Mamuwalde, PI … and why the Hell not?

By sheer happenstance the other day I happened to catch the trailer for SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973) and when William Marshall’s title card came on the screen I was flooded with consecutive waves of nostalgia, respect and love. The use of this particular font made me think of the look of 70s TV show title sequences and it got me to thinking… would a 70s cop show centered around Blacula have been such a crazy idea?

How could MAMUWALDE, P.I. have been any worse of an idea than, say, GRIFF with Lorne Greene as a detective who… oh, does anybody even remember what Griff did? The show lasted like four episodes. Or how about NAKIA with Robert Forster as a Native American sheriff’s deputy who… presumably arrested people, IIRC. Or BRONK with Jack Palance as a pipe-smoking cop who wasn’t a complete psycho (why?). Sure, BARNABY JONES and CANNON were successful but basing a weekly series on a.) a really old dude and b.) a fat bastard were chancy moves at best. Given that network execs seemed to be firing blindly back in the 70s, why did no one think of a weekly detective series based on BLACULA (1972)? So much of what that film and its 1973 sequel were about were tailor-made for a cop show. In the films, Blacula dealt with cops, pimps, prostitutes, cab drivers, morgue attendants and all manner of street folk – a weekly series would have had instant curbside appeal. There have since been TV shows about vampire detectives (FOREVER KNIGHT, MOONLIGHT) but the heroes in these things are invariably wasp-waisted white boys who would be more at home fronting a Chilliwack cover band. William Marshall would have stomped the terra. He wouldn’t have taken shit from anybody… living, dead or undead. I say let’s explore this idea further and imagine that some forward-looking network suit decided, back in 1973, to roll the bones on MAMUWALDE, P.I. Here’s my take on what the first season might look like…

9:00 BLACULA, SOUL DETECTIVE. In this unsold series pilot, William Marshall returns to the role of African prince Mamuwalde turned by Dracula himself into an undying bloodsucker. When his remains are unintentionally reconstituted by a bumbling forensic tech, Blacula reaches an edgy rapprochement with cops Gordon Pinsent and Thalmus Rasulala (reprising their roles) to become a special investigator for the LAPD Cold Case Unit. Lou Antonio, Larry Linville, Marj Dusay. 2 hrs.

9:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. In this second pilot for the weekly series, the bones of Blacula are obtained by a mysterious antiques dealer (guest star Vincent Price), who revives the undead African prince and strikes a cruel bargain – the release of death in return for procurement of several precious Egyptian artifacts. As Blacula combs Los Angeles, he draws the attention of the LAPD detectives (Roy Thinnes, Hari Rhodes) who sealed his doom several years earlier. Tom Selleck, Antoinette Bower, Hilly Hicks, Brenda Sykes. 2 hrs.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. (Premiere) “Jewel of Denial.” Still honoring his bargain with the mysterious Mr. Cagliostro (Vincent Price), Mamuwalde gains the confidence of an affluent poetess (Rosalind Cash) who has been given a rare and valuable emerald necklace as a gift from a presidential candidate (Robert Mandan) with gangland connections. Joe Sirola, Sid Haig, Lynne Moody. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Last Train to Oblivion.” When he runs afoul of a racketeer (Henry Silva), Mamuwalde is incapacitated and shipped by rail to face certain destruction under the blazing New Mexico sun until his coffin is intercepted by an anthropologist (guest star Cornel Wilde) with an interest in demonology. Sheree North, Val Bisoglio, Garrett Morris. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Blood Relations.” Veteran character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. guest stars in the dual role of Sam, a hook-handed vampire who preys on the patients of a West Side veteran’s hospital, and Sam’s alcoholic twin brother Crawford, who travels from Las Vegas to enlist Mamuwalde in a mission to bring Sam to rest. Tom Skerritt, Scatman Crothers, Antonio Fargas. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “The Hour of Our Death.” While tracking the black market sale of a stone deity believed to have healing powers, Mamuwalde becomes the target of a former Calypso singer turned fundamentalist minster (Calvin Lockhart), who charges his congregation with destroying the vampire as a carrier of the white man’s pestilence. Ted Lange, Judy Pace, La Wanda Page, Richard X. Slattery. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Night Train to Cockcrow, pt 1.” In the first of this two-part episode, Mamuwalde journeys to Spain in search of the legendary silver cross of the Maenza chalice but first he must pry it from the paws of an aristocratic werewolf. Jacinto Molina, Maria Perschy, Patty Shepard, Gino Conforte. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Night Train to Cockcrow, pt. 2.” Mamuwalde and the shapeshifter Waldemar Daninsky must put aside their differences when their struggle over possession of the Maenza cross awakens from their tombs the undead Knights Templar, blind zombies with a hunger for human blood stronger even than Blacula’s. Jacinto Molina, Maria Perschy, Abraham Soafer. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Hell Week.” Mamuwalde must pose as a visiting professor holding night classes at an upstate university in order to track the theft of an Egyptian mummy by members of a raucous campus fraternity. Tim Matheson, Mitch Vogel, Ed Begley, Jr., Ted Cassidy. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Midnight After Dark.” To obtain a grandfather clock dating back to Napoleon, Mamuwalde must spend the night in a haunted house. John Astin, Arlene Golonka, Mantan Moreland.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Consider the Stakes.” When Mamuwalde crosses paths at last with Count Dracula (Charles Macauley), his revenge is thwarted by the arrival of the great grandson of the Count’s nemesis Dr. Van Helsing (special guest star Harold Gould). Key Medford, Keye Luke, Ann Ruymen. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Hortense and Victory.” A Burbank spiritualist (Joan Blondell) tempts Mamuwalde with the prospect of speaking to his lost love Luva but her price is the costliest jewel in Mr. Cagliostro’s collection. Roddy McDowall, Robert DoQui. Special Guest Star: Vincent Price. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Djinn Rummy.” An Arabian spirit (Michael Ansara) causes trouble for Mamuwalde while Skillet (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) attempts to settle an old score. Nehemiah Persoff, Malachi Throne, Nita Talbot. 60 min.

