Curse of the Undead (1959)
At a time when the cycle of Sci-Fi flicks were coming to an end at Universal-International, this oddity was released to the public that crossed two of the most popular genre’s of cinema together. Obviously the title of the film represents the horror genre but the other isn’t comedy which has been known to work. It’s the western which puts this low budgeter in a small group of films that attempted to join the two together and yes, it’s a whole lot better than Billy The Kid vs. Dracula.
For the western them of this film written and directed by Edward Dein, we have the familiar battle over water rights being staged by the gruff Bruce Gordon and his outfit vs. John Hoyt’s family that includes daughter Kathleen Crowley. Lingering in the shadows of this deserted town (low budget remember) is the dressed in black, Michael Pate. It strikes me quickly that Pate is looking to start a range war when he kills Hoyt by what appears to be the bite of the vampire. Local minister Eric Fleming takes note of the two bite marks after having already seen them on a young girl in town that had recently been found dead after the opening credits had played on screen.
Quite naturally Hoyt’s death is blamed on his antagonistic neighbor, Gordon which sets off Hoyt’s gun slinging son in his direction. Despite the efforts of sheriff Edward Binns, the kid is shot down leaving Miss Crowley the sole owner of the ranch and she wants her pound of flesh. Freely advertising for a gunslinger, Pate shows up at her door. Pate looks every inch the nasty gunslinger in black with a cold look in his eyes. It’s actually a familiar look for Mr. Pate as he played in countless westerns over a long period of time in both movies and television. The funny thing about this gunslinger is he doesn’t seem too fast on the draw and never gets in the first shot. Still he always walks away unscathed.
“Having faith strengthens the weakness of any man.”
When Crowley hires Pate to do his dirty work, doubling as town Minister and the man who loves her, Fleming wants to get rid of Pate by digging into his past and learning more about the deadly man in black. Pate knows that to accomplish his ultimate goal, he’ll have to remove the man in cloth who opposes him. For a film that strictly aims to play the lower half of a double bill, there is an impressively acted scene between the duo as they argue over right and wrong and God vs. The Devil. It’s Fleming’s research that gives us the reason for Pate’s involvement with Crowley and his unusual predicament.
After discovering the vampire’s origins, Fleming sets out to prove his theory and end Pate’s reign of terror and vampirism upon the land.
Sparse in production values, this plays fine coming in at 79 minutes. While there is no outright star in the picture, not even John Agar, faces like John Hoyt’s and Pate’s were surely familiar to the paying crowd who may have ventured into the local drive in where this was probably playing. Edward Binns as the sheriff doing his best to keep the peace is another well known commodity in character parts.
Director Dein would go on to helm one more feature for the drive in theaters, The Leech Woman but might be best remembered to film buffs as the writer/director of Shack Out on 101 which has seemed to gain some steam among film aficionados. It seems that his wife Mildred shared in the writing duties of both films receiving on screen credits along side of him.
I recall catching this eons ago on late night TV before nailing down a VHS copy upon it’s initial release in the market place. Give it a look if the chance and Michael Pate present themselves.