Billy the Kid VS. Dracula (1966)
For those who may be unaware you did indeed read that title correctly but let me repeat it once more so you’ll be sure ….. Billy the Kid VS. Dracula (1966).
After years between viewings I felt it was time to revisit this laughably inept low point of John Carradine’s career from director, William Beaudine. Better known to film buffs as “One Shot” and this film clearly has one scene in particular that will lend credence to that moniker. The reason for sitting in once again on Carradine’s over the top performance is the film has been rescued from darkened old bootleg prints or low budget labels and put out on blu ray by Kino Lorber in a beautifully maintained/restored print.
“Eighteen and beautiful. Yes I would like to see it.”
So says Dear John while hitching a ride in a stagecoach that includes three fellow passengers. One of which is Marjorie Bennett and her brother played by William Forrest making his first trip west. It’s Bennett who allows John to see a photograph of her lovely daughter which egged on John’s creepy remark. When John draws the blood of an Indian maiden at a stagecoach stop, the Indian braves are on the warpath slaughtering the passengers and driver. John was by this time in rubber bat form watching from afar but he’ll reappear at the scene to lift the wallet of Forrest and claim as his own the photograph of his next intended victim, Miss Melinda Plowman.
She’s eighteen and she’s beautiful.
Billy the Kid is played here in this 74 minute quickie by Chuck Courtney. He’s the ramrod at the ranch owned by Plowman’s mother and supposedly to be aided by her visiting brother. Now that they’re both dead, Carradine, figures to take the identity of the Uncle that Melinda has never seen before and turn her into his vampire bride.
Have I mentioned yet that western regulars Bing Russell, Olive Carey and son Harry Carey Jr. are featured here as well. With Olive, Harry and John involved, one has to laughingly wonder if John Ford gave this a look considering that three members of his stock company have turned up in 1966’s most oddball title.
John proves to be the creepy Uncle 18 year old girls are warned about. He’s practically drooling over this beautiful young woman. In reality John was 60 at the time and Melinda 25. While John’s lusting after the blonde beauty, she’s being watched over by one time Princess Ananka, Virginia Christine, who has herself lost a daughter to a vampire and believes John is the bloodsucker.
John has moved right into his new identity and disapproves of his niece and the outlaw Courtney’s intended marriage. And where does he disappear to in the daylight? Thankfully there’s an abandoned silver mine that he can lay up in when the sun shines the brightest. Now that he’s become her ward he orders Courtney off the ranch and employs Kurt’s dad, Bing, to play rough with the famous outlaw. I’ll let you figure out for yourself who’s going to win that gun draw.
Courtney is starting to believe this talk of vampires and Olive Carey as the town doctor serves as our western Van Helsing. She’s done some research on the subject and suggests they put John to the mirror test.
Let’s jump ahead here to one of my favorite lines in the film. When John learns that his niece is in Olive’s care, he’s quick with the Shakespearean tone, “Backwoods female pill swinger!” Sure to elicit laughs.
I wouldn’t want to disclose much more of this one of a kind plot so please take the time to see it yourself and preferably with a crowd. I took great pleasure in pausing the film and calling in Number 2 son, Kirk, at key points in the film which were funny for all the wrong reasons. One of which is John’s first appearance in the film.
He’s photographed with what can only be a red lamp shining in his face for effect with John giving us the wide, bug eyed look. Mix that with John growling like a chihuahua when angered or in a scuffle and you’re being treated to what is arguably the most embarrassing performance of this fine actor’s career. And that’s saying a lot considering the many low brow titles he appeared in between his roles in more esteemed projects.
Is it just me or did you also see the crewmember through the stagecoach window when John turns up at the massacre scene. My guess is the man I’m referring to was controlling the flying rubber bat that descends towards the coach with bodies lying about. Remember, we’ve only time for “one shot” if we are too believe the stories surrounding the director.
If you’re keeping score, this was I believe John’s third time playing the vampire king. He had previously worn the cape in Universal’s monster rally’s The House of Frankenstein (1944) and The House of Dracula (1945). John would again star as the count in Nocturna (1979) and be a regular in vampire flicks in the coming years. Vampire Hookers being a particular guilty pleasure.
Director Beaudine not only gave us this western horror mash up but also helmed the companion piece of 1966, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Again, you heard me right. I’m guessing that Beaudine is mostly remembered by horror fans for his work at Monogram where he stood behind the camera on titles including The Ape Man and numerous Bowery Boys flicks. He even directed some of John’s earlier cult favorites, Voodoo Man and The Face of Marble.
Can’t say I know much about our young leading players, Melinda and Chuck, but Virginia Christine is very well known to kids of my vintage. Long before I knew she appeared as Lon Chaney’s dream girl in The Mummy’s Curse (1944) she was the old lady who hawked Folger’s coffee in countless TV commercials.
With plenty of day for night filming, I’m not sure if Carradine was ever on set after dark but in the end who cares. This presents us with a rare chance to see the King of Vampires take on one of the west’s most notorious legends. Too bad the producers never followed up with a series of titles aside from the Jesse James/Frankenstein’s Daughter effort. I’d loved to have seen Tim Holt in Wyatt Earp Vs. The Mummy or Rory Calhoun in Wild Bill Hickok Meets The Wolfman.
Could they be out there somewhere but now lost?