Friday, December 12, 2008

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

With such an appealing genre hybrid, it’s a shame that Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966) is so disappointing. It hardly explores the mythology of Billy the Kid, or the American West, at all—instead, the famed gunslinger is turned into yet another member of the disbelieving choir that makes up the traditional vampire story. Making his way westward, Dracula (John Carradine, expectedly hammy but surprisingly humorless) shares a stagecoach with a woman who shares a picture of her young, beautiful niece. After Indians conveniently attack the stagecoach, killing the mother, Dracula pretends to be the young girl’s uncle and assumes custody of her. Her boyfriend, it turns out, is a reformed Billy the Kid (Chuck Courtney, utterly charm-less). Meanwhile, animals and people keep winding up dead, invariably with punctured neck wounds. Rumors about vampires spread, but who actually believes them? And then one morning, the daughter is found with those trademark holes in her neck. Something must be done—and of course the sheriff won’t do anything about (did we expect anything less?), so it is up to Billy the Kid to fight the legendary Dracula.

Their confrontation, however, is anti-climactic. It’s over with in less than a minute, and the most exciting part is when Billy throws his gun at the vampire—which actually stuns him! From the moment we read the title, we’ve been building up expectations for a big showdown, and what we get is a cheap conclusion lacking in creativity and excitement. The rest of the film is similarly lazy and uninteresting: even for a B-feature, the acting is particularly bad, the pacing deathly slow. It’s as if the entire cast and crew have no enthusiasm for the movie they are working on. And it not only shows, but it is also contagious: as a viewer, I wasn’t the least bit interested in what was happening on-screen, either.

Here is a clip courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.

And, for those interested in watching the unspectacular finale, here it is via YouTube.

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