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  Billy the Kid versus Dracula Call Bat Masterson!  Erm...
Year: 1966
Director: William Beaudine
Stars: John Carradine, Chuck Courtney, Melinda Plowman, Virginia Christine, Walter Janovitz, Bing Russell, Olive Carey, Roy Barcroft, Hannie Landman, Richard Reeves, Marjorie Bennett, William Forrest, George Cisar, Harry Carey Jr, Leonard P. Greer
Genre: Horror, Western, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dracula (John Carradine) has spent the previous evening terrorising a family way out West, feasting on the blood of the daughter whose mother is convinced, correctly, that she fell prey to a vampire, though everyone dismisses her as too superstitious. The next day, on a stagecoach journey, the Count is one of the passengers and is interested to hear about a small town where two of the relatives of a nubile young bar owner, Betty (Melinda Plowman) are travelling. So interested, in fact, that he arranges for a war party of Indians to attack the coach and murder everyone on it so he can pose as one of the relatives and exploit the situation…

Billy the Kid versus Dracula was notorious as much for its title as its companion piece, Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter, and bad movie buffs have never been able to make up their minds which was the worst. Or indeed, the best, for this was probably an occasion where the well-worn phrase "so bad it's good" went some way to applying: it wasn't a complete success at being enjoyably terrible, but it did contain a fair few laugh out loud moments, largely thanks to the ridiculous dialogue, which erred on the side of cliché and wound up elevating what could have been a real slog to something more amenable to indulging the viewer.

Needless to say, while Dracula was supposed to be some centuries-old bloodsucker, years of hard drinking had assuredly given Carradine the countenance of a cadaver, which would only increase as his career wound down into the nineteen-eighties where he looked like he had been freshly revived with electricity to mutter a few lines for the filmmakers who remembered him and wanted the nostalgia cachet of including him in their work. All that said, you are forced to assume the vampire here is yer actual Dracula, as he is never named, and instead gives his moniker as "James Underhill", presumably undercover but we can only guess at his overall motives.

Or more probably, the motives of the production company wishing to sell this to America's drive-ins of the sixties and needed a bankable title, therefore thought Billy the Kid versus the Vampire was not containing the correct name recognition factor. As for Billy (played by a polite Chuck Courtney), he was in it and identified as such, even going as far as calling him by his real name, William Bonney, thus proving someone had looked up a history book before penning the screenplay. Mind you, nothing else in the film was adhering to historical fact, Billy here was a good guy for a start, which he definitely wasn't in real life, and simply wants to settle down with Betty. Once he has been convinced vampires are more than superstition and folklore - it takes another victim to win him over - he teams up with the doctor (Olive Carey) to bring him down.

Prior to this, Betty has been pooh-poohing the notion that she and the other young ladies in the town are in danger, taking down the maid's wolfsbane and deciding she doesn't need protection, as all the while Drac is tyrannically protective of her, not because he doesn't want her to throw her life away on Billy, though that's how he behaves, but because he wishes to sink his teeth into her lily white neck. When he's not planning that, he either wanders around in broad daylight without an apparent care in the world, or turns into a large rubber bat; he's also keen on the local abandoned silver mine as an appropriately grim, stark base of operations, where the movie presented its grand finale. Although this didn't really make any greater mistakes than the Jesse James picture, also helmed by William Beaudine before he gave up the movies for TV, it was more fun, with Carradine pulling some extraordinary faces and spouting his arch lines with his customary dedication, no matter that he felt the material was beneath him. What a pro! Music by Raoul Kraushaar.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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