Wednesday, April 9, 2008
BILLY THE KID vs. DRACULA (1964)
(1966) Starring: Roy Barcroft, Marjorie Bennett,Jr., Harry Carey, Olive Carey, John Carradine, William Challee, Charlita
Director: William Beaudine
This film belongs in a category I like to refer to as the "Lost Genres"...
Y'know, like cliffhanger serials and blaxploitation films, the Horror/Fantasy Western has went the way of the do-do bird and vanished from the face of the Earth. Unlike the other two above-mentioned "Lost Genres", the mix of Wild West shenanigans and elements of the imagination just never seemed to click with the movie-going public, making one wonder why the people behind such projects even bothered. Or, more likely, "What the hell were they thinkin'/drinkin'?!?!" (Your choice..)
BILLY THE KID vs. DRACULA is one of those type of films. While good for a few unintentional laughs, the reason for it's existence boggles my mind. Was it the fact that Westerns and Horror films at the time of this production were the two most profitable types of films to make that led to the decision to mix elements from both into one film? Let's hope so, because if this was someone's idea of artistic expression (seeing as how money and art are the only reasons in my mind to make a movie) , we're either dealing with the visions of a madman or a talentless hack.
The Plot: "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" opens somewhere out on the range, with an elderly European couple (if one is to take their forced accents for granted) and their daughter Lisa camping out under the stars of a beautiful day-for-night shot. "Mama" awakens from a terrible nightmare , probably brought on by the chirping (No..really.) of the rubber bat hovering just above the family wagon. She begins ranting about vampires, and checks the darling Lisa, and after she's confident that she hasn't been violated by nosferatu, resumes her nightly rest.
This scene confirms that Europeans (even ones with cheesy fake accents), much like the underworld community of Gotham City, are a cowardly and superstitious lot.
Enter stage right John Carradine (jeez...was this guy always 100 years old?) as the fiendish king of vampires, Dracula. Dressed very much like Mandrake the Magician (or The Wizard of Gore, take yer pick), he startles the now-awakened Lisa and hits her with what I have affectionately deemed the "Ol' Vampire Hyp-Mo-Tize Whammy", which involves shining a red heat lamp in Carradine's face and having him look all scary and stuff. I could be mistaken, though, for this may be a natural reaction for Ol' John, turning beet red, because he was involved in such a shoddy production, but sadly one will never know for he has passed away and his son David (of "Deathrace 2000" and "Kung Fu" fame) has rightfully taken his father's mantle of King of the Hammy Actors who appear in no-budget drivel. We are then introduced to Billy the Kid (portrayed by Chuck Courtney) , who has given up his life of crime and reformed. He now has a job as a foreman on the Bentley ranch and is in love with Betty Bentley (Plowman) whom he plans to marry, if only he can get permission from Betty's long-lost uncle, her only living relative....well, that is, who was alive until ol' Drac stopped his stagecoach and murders him and decides to take his place. Oh yeah....and the aforementioned European couple? after their daughter dies from severe blood loss, Billy runs across them in their period of mourning and offers them a job at the ranch. Don'tcha just love pleasant coincidences?
Well, to make a long story short: Drac shows up posin' as Betty's uncle, gets on Billy's bad side by firing him from his foreman job and forbiddin' him from seeing Betty, all because after Drac sees a picture of her, he gets the hots for her.....maybe that's why his face gets all red when he apllies the Whammy on her...he just all flustered and twitterpated. The kindly European woman gives Billy an education on the Van Helsing Way of vampire disposal, Drac and Billy fight (during the daytime...which I thought was hilarious because of all the obvious day-for-night shots mixed in with obvious night shots) ending with a wooden stake thru Drac's chest that turns him (off-screen) into a plastic skeleton with a cape. The End.
Carradine considered this his worst film ('course, after seeing THE UNEARTHLY, I personally he shoulda reconsidered), and stated that he did it only for the money to fund his Shakespearean theatre company. BILLY THE KID vs. DRACULA was directed by William Beaudine, who got his start in the silent era and is best known for directing Bowery Boys shorts, "Bela Lugosi Meets the Brooklyn Gorilla", and an amazing 70 (!) episodes of "Lassie". Nominated for a Golden Turkey Award, this film went on to become a minor cult classic, and originally appeared on a double bill with another personal favorite of mine, the even more ridulous sounding JESSE JAMES meets FRANKENSTEIN's DAUGHTER. Highly reccommended to Psychotronic fans and anyone who will watch anything with a rubber bat in it.
I highly recommend the Cheezy Flix DVD (pictured above), which contains a highly informative and hilarious commentary by Drive-In expert, Joe Bob Briggs.