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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula(1966)

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teaser Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

A 38-year-old John Carradine wore graystick in his hair as Bram Stoker's undying Count Dracula, a supporting player in the Universal Studios monster rally House of Frankenstein (1944). Hewing closer to Stoker's description of the character than had Bela Lugosi's Slavic branding of the role in 1931, Jack P. Pierce's makeup afforded Carradine a distinguished, aristocratic aspect that helped to distance the actor from his Bohemian turn as French serial killer Bluebeard (1944) a year earlier. Twenty-one years after Carradine hung up the beaver hat of his bogus "Baron Lajos" in the sequel House of Dracula (1945), he again stepped into the storied bloodsucker's opera cloak for Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1966). This time around, Carradine's hair was a suspicious squid ink black, no doubt to give the then 59-year-old actor a more youthful and vital look. Or at least that was the plan.

Plagued by arthritis through the last act of his fifty year career in films, Carradine looks frail here, and stooped under the weight of a satin-lined cape (a shortcoming aggravated by having the actor wear ruffled cuffs and a plush red necktie that recall his turn as the elegant cardsharp of John Ford's Stagecoach in 1939). This is not to say the actor doesn't give his all in the part, and what joys there are to be taken from the threadbare Billy the Kid versus Dracula are credited to his ripe and ready (but mostly ripe) performance. Carradine growls and scowls like a terrier, barking orders ("I demand privacy!") and dealing rebukes ("You clumsy idiot!") to the hayseed locals of the philistine hamlet he has invaded. (The use of red key lighting when Dracula is in attack mode makes Carradine look like he's mesmerizing a rotisserie chicken.) Pretending to be the uncle of silver mine heiress Melinda Plowman, Carradine's "Uncle Joseph" brings to mind Joseph Cotten's "Merry Widow Killer" in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and the scenes in which Dracula pledges his undying love at the bedside of his "niece" carry a discomfiting incestuous charge.

Support players Virginia Christine (as a fearful but resourceful immigrant) and Olive Carey (as a "backwater female pill-slinger") bring levity to the lethargic proceedings with both intentional and unintentional laughs but Chuck Courtney's Billy the Kid is a dull nonstarter. As conceived by Carl K. Hittleman, the former boy outlaw has reformed himself to the extreme of being a bland nonentity, seeming more inconsequentially white-bread than Audie Murphy in The Kid from Texas (1950). Courtney is such an unpersuasive (and perpetually self-deprecating) hero that viewers would be forgiven for hoping that Dracula (oddly never so named in the script) get away with it. Sadly, the Undying Count is defeated yet again in the final frames, impervious to Billy's non-silver bullets but kayoed by being hit in the face with the empty revolver. It's an ignominious end for the Undying Count and this film's biggest laugh.

Producer: Carroll Case
Director: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Carl K. Hittleman
Cinematography: Lothrop B. Worth
Film Editing: Roy V. Livingston
Art Direction: Paul Sylos
Music: Raoul Kraushaar
Cast: John Carradine (Count Dracula), Chuck Courtney (William 'Billy the Kid' Bonney), Melinda Plowman (Elizabeth Bentley), Virginia Christine (Eva Oster), Walter Janovitz (Franz Oster), Bing Russell (Dan 'Red' Thorpe).
C-73m.

by Richard Harland Smith

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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Billy the Kid versus Dracula was originally slated to begin production in 1961 with Joe Breen in the director's chair.

According to assistant director Howard W. Koch, Billy the Kid versus Dracula was shot in only five days.

Interiors for the film were shot at The Producer's Studio in Hollywood.

Exteriors were lensed at Corriganville, Hollywood stuntman Ray "Crash" Corrigan's ranch in California's Simi Valley. Other films that used the same location include King Vidor's Duel in the Sun (1946), John Ford's Fort Apache (1948), Sam Fuller's The Baron of Arizona (1950) and Henry Koster's Biblical drama The Robe (1953).

During production, John Carradine would walk off the set during his lunch breaks to visit a Melrose Avenue bar in full Dracula regalia.

Billy the Kid versus Dracula was shot back-to-back at Corriganville with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), also written by Carl K. Hittleman and directed by William Beaudine.

