Born Jack Chowder in Miami on November 15th 1939, Thalmus Rasulala was a superb actor. He holds a place forever in my heart for his portrayal of Dr. Gordon Thomas in ‘Blacula’ (1972) that successfully mixed the horror and blaxploitation markets. In this classic flick interior decorators (the gays ya know!) transport the coffin of a long dead African prince (Mamuwalde, who unknown to them was bitten by a vampire) back to the modern day (or at least early 70s) Watts section of Los Angeles. Before you can say, “Awaken” Blacula (Shakespearean actor William Marshall who was also the King of Cartoons on PeeWee’s Playhouse!) does just that and begins his bloody guzzle-fest. Soon he encounters the woman who is also the reincarnation of his dead wife Tuva (the gorgeous Vonetta McGee). Hero Thalmus plays the ‘Van Helsing’ part in the movie. He’s the guy with the big…(ahem) stake…who takes out Blacula – at least until the sequel ‘’Scream Blacula Scream’ came out the next year. Denise Nicholas is also in this one. The music is awesome –Barry White did the ‘Blacula’ theme and there’s even an appearance (2 songs!) by The Hues Corporation (‘Rock the Boat’).

Thalmus Rasulala was all over the place as an actor. He won a Theatre World Award (as Jack Chowder) during the 1967-68 Broadway season for Pearl Bailey’s all black rendition of ‘Hello Dolly!’ Lotsa movies and TV roles followed. He was big in 70s actioners like ‘Friday Foster’ and ‘Bucktown’ (both with Pam Grier). He was Omro (Kunta Kinte’s father) in the ‘Roots’ miniseries. He was Dr. Alvarez in the delicious 1977 TV Movie ‘Killer On Board’ with a deadly (overacting must be a symptom!) virus on a cruise ship infecting an all-star cast which included Patty Duke, George Hamilton, Jane Seymour, Frank Converse, Claude Akins, Beatrice Straight, and Susan Howard. Egads! Other big roles include ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’, ‘The Defiant Ones’ the 1986 TV-remake, ‘Cool Breeze’, ‘Willie Dynamite’, ‘Cornbread Earl and Me’, ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ (kind of cool 1979 TV-Movie), ‘The Last Hard Men’, ‘The Preppie Murder’, ‘The Sophisticated Gents’, ‘Adios Amigo’, ‘Mr. Ricco’ (with Dean Martin!), ‘The Boss’ Wife’, ‘Lambada’ (The forbidden dance!), ‘The Jerk Too’, and The President’s Mistress’. He played Bill Thomas (Mabel King’s ex) on several episodes of ‘What’s Happening?’ He was the police commissioner in ‘New Jack City’, and played Jack Chowder (a character with his real name!) in the Steven Segal’s ‘Above the Law’ (1988). Trekkies probably recognize him as Capt. Donald Varley on the ‘Contagion’ episode of ‘The Next Generation’. His final film role was as General Afir in ‘Mom and Dad Save the World’ that was released posthumously.

He was also a special guest on the episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ featuring guest star Richard Pryor. Supposedly one of the conditions of Pryor hosting was to have Thalmus appear on the show. The pair do a great ‘Exorcist’ parody with Thalmus as Father Merrin and Pryor as Father Karras. The priests have some intense discipline to dole out for Regan (Laraine Newman) when she starts bad mouthing their mammas.

This wonderful actor left behind a great body of film and TV work when died of a massive heart attack in Albuquerque NM on October 9th 1991. He was only 52. He was survived by his wife Sherilyn and four children.