Era of The Daywalker: 25 Years of ‘BLADE’ (1998)

Twenty-five years ago, New Line Cinema decided to make a movie adaptation of the Marvel Comics character “Blade” aka Eric Cross aka Frank Blade. Unlike the present-day MCU, Blade was darker, and bloodier, and spawned an era of five years when vampire hunting was cool. Let’s go back to the beginning to see how it all began.

In 1973, the comic book Tomb of Dracula was a hit on the streets but needed a new character. Marv Wolfman and Gene Conlan came up with a black hero named Blade that was a vampire slayer. The original backstory was he was born in a brothel in Brooklyn in 1931 to Tara Cross-Brooks, a hooker that worked there. As he was being born, the doctor that came to deliver the baby was actually the vampire Deacon Frost. Frost bit Tara during birth and while Tara died, her son Eric was born with immunity to vampire bites. Eric would claim his hatred for vampires was genetic although Marv Wolfman would tinker with the character a bit.

The original Blade was a product of the 70s with a “street” accent, colorful clothes, and a big afro. Marv himself claims as he became a better writer, he improved his characters. Blade would later be outfitted with his signature leather jacket and he was off and running. One key thing of note before getting into the movie, the whole “daywalker” traits didn’t come to be until he was bitten by Morbius, another famous Marvel vampire. This bite gave him all of the strengths of a vampire but none of the weaknesses. Marv also claimed Blade was becoming immensely popular but because Tomb of Dracula had several other characters, he had to dial Blade back a bit.

The original Blade looked justtttttt a bit different

The original Blade movie was supposed to happen in 1992 when New World Pictures bought Marvel Comics. Veteran actor Richard Roundtree was going to be the dagger-carrying Blade. Then the film was in development hell as rapper LL Cool Jr wanted to replace the aging Roundtree, New Line Cinema stepped in and actually requested Blade be white while also wanting the movie to be a spoof.

Finally, veteran David S Goyer (The Dark Knight – 2008stepped in and said, “Give me the (bleep) script!” while saying to hell with Blade being white or a spoof. He settled on effects specialist Stephen Norrington as director and now had to find a new lead. He didn’t have to wait very long as popular actor Wesley Snipes (Demolition Man – 1993) was trying to get a Black Panther movie off the ground (which eventually took nearly 20 years to do) but failing. Goyer instantly wanted Snipes as Blade and Wesley was more than happy to sign on.

Snipes never looked better

So, what was Blade about once Goyer had creative control? The movie opens with Blade being born to Vanessa Brooks (Sanaa Lathan – Love & Basketball 2000) only for Vanessa to die in childbirth. Thirty years later her son Eric is now Blade, half human and half vampire. He has all their strengths and none of their weakness except his thirst for blood. Racquel (Traci Lords – Cry Baby 1990) leads an unsuspecting human to a blood rave where the ravers are all vampires. Just as they’re about to feast on their prey, Blade attacks saves the guy, and kills everyone except Quinn (Donal Logue – The Patriot 2000).

When the police arrive, Quinn is taken to the hospital where he attacks Dr. Curtis Webb (Tim Guinee – Vampires 1998) and his assistant Karen (N’Bushe Wright – Dead Presidents 1995). Webb is killed and Karen is infected when Blade once again saves the day by running off Quinn. Returning home with Karen, his longtime friend Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson – Payback 1999) treats Karen while Whistler gives her the scoop. Blade is immune to sunlight, garlic, and silver but needs a special serum to counter his bloodthirst. He loots the valuables of the vampires to pay for his serum.

While this is going on, the ambitious vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff – Public Enemies 2009) is at odds with the head of the vampire council Dragonetti (Udo Kier – Blood for Dracula 1974). Dragonetti wants to maintain the relatively peaceful co-existence between humans and vampires while Frost wants to wipe out humanity and summon the blood god La Magra. Can Whistler, Karen, and Blade stop Frost & his crew from taking over the world? Watch the movie to find out!

Frost used sunscreen to go outside, Christopher Lee take notes

Is it a good action movie? YES! It is a brilliantly done movie even if they took some creative liberties. In the books, Blade carried two daggers while the movie gave him a samurai sword. In the comics, Blade doesn’t get his superpowers until he’s bitten by Morbius but they just had him born with them in Blade. In the books, it’s Abraham Van Helsing who is Blade’s confidant but for the movie’s purpose, they changed it to Abraham Whistler.

Deacon Frost in the comic books is an old white man who’s an actual church deacon. The only similarity between the book Frost and the movie Frost is the desire to take over. Now it’s an action movie so don’t expect Shakespearian dialog, but the soundtrack and special effects are great. Blade has a ton of great one liners, Kris Kristofferson plays a great grumpy old man, Dorff was in his element as a movie villain, Udo Kier played a great creepy mob boss in the short time he was on screen, and N’Bushe Wright was great as Karen.

“Van Helsing? Who the hell is that?” – Whistler

So how did it do? It had a 45-million-dollar budget and ended up grossing 70 million domestically and another 60 million worldwide. This was long before the MCU but it’s still considered Marvel’s first successful movie. David S. Goyer demanded Marv Wolfman and Gene Conlan get their rightful credit for creating the characters.

Two sequels came out, one in 1999 and one in 2003. The first sequel I covered years ago. In 2006, a TV series for Blade was released with Sticky Fingaz in the role of Blade. For fans wondering where Snipes was, he was in a little bit of trouble for tax evasion. All in all, if you’re looking to shut your brain off and enjoy a popcorn vampire-slaying flick, Blade is for you.

Wesley Snipes was great in Blade. It’s been a fun 25 years.

About Kevin H's number one heel. Favorite horror movies: Insidious, Friday the 13th Part 6, Trick Or Treat (Gene Simmons version), the original King Kong, the Alien/Aliens franchise, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, I've been a writer since middle school and have been so controversial I was suspended in middle school, nearly got suspended in high school and kicked off two websites for bad language or different opinions. I can write reviews, fan fics, real fics, romance, sports writing, critiques and anything I'm challenged to do.

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