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Craig's Movie Club
Movie Reviews

Spotlight on: William Beaudine's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

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William Beaudine's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

From the opening scenes involving a wiggling bat on a string, and credits straight off of an old Batman episode, it is plain that Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is not aiming high. But with a fun performance from John Carradine as the vampire, it more than delivers on the fun.

I first heard of this film (and its companion Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter) when Joe R. Lansdale mentioned them as early inspirations for his own Western-horror effort, Dead in the West. Having enjoyed that book a great deal, I sought out its cinematic predecessors.

Trouble comes to the West when Dracula rides in on a stagecoach with a banker, his sister, and a whiskey "salesman" whose wares are all half-empty. The vampire is infatuated by a portrait of the banker's niece -- who just happens to be the girlfriend of one William H. Bonney, ex-outlaw starting a new life as a rancher. Dracula quickly dispatches with the family and, posing as her never-seen uncle, seeks out the young woman.

Chuck Courtney gives an engaging, natural performance as Billy (no longer a "kid"), and the film keeps its plotline simple, making pleasant viewing for cross-genre fans. Western fans will especially enjoy the attention to period detail (post–Civil War frontier) in costumes and sets.

The basic vampire legends are followed closely too, making it easy for kids to follow along (and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is surprisingly okay for the whole family). There wasn't much money spent (the special effects in particular are very weak, and the production values are strictly television quality), but everyone does their best and offers a solid, pulpy experience.

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