Billy the Kid versus Dracula – USA, 1965 – reviews

Billy the Kid versus Dracula – aka Billy the Kid vs. Dracula – is a 1965 American horror-Western feature film directed by William Beaudine (Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla; Voodoo Man; The Ape Man) from a screenplay by Carl K. Hittleman. The Circle Productions movie stars John Carradine, Chuck Courtney, Melinda Plowman and Virginia Christine.

The film was released theatrically on 10 April 1966 as part of a double-bill, along with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. The films were produced by television producer Carroll Case for Joseph E. Levine.

Kino Lorber is releasing the film on Blu-ray in August 2019 with and audio commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and John Harrison and a selection of trailers

Plot:

Dracula’s plot to convert Billy the Kid’s fiancee, Betty Bentley, into his vampire wife. Dracula impersonates Bentley’s uncle and schemes to make her his vampiric bride.

Fortunately for Betty, a German immigrant couple come to work for her and warn Bentley that her “uncle” is a vampire. While Bentley does not believe them, their concerns confirm Billy’s suspicions that something is not quite right with Betty’s uncle…

Review:

Take generous quantities of ham and corn. Stir. Add marquee-friendly title. Serve to a jaded public. This myth-mash of vampire lore and Old West legend is unfortunately far duller than its outré title suggests. Its undead villain (he is never referred to as Dracula) preys on a pretty young rancher, posing as her uncle in a plot to make her his mate. He is finally stymied by her sceptical fiancé, one William H. Bonney.

As a western, it is at best perfunctory – there is an indigenous American stagecoach attack, a brief fistfight and not much else. It is equally cursory as a vampire film – Carradine has no reflection, but is fine to walk around in daylight. His entrances are preceded by shots of a distinctly rubbery bat; tongues were avowedly in cheeks, which is just as well.

Director William Beaudine had been making films since the silent era. He earned the sobriquet ‘One Shot’ for his speedy, no-frills technique. This one was made in eight days in mid 1965 at the Corrigan Movie Ranch in California, founded by B-western star Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan.

John Carradine responds to the absurdity of the premise with a supremely arch performance centred on the muscles around his eyes, while Chuck Courtney essays perhaps the blandest Billy the Kid in screen history.

Nostalgia buffs may note the presence of veteran western players Roy Barcroft, as the slow-witted sheriff; Harry Carey Jr; and Carey’s mother, Olive, who is refreshingly wry as the town doctor, who naturally has a book on vampires among her medical texts.

Kevin Grant, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

” …this one would probably be considered a tiresome bore as well if it weren’t for the presence of John Carradine, who had last assayed the role of Dracula in two Universal movies from the forties. It is his hamming that adds the needed spark (and the inadvertent laughs) to the movie, and it’s hard not to giggle when the camera gives us close-ups of Dracula’s glowering but baggy eyes.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Highly enjoyable hokum with Carradine stalking Indian squaws in the manner born and giving the movie quite some class.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, Batsford, 1979

” …this movie is chock full of wackiness from start to finish. Carradine sort of wanders around looking dazed and confused while Ms. Plowman appears to be as dopey as she is beautiful. Chuck Courtney is about as exciting in the lead role as cardboard…” Ian Jane, Rock! Shock! Pop!

“It is certainly extremely cheaply made – there is a very poor bat on a wire effect, while every time John Carradine changes from a bat to a person the bat conveniently flies off camera and then Carradine steps out – but then if cheapness were the only measure of truly bad films it is one most vampire movies would be guilty of.” Richard Scheib, Moria

Cast and characters:

  • John Carradine … Count Dracula / posing as James Underhill
  • Chuck Courtney … William ‘Billy the Kid’ Bonney
  • Melinda Casey … Elizabeth (Betty) Bentley (as Melinda Plowman)
  • Virginia Christine … Eva Oster
  • Walter Janovitz … Franz Oster (as Walter Janowitz)
  • Bing Russell … Dan ‘Red’ Thorpe
  • Olive Carey … Doctor Henrietta Hull
  • Roy Barcroft … Sheriff Griffin
  • Hannie Landman … Lisa Oster
  • Richard Reeves … Pete – Saloonkeeper
  • Marjorie Bennett … Mary Ann Bentley
  • William Forrest … The Real James Underhill
  • George Cisar … Joe Flake
  • Harry Carey Jr. … Ben Dooley
  • Leonard P. Geer … Yancy (as Lennie Geer)
  • William Challee … Tom – Station Agent (as William Chalee)
  • Charlita … Nana – Indian Maiden
  • Max Kleven … Sandy Newman (as Max Klevin)
  • Jack Williams … Duffy

Technical details:

88 minutes | Pathécolor | 1.85: 1 | Mono

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