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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Billy The Kid Versus Dracula: A movie brought to us courtesy of the Movie & Music Network

Billy the kid Vs Dracula  (1966)

Director: William Beaudine 

Cast: Chuck Courtney, John Carradine, Melinda Plowman


I really wish that I could have been a fly on the wall of the film studio sometime during the mid 1960's when the discussions started about ideas for new horror films. Of course, I wasn't there but nevertheless, in my mind it all went something like this.

Film studio rep: Now we're getting really desperate for some good new horror movies, somebody give me some ideas!!!

Producer: Hmmmm, what about a Dracula story? Everybody loves Dracula!

Film studio rep: No damn way!! Ever since those goddamn Limeys and their goddamn Hammer studios and goddamn Christopher Lee cornered the market in Gothic horror, nobody wants American Vampires any more!

There's silence for a moment until the producer gets another idea......

Producer: I know, I know.......Frankenstein! What about Frankenstein?

Film studio rep: Jesus wept, man!! Ever since those goddamn Limeys and their goddamn Hammer studios and goddamn Christopher Lee and his godammed limey mate, Peter Cushing cornered the market in Gothic horror, nobody wants American Frankenstein any more!

This time the silence is now uncomfortable and seems to last for an age as the producer sees the final dregs of his career die before his eyes......until suddenly a flash bulb seems to appear above the producers head.

Producer: Got it!!! We give those Brits a taste of their own medicine and use some good ol American boys to give Dracula and Frankenstein a real good kick in the balls!

Film studio rep: Now that could work - how's about a using a few Gunslingers to kick some Vampire ass??!!

The excited  producer was already dreaming of wild west vs Gothic Franchise heaven. After all, what could go wrong?........"

When it came to my next choice of movie to watch & review from the wonderful library of the Movie & Music Network, well in all honesty, it took me a few minutes to first decide what suited my mood at the time. Did I want something thought provoking and intelligent? No. Did I want something complex and full of complex psychological themes about the human conditions? No. Did I want something that I wouldn't have to think to hard about and was about as deliciously cheesy as cheesy could be? You're blooming right I did!!...... and after a few moments of perusing the network's library I stumbled on a gem of exquisite cheesiness.

Some time ago, in the deep dark recesses of this blog, I scribbled a feature on movies under the headline of something along the lines of "So bad that they're good". You know the ones, there are films that are so irredeemably flawed yet there is still an undeniable guilty charm about them that draws us back again and again into re-watching them, no matter how many times we vow never to do so again. For some reason, my 'So bad they're good' article didn't feature the subject of this latest article, or the other film made simultaneously with it, the equally wonderfully titled Jesse James Vs Frankenstein. So I think that the only thing for it is to at some point update the list, because quite frankly, Billy the kid Vs Dracula is without doubt one of the most exquisitely enjoyably bad movies that I've ever had the pleasure to see.

For a start, the premise is simply as mad a as the proverbial box of Frogs....

"The world deadliest gunfighter! The worlds most diabolical killer! Dracula travels to the American West, intent on making a beautiful ranch owner his next victim. Unfortunately for the dastardly Transylvanian, her fiancĂ© is the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid. When the gunslinger finds out about it he rushes to save her and with it, destroy the cunning Count. "

If the premise is mind-bogglingly insane, well as are indeed the rest of the ingredients; the acting, direction, filming and editing all range from extremely bad to almost extremely bad. For a start, the film was directed by William Beaudine. What, you've never heard of him? Well, you're in for a treat. William 'one-shot' Beaudine is arguably one of the most prolific, in terms of output, directors in Hollywood history. He directed far too many for me to have bothered to count when I visited his Wikepedia page, suffice to say there are blooming hundreds (well at least there seemed to be, though that might be slightly affected by the glass or two of wine I had while 'researching' his career). 

"I'm sorry my boy, you can't be Billy the kid because you're a wuss."
To be honest, i wold highly recommend looking at his list of movies, not necessarily in order to watch any of them, but simply to enjoy the incredible entertaining names of some of his titles - my absolute favourite being the completely bat shit bonkers title of 'Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla' (1952). I have never watched the said confrontation between Mr Lugosi and the Gorilla - but one is for sure, it is now on my 'must see'. I would sincerely consider my life wasted if I didn't get the opportunity to see that film before I die.