10:00 MAMUWALDE, P.I. “Point, Counterpoint.” Peters (Roy Thinnes) and Thomas (Hari Rhodes) prevail upon Mamuwalde to pose as a pimp to crack a white slavery ring but the vampire’s cover draws the attention of a maverick LAPD cop (William Shatner). Paul Benjamin, Joan Pringle, Fuddle Bagley. 60 min.

To be continued…

38 Responses Mamuwalde, PI … and why the Hell not?
Posted By wilbur twinhorse : November 18, 2011 11:35 pm

RHS, that’s…sick! How did you come up with all that? Joan Blondell? It’s like a parallel TV universe of possible Black Mannix and Cannons! Ugh, weird, weird, weird. I tip my hat to your inventiveness and wish I was more literate in the milieu.

Posted By wilbur twinhorse : November 18, 2011 11:35 pm

RHS, that’s…sick! How did you come up with all that? Joan Blondell? It’s like a parallel TV universe of possible Black Mannix and Cannons! Ugh, weird, weird, weird. I tip my hat to your inventiveness and wish I was more literate in the milieu.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : November 19, 2011 2:46 am

William Marshall was one of Hollywood’s great might-have beens. I remember first seeing him in Demetrius and the Gladiators as the Nubian champion and being floored by his wonderful, booming voice. If he’d come along 10 years later, he would have been James Earl Jones. He would have been the voice of Darth Vader.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : November 19, 2011 2:46 am

William Marshall was one of Hollywood’s great might-have beens. I remember first seeing him in Demetrius and the Gladiators as the Nubian champion and being floored by his wonderful, booming voice. If he’d come along 10 years later, he would have been James Earl Jones. He would have been the voice of Darth Vader.

Posted By cdthomas : November 19, 2011 5:42 am

The only thing to make this perfect: The second season crossover with Special Guest Star Darren McGavin — as that newspaperman gets the biggest scoop of his life, only to get caught in a power play between Mamuwalde and Caligostro’s daemonic rival for antiquities.

Posted By cdthomas : November 19, 2011 5:42 am

The only thing to make this perfect: The second season crossover with Special Guest Star Darren McGavin — as that newspaperman gets the biggest scoop of his life, only to get caught in a power play between Mamuwalde and Caligostro’s daemonic rival for antiquities.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 19, 2011 8:11 am

Oh, what might have been! I’d rather watch Mamuwalde, P.I. than any of the police procedurals currently airing on CBS. Whatever happened to the P.I. show? There were some shows with some great characters.

