Both feed off the blood of the living and do not die with the passing of time. Both can change form and have the strength of many men.
But who is the most powerful? Which monster would you least like to meet in the night?
Which vampire is the true Prince of Darkness?
To discuss this we must first go back to 1897, when Irish novelist Bram Stoker introduced his readers to Count Dracula, a Transylvanian nobleman keen on long walks in the dark and with a thirst for blood. A character loosely inspired by 15th century Prince Vlad III the Impaler, known by his ‘friends’ as Dracula.
In Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula lives in a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains with three beautiful female vampires. He has a charm about him and is proud of his Székely heritage. Dracula also shows a keen interest in English culture and plans to make a permanent move to London with the help of British lawyer Jonathon Harker.
Hammer Film Productions’ Dracula, 1958, directed by Terence Fisher is an adaptation starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The film was a success in the box office and is still regarded as one of the best adaptations of Bram Stoker’s celebrated novel. Lee plays Dracula, a handsome aristocrat that shares a castle with a wondering female. It is she who tricks Jonathon Harker, a librarian in this adaptation, before biting him. After the female is finally slayed, Dracula awakes to seek revenge upon a small group of men.
This is a centuries-old vampire pissed off! With the power to control nature, change his form and even the ability to travel as mist this is one Count you do not want to spill a drink over on a Friday night.
In the Hammer classic, Dracula has the power to control the minds of his victims. On more than one occasion he lures both Lucy and Mina into his deadly clutches. Dracula wreaks havoc, biting the two women and killing a coach driver. He is an ancient monster disguised as a charming Eastern European gent, hell-bent on revenge.
A decade after the release of this Hammer classic and during the era of exploitation cinema, American International Pictures (AIP) known for its independently produced, low-budget films released Blacula, 1972, directed by William Crain. US actor William Marshall plays Count Dracula’s soul-brother, Blacula, in a souped up version of Stoker’s classic with a ‘killer’ soundtrack. In this version, Marshall is Mamuwalde, an 18th century African Prince who visits the Count in his castle to request some help in tackling the slave trade. Dracula refuses to help and bites Mamuwalde turning him into the blood-sucking monster, Blacula.
This black prince of darkness awakes in 1972 Los Angeles hungry for fresh blood. Mamuwalde, now Blacula, believes that Tina, a young girl in mourning, is the reincarnation of his deceased wife, Luva. He follows Tina and along the way kills a number of people who get in his way. Eventually Tina falls for Blacula as he paves a way of destruction to lure her to his domain. At the time of the film’s release, US movie-goers were treated to lots of “fabulously bad” low-budget cult movies and the Blaxploitation genre was extremely popular during this time.
Scream Blacula Scream, 1973, directed by Bob Kelljan was released a year after Blacula and starred William Marshall again as Dracula’s soul-brother. Mamuwalde is this time out for revenge when he is brought back from the dead by voodoo black magic. Blacula creates his own army of vampires as he seeks the cure for his curse. Unlike the Count, Blacula has to contend with the twentieth century, when two LA pimps welcome him by attempting to mug the vampire. After calling him a “jive turkey” Blacula makes them regret the remark by bringing them down.
As well as Christopher Lee’s take on the Count, Bela Lugosi famously portrayed Dracula for the first time in 1931 in Universal’s Dracula, directed by Tod Browning. Lugosi is regarded as one of the most definitive Draculas due to his powerful presence and authority on-screen. Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielson and Gerard Butler have all portrayed the Count in the last twenty-years.
But back to the debate;
Dracula – Blacula.
Blacula – Dracula.
Both have been brilliantly portrayed on-screen, both are bad blood-sucking mothers, but which one is the baddest. They both differ slightly from Bram Stoker’s original novel, but share a huge appetite for blood. Looking at Christopher Lee’s first two adaptations and William Marshall’s Blacula franchise, both vampires are destroyed in the first and reincarnated by the second.
A good vampire also needs an (un)willing servant to do this, Dracula has Klove in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, 1966, directed by Terence Fisher and Blacula, has Willis in Scream Blacula Scream.
Manuwalde has a huge range of superhuman abilities. Bitten by Count Dracula and locked in a coffin for centuries, Blacula uses mind control to create an army of vampires; he regularly transforms into a bat, and most certainly has a way with women as he goes the ‘whole way’ – a feat that his Transylvanian counterpart never manages to achieve.
Between the two, the body count they rack up is monstrous; their thirst for blood is only surpassed by their love of ‘fetching cotton-rich black cloaks’. Enemies are never too far away either, Van Helsing and Dr. Gordon Thomas do their very best to apprehend the vampires.
It certainly is a tough one, who should be feared the most? I mean Dracula is the eldest, but age don’t mean a thing does it… Compared to Hammer’s Count, Blacula has far more abilities and is a hit with the ladies. But then there is the fact that Dracula actually created Blacula, can an apprentice beat his master? Anakin (Vader) Skywalker attempted to defeat his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, only to lose his legs and an arm in combat. But as Dracula passed on a curse rather than knowledge, Blacula is automatically given the same kind of skills. And more important than that, upon being cursed, Mamuwalde’s wife is taken from him, this really is a pissed of prince. With nothing to lose and with plenty of time to spare I think that this prince of darkness, Dracula’s very own soul-brother, would really give his master a run for his money.
But the jury is still out, you do you fancy? Dracula or Blacula?