends to do in Blaxploitation movies–and thus…
…and he promptly snacks on the fashion-conscious Willis, who quickly learns the downside of undeath once he looks in a mirror:
Willis: Hey man I don’t mind bein’ a vampire and all that shit, but this really ain’t hip! I mean a man has GOT to see his face! Shiiiiit!
After you get past the pretty rude way that he repays Willis for resurrecting him and his bitchin’ ‘stache–a common look among 70s vampires, apparently–the thing you’ll notice about Blacula is just how good William Marshall is in the role.
It’s not that surprising–Marshall was an accomplished stage actor who was called “the greatest Othello of our time” by the London Sunday Times–but this is the sequel to a Blaxploitation horror movie. He could’ve gotten by with a lot less (or a lot more; if he wanted to go for the all-out scenery chewing route, nobody would’ve blamed him) but he plays it with a note-perfect craftsmanship that’s striking.
When he threatens to rip out Willis’s heart for disobedience, his matter-of-fact statement is genuinely sinister, and when he’s introducing himself to Pam Grier at a party as an expert in African art–thankfully going by his real name rather than “Alucalb”–he comes off as effortlessly charming.
Plus, his delivery is fantastic. It’s worth a rental just for this scene:
Pimp: Your bread, man, all of it! Or are we gonna have to become anti-social and kick your ass?
Blacula: I’m sorry, I don’t have any… “bread” on me, and as for “kicking my ass”… I’d strongly suggest you give it careful consideration before trying.
And then Blacula backhands him through a plate glass window. I love this movie so hard, you guys.
Of course, it’s not all defenestrating pimps and macking on Pam Grier so that she uses her voodoo powers to remove his curse, there’s also murder. I mean, he is a vampire after all. Of course, the police are blissfully unaware of this fact, and so when bloodless cadavers, they immediately assume that it’s our friendly local cultists sacrificing people for their rituals.
Now look. I’m not the world’s greatest detective or anything, but even if you don’t believe in vampires, when corpses start showing up drained of blood, you might want to check out the new guy who just arrived in town and who is currently rocking a black cape with a red satin lining. Just sayin’.
Eventually, the police do tumble to the fact that a Blacula is in their midst, and they set about hunting him, armed with actual stakes from a white picket fence…
…in what is either great symbolism about the Man using a literal piece of the American dream to hunt down a black man who only wants to be freed of the curse he’s been suffering from for generations, or the workings of a cheap prop department. It could go either way, really.
Also, remember when I said that resurrecting Blacula was the second-worst life choice in this movie? Well, this guy called Blacula “uppity.”
And yep. That’s actually worse.
Eventually, the cops break in on the ritual and ruin Blacula’s chances of getting his curse removed, and when Blacula–as you might expect–goes banana, Pam ends up staking the voodoo doll, destroying Blacula for the second and final time by virtue of taking the doll from mint-on-card to a good-minus.
But still, the legend lives on, both in Mamuwalde himself–who was apparently mentioned in Anno Dracula, which makes me want to read it even more than a recommendation from Jess Nevins–and in the legacy that he’s given to this man:
Truly… he is Blaculawesome.
While I like the radio spots for Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream a lot, one of the all-time greats comes from director William Crain’s lesser known Blaxploitation horror flick, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, which bursts from the speakers with a series of over-the-top rhymes that would make even Dolemite proud:
Super-strong, supernatural and super bad.
You know, Marvel Comics would have you believe that there’s only one Lord of the Vampires…
…but really, there’s like 26.
Yes, his status as a public domain character means that he can be used in pretty much anything, and today on ComicsAlliance, Dracula Week rises from the grave to stalk a new land as I round up my favorite comic book Draculas, ranking them all by how Draculawesome they are!
