This feature was originally published on July 28, 2013.

When news circulated early last week about Spike Lee's new (and hopeful) $1.2 million Kickstarter project, to fund a movie about people "addicted to blood," we immediately felt the urge to revisit that 1972 cult classic Blacula. You've never seen it? Rectify that immediately. As the film's original poster declared, actor William Marshall's undead ladykiller is "deadlier than Dracula," not to mention that before he died and became a creature of the night, Blacula was an African prince who called upon Count Dracula to help him end slavery. Makes your boy Bill Compton seem kinda lame.

Plots of that ridiculously amazing variety were the norm back in the '70s, when blaxploitation films catered to America's black audiences craving their own riffs on genre cinema. In addition to campy horror flicks like Blacula, there were wacky action-comedies (e.g., The Human Tornado), girl-on-girl fight flicks (Black Mama, White Mama), and beloved fictional heroes like John Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, and Foxy Brown. Foxy Brown/Coffy actress Pam Grier was everybody's dreamgirl. Women couldn't get enough of stars like Richard Roundtree and Fred Williamson. Movies with titles like Black Belt Jones, Sheba, Baby, Boss Nigger were perfectly acceptable.

Indeed, it was a wild time, an era of anti-establishment filmmaking that split viewers down the middle—some found praised these movies for promoting black empowerment and breaking down racial barriers, others felt they harmfully fed into white people's various prejudices. Today, three decades removed from blaxploitation's initial prominence, the films are something else entirely: entertaining, one-of-a-kind time capsules for the days when Dolemite and Super Fly would've pimp-slapped Madea on sight. After reading about the 50 best blaxploitation movies, you'll be ready to give those O.G.'s (of unstoppable swag) five on the black hand side.

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