P.S. I’d kind of like to see Griff, Nakia and Bronk now.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 19, 2011 8:11 am

Oh, what might have been! I’d rather watch Mamuwalde, P.I. than any of the police procedurals currently airing on CBS. Whatever happened to the P.I. show? There were some shows with some great characters.

P.S. I’d kind of like to see Griff, Nakia and Bronk now.

Posted By benovite : November 19, 2011 9:17 am

…uh right. Anyway back to the title font you pointed out, I refer to it as the Close Encounters font since that classic 1977 UFO movie used the same font, although it premiered years after the Blackula sequel.

Posted By benovite : November 19, 2011 9:17 am

…uh right. Anyway back to the title font you pointed out, I refer to it as the Close Encounters font since that classic 1977 UFO movie used the same font, although it premiered years after the Blackula sequel.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 19, 2011 12:35 pm

The second season crossover with Special Guest Star Darren McGavin

I really tried to strike a fine balance between geeky wish fulfillment and the sort of built-in disappointment that comes with following any show… ergo, the lame college episode with Tim Matheson that all true Blacula, P.I. fans would groan about but tolerate.

I really wanted to work in a Blacula vs. Yorga episode but I thought maybe that was more a TV movie thing after Blacula gets canceled.

Yeah, I put a lot of thought into this.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 19, 2011 12:35 pm

The second season crossover with Special Guest Star Darren McGavin

I really tried to strike a fine balance between geeky wish fulfillment and the sort of built-in disappointment that comes with following any show… ergo, the lame college episode with Tim Matheson that all true Blacula, P.I. fans would groan about but tolerate.

I really wanted to work in a Blacula vs. Yorga episode but I thought maybe that was more a TV movie thing after Blacula gets canceled.

Yeah, I put a lot of thought into this.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : November 19, 2011 12:52 pm

What a shame that this is a series that never was! Great guests stars, exciting plots, doomed to failure — it would have been a classic! It could have run on the “Chiller” network forever! You know and love your genre and I really appreciated the inclusion of Marj Dusay, Matheson & Vogel, McDowall, and Antoinette Bower, and all the rest!

This is amusing and very sad, too. It could have been glorious, even if it only lasted 13 episodes!

Wonderful!

Posted By MedusaMorlock : November 19, 2011 12:52 pm

What a shame that this is a series that never was! Great guests stars, exciting plots, doomed to failure — it would have been a classic! It could have run on the “Chiller” network forever! You know and love your genre and I really appreciated the inclusion of Marj Dusay, Matheson & Vogel, McDowall, and Antoinette Bower, and all the rest!

This is amusing and very sad, too. It could have been glorious, even if it only lasted 13 episodes!

Wonderful!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 19, 2011 1:24 pm

I bet the Night Train to Cockcrow episodes would beat the crap out of the werewolf on a cruise ship episode of The Night Stalker.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : November 19, 2011 1:24 pm

I bet the Night Train to Cockcrow episodes would beat the crap out of the werewolf on a cruise ship episode of The Night Stalker.

Posted By Pamela Porter : November 19, 2011 2:23 pm

You just listed my entire TV childhood/young adolescent history here. Val Bisoglio? Be still my heart.

I would have so watched this. I’d so watch it *now*

Posted By Pamela Porter : November 19, 2011 2:23 pm

You just listed my entire TV childhood/young adolescent history here. Val Bisoglio? Be still my heart.

I would have so watched this. I’d so watch it *now*

Posted By cdthomas : November 19, 2011 3:43 pm

Now, now, that college ep can’t be that lame, if Ted Cassidy’s the Big Bad….

Posted By cdthomas : November 19, 2011 3:43 pm

Now, now, that college ep can’t be that lame, if Ted Cassidy’s the Big Bad….

Posted By Dennis Cozzalio : November 19, 2011 5:04 pm

Considering how almost every horror-centric TV series collapsed on itself within a few episodes, I think this proposal has to be considered a great lost opportunity, as well as the valuable work of a mad genius. Why couldn’t it have been you, Richard, instead of Fred Silverman? (Besides the obvious fact that you were about 13 years old at the time.)

