Blackula / Scream Blackula Scream / Hammer / The Monkey Hustle William Crain, Bob Kelljan, Bruce D. Clark, Arthur Marks

If your idea of African American cinema extends no further than Booty Call or Pootie Tang you should check out the Soul Cinema reissues of classic '70s Blaxploitation films. Being able to namedrop Blackula, Scream Blacula Scream, Hammer and The Monkey Hustle) will make you so retro-hip you won't be able to fit into your satin wide legs. One's appetite for this material will be gauged by one's appetite for schlock and pop culture history. Blacula scores high in both departments. The cheese is hot, thick and gooey, and, I'd have to guess, intentional. The establishing "historic" scene in Dracula's castle is so completely free of period detail it makes A Knight's Tale look scholarly. For choice artefacts from yesteryear check out William Marshall as Blacula (aka the King of Cartoons on Peewee's Playhouse), great performance footage of Hues Corporation (they of "Rock the Boat" fame) and some Canadian content with Due South star Gordon Pinsent. Scream Blacula Scream has more of the same, stylistically, and is notable for the presence of Pam Grier but isn't as much fun as its predecessor. If you feel your wardrobe has gotten a little stale lately you should study The Monkey Hustle. This ensemble piece depicting the fun filled jive talking world of "jess tryn' to get ova in the ghetto" has me rethinking my entire approach to cut-off jean shorts. It stars Yaphet Kotto, who later appeared as Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street. Hammer, suffering from serious intent and stepped up production values, isn't bad enough to be good. But at least its portrayal of professional boxing is an improvement on the usual dross Hollywood serves up. Soul legend Solomon Burke is credited for the music but nothing stands out. The history of this genre is fraught with racial implications, which may be compounded by the selling of these reissues to a white audience but let's not allow politics to get in the way of some likeably bad movies. Other than the original trailers these DVDs have no special features (if you don't count straight men wearing short-y tank tops). (MGM)