Starring: John Carradine, Chuck Courtney, Melinda Plowman
Director: William Beaudine
Mood: If you want to say you saw Billy the Kid fight Dracula… let’s be real here, that’s the only reason to watch.
I knew what I was doing when I ordered Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. You don’t buy a movie with that title, distributed by “cheezyflicks.com”, expecting something deep and mind-blowing. I actually thought it was going to be the worst Western I’ve ever seen.
Somehow, it’s not.
I’m not saying this is a great movie. The plot is pretty silly, and the quality is f*cking atrocious. It looks like it was filmed at the drive-in using an ancient video camera using maximum digital zoom. The menu screen created for the DVD release even looks like it was designed with Microsoft Paint.
But… it’s better than Dodge City.
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is that brand of ridiculous that Quentin Tarantino could turn into cinematic gold. He’s obviously into both vampires (From Dusk Till Dawn) and thriller Westerns (The Hateful Eight). I’d be ALL OVER a Tarantino remake of this movie.
If you’re into B-movies and want to see the weirdest Western to ever feature a Carradine – this movie has you covered.
Billy the Kid vs. Dracula starts with Dracula (John Carradine) riding a stagecoach at night with a small group of pioneer-type people. He’s come to the American West for some unspecified reason, but it doesn’t matter why. What matters is that one of the travelers makes the HUGE F*CKING MISTAKE of showing Dracula a picture of her beautiful 18-year-old daughter.
Anyway. Dracula (who goes by the name James Underhill) needs to get himself a piece of that action. He decides to get close to pretty young Elizabeth (Melinda Casey) by posing as her uncle. Unfortunately for Dracula, her fiancé is Billy the Kid (Chuck Courtney).
A German couple who had previously encountered Drac are also determined to help protect Elizabeth, who of course is super gullible and buys into everything. Together with the no-nonsense Dr. Henrietta Hull (Olive Carey), they all do their best to thwart Dracula. And even though he has no trouble hypnotizing every other woman he meets and drinking their blood, he can’t get his teeth into Elizabeth.
John Carradine’s Dracula is actually quite good, for a B-movie Drac. His moustache and coiffed beard are on point, and his manner is elegant and polished. Even his costume is surprisingly un-cheesy; it’s the ensemble you’d expect a European vampire to wear in a Western. And he leans just far enough into the overacting, especially when hypnotizing women (which for some reason turns him carrot-orange).
Chuck Courtney as Billy the Kid is probably the most ‘meh’ Billy the Kid that has ever graced the screen. He’s all sweet and caring and boring, and his bad boy days are in the past. Part of it is that the story has him settled into town and friendly with the local law, which is no Billy I know. But also Courtney is so vanilla, the character is just any old gunfighter.
Melinda Casey looks and sounds like she was plucked out of a ‘60s beach movie and dropped into the role of Elizabeth Bentley. She’s not bad… she’s just not even slightly Western. This is my ongoing pet peeve: the modern makeup, hair, and costuming on most female Western characters of the ’50s and ’60s.
But then you get Olive Carey as the town’s whiskey-drinking, independent AF doctor Henrietta. Out of nowhere, this movie has a badass older woman getting the job done. I was surprised and totally delighted by her character.
Make no mistake, this is still the cheesiest kind of movie cheese. Billy the Kid vs. Dracula was filmed in eight days, and $25,000 UNDER BUDGET. They cut every corner. The editing is choppy. Footage is reused. Dracula ‘vanishes’ by simply cutting to the next frame with Carradine no longer in the shot.
And even though he easily holds his own in a fistfight with Billy, Dracula can be knocked unconscious if you throw a gun at him.
I’d love to watch this movie at a drive-in. It’s exactly that kind of flick. Like if you had beers and popcorn, you could have a good laugh.