Marvel Dracula’s in there of course–and ranked near the top for his tireless work in keeping the word “clod” in circulation–alongside Racist Dracula and the ill-fated Super-Hero Dracula, but there’s one version of Big D that sprang to mind that I didn’t include:
The reasons for his non-inclulsion are pretty simple–he only appeared the once in a story that is not very good–but there are a few notable things about him that are still worth mentioning, not the least of which is the pretty awesome Ed McGuinness cover that fools me every time into thinking that this issue is going to be totally awesome:
Unfortunately, this Jeph Loeb/Ian Churchill joint leaves quite a bit to be desired, though to be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. The issue comes from a weird, extremely forgettable time in the Superman books and seems rooted in bridging the previous storyline–the eminently disposable Our Worlds at War crossover–with the then-current buildup for Superman’s battle with one of the many General Zods, who this time ended up being a Russian clone of Superman in a power-suit or something. It was stupid, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re better for it.
Point being, there’s a lot in this comic that detracts from the simple beauty that a story where Superman fights Dracula should’ve had. Not that the stuff is on topic is all that great either: The reveal that the mysterious Count Rominoff is in fact Dracula is played in-story as something of a surprise reveal despite the fact that the cover says “Superman vs. Dracula” in huge letters; Lois refuses to believe in vampires to the point where she tells her husband, the super-powered alien from space who hangs out with a Greek goddess and the king of Atlantis, that he’s being silly to even think of such things; and it builds to a last-page reveal of an all-new, all-different Creature Commandos…
….who were never seen again.
Plus, Lois decides it’s a good idea to dine with foreign dignitaries while wearing a sluttier version of Andre the Giant’s ring attire.
So where’s this allegedly neat idea I mentioned earlier? Well, unlike the Dracula of Red Rain (whose plan amounts to “Fight Batman and see how that works out for me”), this version has an idea that’s not half bad: He’s planning to take advantage of Superman’s weakness to magic to turn him into one of his thralls. Thus, he leads Lois Lane into his clutches by faking a news story, then puts her in danger, counting on Superman to save her because Superman always saves Lois Lane. Then, once that all happens, he hits him with the hypno-eyes.
All in all, not a bad plan. But as Superman is powered by the energy of Earth’s yellow sun, Dracula takes one bite…
…and his head explodes.
I gotta say, I still think that’s a pretty fun idea. It’s just a shame it’s in a story with all the rest of it.
Over the past six hundred years or so, Dracula has been involved in a lot of terrible things. There’s all the impalings of course, and the thing where he feeds on a terrified populace, and then you get into the minor stuff like the many zoning violations that arise from spontaneous Demon Castle Construction.
His second-greatest crime*, however, is that he has inspired others to make terrible, terrible vampire movies.
For this week’s Worst of Netflix column, I’ve taken on the no-budget vampire “anthology” Red Lips 2: Bloodlust, and while this might not be clear in the review, it is quite possibly the worst movie I have ever seen.
Essentially two unrelated movies stitched togther to form one shambling cinematic horror, Red Lips 2 manages to combine the lingering, unerotic, possibly meth-induced nudity of a truck stop magazine rack with the cinematic acumen of a Manos: Hands of Fate. Thrill! as writer-star Maria Ortiz and Canadian “scream queen” Debbie Rochon improv their way through scenes where the sound is so bad that all you can hear is that they’re stepping on each other’s lines! Chill! as you realize that the movie theater set is just the oddly spacious bathroom set with the single toilet swapped out for two rows of seats! Spill! your drink as the previously softcore sex scenes suddenly turn into an unobstructed shot of the slimy male lead’s junk!
Over at the column, there’s a picture of the guy–clothed, thankfully, though to be honest that’s not much of an improvement–and when you see it, I want you to think about this: I saw that dude naked for you guys.
Dracula, you owe me big time.
*: Dracula’s greatest crime, of course, is his involvement in Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good Theme Week here on the ISB, so as Spooktoberfest creeps along on the scarifying drive to Halloween, I’m declaring this to be Dracula Week! Seven days of posts revolving around the Lord of the Vampires, and like so many things in my life, it all starts with Batman:
Released direct to DVD in 2005, The Batman vs. Dracula was a Halloween tie-in to the then-current animated series, The Batman.
