Saturday 27 January 2007

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1965)

If you can't guess what's going to happen when a couple with a young blonde daughter start talking in thick European accents about a large plastic bat flitting around the sky, then this film might just surprise you. Otherwise it's pretty obvious what's going on. Count Dracula is back, apparently, and this time he's in the bug eyed form of John Carradine who may just have slummed it in more awful movies than Bela Lugosi. The scariest thing about him here is just how far he lets himself ham it up, while ignoring traditionally important things to the Count as sunlight. He's also taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque because he's ended up in Arizona, where he sets his sights on Betty Bentley, the young woman who runs the Double Bar B ranch.

Unfortunately for him Betty's fiance is William Bonnie, the notorious outlaw who has apparently decided to stop being bad and settle down. For some reason everyone knows he's Billy the Kid but doesn't seem to care. The sheriff doesn't arrest him and the idiot ranch hand beats him up. I don't get that bit at all, but then not a lot of this film even tries to make sense. In fact even the title, while a great exploitation title in itself, is completely inaccurate. Billy the Kid isn't really the nemesis here at all, especially as he hasn't even heard of vampires. It's the immigrant woman who provides the knowledge and the local uneducated doctor who knows exactly where to find things out who provides the means.

That doctor is played by Olive Carey, wife of Harry and mother of Harry Jr, who is also in the film as a wagonmaster. I blinked and missed him but Olive was decent and makes me wonder why she didn't act more. She only appeared in 52 movies, over a 55 year period, of which this was the last, but in comparison, her husband appeared in 260. The immigrant woman, Eva Oster, is played by Virginia Christine who I don't know in the slightest but apparently everyone in the States, my wife included, knows her well as Mrs Olson, the Folgers Coffee woman from the long running commercials.

They're decent, if nothing special, but a number of people here really ought to be rounded up and shot by Billy the Kid himself for what they did to the industry here: Carl Hittleman who wrote the film, John Carradine who overacted so stunningly and maybe even director William Beaudine who had proved long before this that he had talent but who still made films like this. For someone with the talent to make silent movies like Sparrows and Little Annie Rooney, only to degenerate to dreck like The Ape Man and this is really sad. He shot this back to back with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, which I've seen and surprisingly enjoyed. Even Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla had enough bizarreness to rate far higher than this.

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