Posted By Dennis Cozzalio : November 19, 2011 5:04 pm

Considering how almost every horror-centric TV series collapsed on itself within a few episodes, I think this proposal has to be considered a great lost opportunity, as well as the valuable work of a mad genius. Why couldn’t it have been you, Richard, instead of Fred Silverman? (Besides the obvious fact that you were about 13 years old at the time.)

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 19, 2011 5:07 pm

If a chimpanzee can pick hit shows, why can’t a 13 year old kid?

Re: the chimp – that really happened, right?

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 19, 2011 5:07 pm

If a chimpanzee can pick hit shows, why can’t a 13 year old kid?

Re: the chimp – that really happened, right?

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 5:08 pm

I think you need to include an episode where Mamuwalde P.E. gets loaned out to Hawaii 5-0! Enjoyed this post. Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Night Stalker, I remember those shows, but not Griff, Nakia, or Bronk.

Posted By Jenni : November 19, 2011 5:08 pm

I think you need to include an episode where Mamuwalde P.E. gets loaned out to Hawaii 5-0! Enjoyed this post. Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Night Stalker, I remember those shows, but not Griff, Nakia, or Bronk.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 19, 2011 5:45 pm

I want to see this show SO BAD!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 19, 2011 5:45 pm

I want to see this show SO BAD!

Posted By Fred : November 21, 2011 7:09 pm

I see you reference the character of Skillet in the “Djinn Rummy” episode, but where’s Leroy? Any self-respecting fan of Sanford and Son knows you can’t have Skillet without his pal Leroy. And you have to figure that Demond Wilson, Whitman Mayo or Gregory Sierra would have had a supporting role in at least one episode of the show (I notice you had a cameo from Aunt Esther in “The Hour of Our Death”).

Posted By Fred : November 21, 2011 7:09 pm

I see you reference the character of Skillet in the “Djinn Rummy” episode, but where’s Leroy? Any self-respecting fan of Sanford and Son knows you can’t have Skillet without his pal Leroy. And you have to figure that Demond Wilson, Whitman Mayo or Gregory Sierra would have had a supporting role in at least one episode of the show (I notice you had a cameo from Aunt Esther in “The Hour of Our Death”).

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 21, 2011 7:32 pm

Skillet is a character from Blacula, played by the mighty Ji-Tu Cumbuka – I’m actually not familiar with the same-named but wholly different character from Sanford and Son.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : November 21, 2011 7:32 pm

Skillet is a character from Blacula, played by the mighty Ji-Tu Cumbuka – I’m actually not familiar with the same-named but wholly different character from Sanford and Son.

Posted By Cool Bev : November 21, 2011 8:30 pm

Jacinto Molina? Who is that? Oh, wait, I see what you did there:

http://www.podcastalley.com/podcast_details.php?pod_id=93529

Posted By Cool Bev : November 21, 2011 8:30 pm

Jacinto Molina? Who is that? Oh, wait, I see what you did there:

http://www.podcastalley.com/podcast_details.php?pod_id=93529

Posted By Fred : November 21, 2011 8:49 pm

I didn’t know that about Ji-Tu Cumbuka and the character of Skillet in Blacula. But I did know that Ji-Tu Cumbuka appeared in the Sanford and Son episode where it turned out that Aunt Esther was B.B. King’s long, lost love.

Posted By Fred : November 21, 2011 8:49 pm

I didn’t know that about Ji-Tu Cumbuka and the character of Skillet in Blacula. But I did know that Ji-Tu Cumbuka appeared in the Sanford and Son episode where it turned out that Aunt Esther was B.B. King’s long, lost love.

Posted By swac : November 23, 2011 10:12 am

Brilliant, although I’m guessing that in its second season, they’d try to make it more family-friendly by adding Rodney Allen Rippy as a cute orphan that Mamuwalde takes under his cape, er, wing.

And, given Gordon “Supernewf” Pinsent’s post-Blacula career (one-shot appearances on Banacek and Cannon, before returning to Canada), he’d probably have jumped at the chance to be a series regular.

Posted By swac : November 23, 2011 10:12 am

Brilliant, although I’m guessing that in its second season, they’d try to make it more family-friendly by adding Rodney Allen Rippy as a cute orphan that Mamuwalde takes under his cape, er, wing.

And, given Gordon “Supernewf” Pinsent’s post-Blacula career (one-shot appearances on Banacek and Cannon, before returning to Canada), he’d probably have jumped at the chance to be a series regular.

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