The No. 1 film in America last weekend, with more than $21 million at the box office, was Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? -- and I don't know a single person who saw it. That's not a reflection on the movie's quality, nor do I mean to suggest that somehow those figures aren't accurate. All it means is that I'm white, and that almost everyone I know is also white, and that the few black friends I have are irreligious males, not the Christian females that are Tyler Perry's most ardent supporters.
For someone who's used to being in the racial majority, it's strange to realize that a movie can be THAT popular and still be entirely disconnected from my world. It's kind of cool, actually -- especially when you consider that barely 35 years ago, no one was making movies specifically for black audiences at all.
With that in mind, I watched Blacula.
Blacula came out in 1972 and was one of the first so-called "blaxploitation" films. The definition of that genre is fluid, and you could argue that many films classified under the category don't fit because they were made by black directors and crew members, and were thus not exploitative.
Blacula is more about empowerment than exploitation. The title character is Mamuwalde (William Marshall), a refined and eloquent African prince who, in the year 1780, visits Count Dracula at his castle as part of a diplomatic mission to end the slave trade. Dracula, unsurprisingly, is racist (among his other, better-documented faults) and responds by vampirizing Mamuwalde and sealing him and his still-living wife up in a tomb.