As you may have already guessed, Beaudine obtained the the nickname 'one-shot' due to his highly economical method of filming - and while the myth that he never ever used more than one take is probably indeed that, a myth, the fact is that Billy the kid Vs Dracula certainly includes some of the hallmarks of this quite remarkable director's career. For example, there is one particular scene where one of the cowboys have even killed and the actor clearly moves and flinches as a horse draws near to his 'body'. I just love the fact that the filmmakers may have seen this and thought "what the hell, who cares?...."besides which, we need to get this finished as we start on Jesse James giving Frankenstein a good kicking next week"

"I think I may need the Gentleman's room......"
John Carradine is quite rightly regarded as one of the 'big four' stalwarts in horror history, along with Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I must admit admit that in comparison with the other three, I have always been less enamoured with Carradine's own prolific career. Well, if his performance in Billy the kid Vs Dracula is anything to go by, that viewpoint will have to change, because if you love your over the top cheesy performances (and don't we all?) then this one is perhaps the daddy of them all. I don't know whether it was Carradine's own idea, or one from old 'one-shot', but his idea of showing the demonic and chilling side of the blood-sucking Count was to look squinty eyed into the camera and trying look all menacing like, while at the same time old one-shot' was using his limited supply of red tint lighting. If anything, it simply looks like the actor was suffering from extreme episodes of rampant diarrhoea if the looks on his face are anything to go by - simply hysterical, and not in a scary way. 

Actually, I'm doing John Carradine something of a dis-service as he does have one other facial expression in this film, and that is the lecherous dirty old man leer that he gives the young ranchers daughter whenever he sees her. The actress in question, Melinda Plowman, was indeed rather fabulous looking, that fact cannot be denied. However, I'm pretty sure that if her mother was to show me her picture (as happened in the film) and I pulled my best "I'm going to lick you to death look" (as the Transylvanian terror does in the film) that I would have been railroaded and horsewhipped out of town (that's a Wild West term, you know). But no, nobody says a word.

"Now my dear, he may look at you as if he wants to do very bad things to your body
but I'm sure he's a very nice man"
The rest of the cast do their very (limited) best with the material they were given, though whether any of them would have fared any better with a better script, director and budget is open to question. I mean, I know that I may not be that up on my Wild West mythology, but I really wasn't aware the Billy the kid was actually a clean cut Nancy-boy who was afraid of his own shadow! If he's not showing the very pretty Betty (Plowman) to happily shoot shit up while looking at her all puppy dog like, then he's walking around with the very pretty Betty trying to also convince her that even through he used to kill lots and lots of people he is actually a nice guy now. I could have told him that he needn't worry, because nobody in their right mind would thing this complete mummy's pretty boy could be a psychotic killer.

The film generally looks cheap and is often so badly lit that it's often difficult to tell if it's meant to be day or night time. Consequently, one doesn't know whether old 'one-shot' wasn't particularly aware or simply didn't care about his Vampire lore as the leering Count is often seen to be wandering around in the sunlight. Cheep and not so cheerful too are the scenes where the Transylvanian tickler transforms from a very obvious plastic bat on a string to his blood sucking dirty old man guise. Well actually, no transformation takes place, the plastic bat simply lands behind a waggon and moments later, the creepy Count comes walking nonchalantly out.

Believe me, if you like your blatantly bad films that are so disastrously inept that they are in fact one and a half hours of pure and unadulterated joy. You may not be chilled to the bone but you'll possibly find yourself laughing yourself into an early grave.

Shear genius.

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But hey - don't just take my word for it!. Because thanks to the most wonderful people at the Movie & Music Network, you can watch Billy the kid Vs Dracula for FREE!

You don't need to subscribe to view it - but you never know, after having yourself a sneaky little peak the rest go the Library then it may well be a good idea to do so!

Click RIGHT HERE to watch the movie and let me know what you think!

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