Of all of Batman’s TV franchises, The Batman was the one that I’ve never really gotten into. It’s not that I have anything against it really, but it always seemed to air at an inconvenient time and what little of it I have seen didn’t really inspire me to make the effort to catch it, though in fairness, that’s probably more of a product of my affection for Batman: The Animated Series than anything else.
I will admit, though, that the character designs aren’t quite to my taste. The show’s animation is actually very well done–I’ll get to that in a minute once Batman starts beating up the elderly–but between the title character’s marked resemblance to a young Judge Dredd…
…and Rastafarian Joker (about whom the less said, the better), it just looks way more off-putting to me thanBruce Timm’s Fleisher-inspired designs or The Brave and the Bold‘s retro-’66 style.
Still, when you get right down to it, anything called The Batman vs. Dracula should be totally awesome. In practice, though, it falls a little short. It’s still good, but a setup with as much potential as we have here ought to outstrip “good” by the time it leaves the opening credits.
The whole thing gets started when the Penguin breaks out of Arkham and sets about looking for some loot (eventually revealed to be a Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of gold coins) that’s been stashed in a cemetery, which leads to him inadvertently resurrecting Dracula because, well, it’s Gotham City and that sort of thing tends to happen a lot there. It turns out the terrified populace of Transylvania eventually got tired of being snack food and, in the absence of a reliable Belmont, shipped Big D off to Gotham and had him interred in their cemetery, figuring that vanquishing evil with the morning sun and pawning off their problems on the New World were basically the same thing anyway.
Dracula makes short work of Renfieldizing the Penguin and before long, he and his ill sideburns are heading out to high society parties…
…where he patiently explains that no, he is not Ra’s al-Ghul, and yes, he gets that all the time.
He also introduces himself as (brace yourself) “Dr. Alucard,” and as far as pseudonyms go, that’s only about half a step above “Dr. Acula.” And the sad part is, it takes the World’s Greatest Detective at least ten minutes to figure this out, even with the help of visual aids.
Further complicating matters is the presence of foxy reporter and Bat-love interest Vicky Vale, who is introduced–no joke–with a lingering shot of her rack:
Vicky’s been spending a lot of time with Bruce Wayne lately as she’s been covering the latest development from WayneTech, a machine that collects and stores sunlight to be released at one’s leisure, which we’ll find out later is an exceptionally handy thing to have laying around when you’re going to go fight Dracula.
From there, the story procedes about like you’d expect: Dracula makes a bunch of Gothamites into vampires, which gives Batman the opportunity to wail on normal people in some beautifully animated fight scenes that, unfortunately, cut before he actually goes through with judo-throwing a nine year-old girl; eyewitnesses describe a bat-like creature preying on citizens, which leads to Batman being framed for Dracula’s crimes; Batman and Dracula have a scuffle that involves Drac uttering the immortal phrase “try as you might, you can’t out-bat me!”; and then the Joker gets turned into a vampire.
Yeah, you heard me: Vampire Joker.
Fortunately for the Joker–and therefore unfortunately for everyone else–Batman has seen Blade II and sets about synthesizing a cure for vampirism out of pure SCIENCE!, which he does just in time for Vicky to–surprise!–get kidnapped by Dracula so that he can use her life-force to resurrect one of his brides, and they fight until Batman cures everyone with his fists and then uses his amazing technicolor sunlight machine to take the Count out, keeping his no-killing rule intact thanks to a previous mention of sunlight being an “almost permanent” death for vampires.
Plotwise, that’s pretty paint-by-numbers, but like I said, it’s got some beautiful animation–the first Batman/Dracula fight sees Dracula fighting like a vampiric M. Bison, which is something I didn’t even know I wanted to see until today–and some very fun moments, like the revelation that Thomas Wayne used to go hunting with a crossbow, which would make him the Ted Nugent of Gotham City. Even though there are stretches where it feels like it’s been padded out to fit a Cartoon Network movie slot, it’s still highly entertaining.
Plus, it ends with Batman punching Dracula so hard that he explodes, and that alone makes it better than Red Rain.