Films That Time Forgot: Billy The Kid Versus Dracula

Films That Time Forgot: Billy The Kid Versus Dracula

 

Billy The Kid Versus Dracula (1966)

Director: William Beaudine

Tagline: The West’s deadliest gunfighter! The world's most diabolical killer!

Plot: Somewhere in the Old West, a nameless vampire played by John Carradine (only the title identifies him as Dracula) stalks around dressed like a stage magician and acting like the common ancestor of Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. But since only ignorant, superstitious foreign-types believe in vampires, he arouses no suspicion whatsoever—even when rich, widowed ranch-owner Marjorie Bennett shows him a picture of her pretty daughter Melinda Plowman, and his eyes bug out in creepy, inhuman appreciation.

So Carradine pretends to be Plowman’s uncle in order to take over her ranch. While he kills a series of local girls (and lambs) for blood, he decides Plowman is worthy of being his “mate,” and he plans to spirit her away to her family’s played-out silver mine and make her into one of the undead. Unfortunately for him, she’s already engaged to surprisingly clean-cut ranch boss William “Billy The Kid” Bonney (Chuck Courtney), who doesn’t believe in vampires, but doesn’t appreciate threats to his lady. Also unfortunately for Carradine, the ignorant, superstitious foreign-type parents of one of his previous victims are determined to chip in and stop his blood-drinking ways, regardless of whether anyone else believes them about the vampire thing.

Key scenes: When the stagecoach containing Bennett, her brother William Forrest, and several others stops for a break, Carradine wanders off and kills a Native American girl who’s getting water for a group resting nearby. In the process, he displays his method of mesmerizing his victims, which involves suddenly appearing via a sloppy edit, then bugging his eyes out further and turning orange for some reason:

When the girl’s people find her dead, they naturally take revenge by breaking a 10-year peace in order to ride after the stagecoach and attack it, in a drawn-out but tremendously generic cowboys-vs.-Indians chase. The scene ends with the chase still afoot—it looks like stock footage, actually—but apparently they catch up and slaughter everyone inside, including Bennett and Forrest, then drag them all out of the stagecoach and carefully arrange them in a group on the ground. Carradine then casually shows up in the form of a large, awkwardly stiff fake bat on a string (seen repeatedly throughout this film) and steals Forrest’s ID in order to better impersonate him.

Meanwhile, Courtney and Plowman play Old West-style “ride around shooting things” games, while Courtney’s rival Bing Russell watches bitterly with a friend, who explains things for the audience’s sake in one awkward sentence: “That guy Bonney sure moved in on you. First your foreman’s job, then your girlfriend.” Tensions rise when Courtney finds a lamb with its throat neatly sliced open in a ring all the way around its neck, and informs Plowman that “Indian Jim says he saw a large bat do it.”

Later, when news of the stagecoach massacre reaches Courtney and the local sheriff, a German family which Carradine attacked in the first scene explains that Courtney’s nameless town has a vampire problem. Shortly thereafter, Carradine comes down to chat with the German family; they recognize him, but in spite of his obviously evil facial hair and continental manners, no one believes he’s a bad guy. Late that night, he comes for their daughter, once again displaying his supernatural power to turn orange:

Much of the rest of the movie proceeds in a dull series of confrontations between Carradine and Courtney, who’s starting to think there’s something mildy fishy about the eye-rolling guy who never removes his top hat, cape, or giant red bow. Rather than trying to fit in, Carradine commands Courtney to stop prying, and especially to stop listening to “those German immigrants,” or get fired.

Eventually, Courtney’s rival Russell beats the crap out of Courtney in a perfectly fair fight, which forces Courtney to consult the local doctor, a crusty old lady who happens to have a lot of helpful books about vampires on hand. Armed with her knowledge—though he promptly ignores most of it—he prepares to fight back. Eventually, Courtney loses his job and his girl, and he’s forced to kill the murderous Russell and subsequently escape from jail, with the doc’s help. But finally, he confronts Carradine in the silver mine, where the vampire has taken Plowman for her conversion. When bullets are no use against vampires, Courtney awkwardly wrestles with Carradine, who makes angry-poodle noises to indicate his displeasure:

Courtney once again gets his ass kicked—he’s a pretty paltry shadow of a legend in this film—but the doctor and the sheriff show up in time for a second confrontation, in which Courtney tries the famous Superman “I’m all out of bullets, so I’ll throw my gun at my enemy” move. Unbelievably, it works—while bullets had no effect on Carradine, the empty gun beans him on the head, and he’s knocked out long enough for Courtney to pound the doctor’s scalpel into his heart. Weirdly, even though the much-seen fake-bat-on-a-string is clearly Carradine, it briefly appears on its own and attempts to escape, then drops as though someone had cut its string. Meanwhile, the power of time-lapse dissolves shows that Carradine’s threat has been ended permanently.

Can easily be distinguished by: The presence of John Carradine—father of actors Keith, David, and Robert Carradine—who claimed to be the most prolific actor in history, with more than 300 films to his credit. He stands out from the cast in pretty much the exact same way Bela Legosi did in Ed Wood’s films, both as a superior actor, and as a really odd, inhuman presence.

Sign that it was made in 1966: The highly repetitive woooo-woooo music (which sometimes sounds like a theremin, and at other times like a simple singing saw) that plays whenever vampiric doin’s are a-transpirin’.

Timeless message: People in small, cloistered, backward rural towns should learn to be less unquestionably accepting of weird-dressing, weird-talking, weird-acting strangers.

Memorable quotes: When the vampire kills the German girl, her mother wants to fight back, but her father keeps advocating spineless surrender, with lines like “How? How does one fight the supernatural? A thing that is dead, and still alive?”

Courtney, meanwhile, fesses up to his own ignorance of vampire-killings while talking to the doctor: “I hate to think it could be true. Though I don’t know about things like that, doc. I ain’t had too much schoolin’.” She then pulls a random dusty book off a small shelf, flips it open to the middle, and reads a lengthy (and surprisingly accurate, as it turns out) taxonomy of vampires, complete with “footnotes here in German,” which she helpfully translates.

Not everyone is as edumacated as the doctor, though. The local sheriff dismisses the German mother’s talk of vampires, but when someone raises the subject later, he blurts colorfully: “Ah yeah, vampires. Seems to me I recollect that she said that’s who done the killin’!”

Meanwhile, while the vampire explores the played-out silver mine to see if it’s a good place for a final confrontation, Courtney runs into Plowman outside, and they have this heatless, amiable exchange: “Where’s your uncle?” “Inside.” “What’s he doing in an abandoned mine?” “That’s his business.” “Maybe it’s my business too.” Suddenly heartbroken, the delicate Plowman then wails “Oh, Billy, what’s happening to us? We’ve never quarreled like this before, ever!”

Finally, a bullheaded conversation between the doctor and Courtney anticipates his latest ass-kicking, as he refuses her best poundin’ scalpel: “Billy, take this! That gun’ll do you no good against him!” “I never seen a man yet a bullet wouldn’t stop.” “But he’s not a man.” [Shrug.] “This’ll do.”

Available on DVD from Cheezy Flicks Entertainment.