In 1780, Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) is sent by the elders of the Abani African nation to seek the help of Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) in suppressing the slave trade. Dracula, instead, laughs at this request and insults Mamuwalde by making thinly veiled overtures about enslaving his wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee). After a scuffle with Dracula's minions, Mamuwalde is transformed into a vampire. Dracula curses him with the name "Blacula" and imprisons him in a sealed coffin in a crypt hidden beneath the castle. Luva is also imprisoned in the crypt and left to die.
In 1972, the coffin is purchased as part of an estate by two homosexual interior decorators, Bobby McCoy (Ted Harris) and Billy Schaffer (Rick Metzler) and shipped to Los Angeles. Bobby and Billy open the coffin and become Prince Mamuwalde's first victims. At the funeral home where Bobby McCoy's body is laid, Mamuwalde spies on mourning friends Tina Williams (Vonetta McGee), her sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas), and Michelle's boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), a pathologist for the Los Angeles Police Department. Mamuwalde believes Tina is the reincarnation of his deceased wife, Luva. On close investigation of the corpse at the funeral home, Dr. Thomas notices oddities with Bobby McCoy's death that he later concludes to be consistent with vampire folklore.
Prince Mamuwalde continues to kill and transform various people he encounters, as Tina begins to fall in love with him. Thomas, his colleague Lt. Peters (Gordon Pinsent), and Michelle follow the trail of murder victims and begin to suspect a vampire is responsible. After Thomas digs up Billy's coffin, Billy's corpse rises as a vampire and attacks Thomas, who fends him off and drives a stake through his heart. Thomas also finds a photo negative taken of Mamuwalde and Tina in which Mamuwalde is not visible. After killing one of the undead victims in the city morgue, Thomas and Peters track Mamuwalde to his hideout, the warehouse where Bobby McCoy and Billy Schaffer were first slain. They locate and defeat several vampires, but Mamuwalde manages to escape.
Mamuwalde lures Tina to his new hideout at a nearby chemical plant, while Thomas and a group of police officers pursue him. Mamuwalde dispatches several officers, but one of them accidentally shoots Tina fatally. To save her life, Mamuwalde transforms her into a vampire. One of the remaining policemen locates the coffin and alerts Peters. However, Peters inadvertently kills Tina with a stake, believing that Mamuwalde would be in the coffin instead. Devastated at losing her again, Mamuwalde tells Thomas and Peters there is no need to pursue him further, and willingly climbs the stairs to the roof where the morning sun destroys him.
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