During shooting, John Carradine protested that Dracula would never use the word "vampire," and so substituted the word "undead" where the V-word appeared in the script.

Cinematographer Lothrop Worth admitted that, although William Beaudine had a reputation for speed, he required rest periods between scene takes.

The film's score, credited to Raoul Kraushaar, contains cues from the Republic serial The Purple Monster Strikes (1945) and Edgar Ulmer's Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957).

Prior to its March 30, 1966 release, 12 minutes were cut from Billy the Kid versus Dracula.

Billy the Kid versus Dracula and its co-hit Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter were marketed as having been filmed in "Shockorama," allegedly "the newest in terror-tainment."

In a 1990 interview with Filmfax magazine, Virginia Christine had nothing to say about Billy the Kid versus Dracula.

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

SOURCES:
John Carradine: The Films by Tom Weaver
William Beaudine: From Silents to Television by Wendy L. Marshall
"John Carradine: He Loved Acting and He Was Good At It" by Raymond Stanley (www.classicimages.com)
www.britmovie.co.uk
IMDB
en.wikipedia.org

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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

John Carradine was born Richmond Reed Carradine in Manhattan's Greenwich Village on February 5, 1906. Raised in Poughkeepsie, Carradine's mother was a surgeon and his father an attorney who also dabbled in painting and poetry.

Carradine's early years were spent as a budding painter and sketch artist. Working his way to New Orleans, he made his regional theatre debut in 1925, later joining a Shakespearean repertory company.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Carradine had a habit of strolling Hollywood Boulevard while reciting passages from Shakespeare, a custom that resulted in the nickname "the Bard of the Boulevard."

Carradine made his first films billed as "John Peter Richmond," officially changing his name to John Carradine only when he signed a contract with Fox in 1935.

Early roles for Carradine were bits in the Universal horror films The Invisible Man (1933) and The Black Cat (1934).

From 1936 on, Carradine became a stock player for director John Ford, with memorable appearances in Ford's Stagecoach (1939) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940).

John Carradine had worked for director William Beaudine twenty years earlier, on the cut-rate Monogram chillers Voodoo Man (1944) with Bela Lugosi and The Face of Marble (1946).

In Universal's The Mummy's Ghost (1944), Carradine's murderous high priest stalks reincarnated Egyptian princess Ananka, a role that went to his Billy the Kid versus Dracula costar Virginia Christine in Ghost's sequel The Mummy's Curse (1944).

Late in life, Carradine played melancholy werewolf Erle Kenton in Joe Dante's horror satire The Howling (1981). The character name was a coy reference to Carradine's House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) director Erle C. Kenton.

William Beaudine had begun his long career in motion pictures in 1909, earning $10 a week by sweeping sets and emptying cuspidors at New York's Biograph Studios.

Relocating to Hollywood, Beaudine was an extra in several silent films by D. W. Griffith as he worked his way up to the position of assistant director. By 1915, Beaudine had graduated to helming comic shorts and, by 1922, his first feature.

As a silent film director, Beaudine worked with Hollywood's biggest stars, including Rudolph Valentino, Theda Bara and Mary Pickford.

In 1926, Beaudine directed Pickford in the eerie Gothic orphan drama Sparrows, filmed on a massive swamp set built on the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio lot in Hollywood.

Beaudine's plans for retirement were nullified by the October 1929 stock market crash. With his savings wiped out, Beaudine was forced back to work for whatever meager salary was offered.

Earning far less than he had before the Great Depression, Beaudine worked quickly to finish films. His reputation for speeding through a film shoot and usually capturing scenes in one take inspired the nickname "One Shot."

Beaudine directed Dracula (1931) star Bela Lugosi in four movies: The Ape Man (1943), Ghosts on the Loose (1943), Voodoo Man (1944), and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952).

William "One-Shot" Beaudine ended his career directing episodes of such TV series as The Green Hornet and Lassie.

In his final years, Beaudine worked as a licensed real estate agent. He died on March 18, 1970, at the age of 78, considerably shy of his projected death at age 100.

Billy the Kid versus Dracula star Chuck Courtney was the son of Elizabeth Courtney, a costumer for Columbia Pictures. She reportedly fitted Marilyn Monroe for a gown in which the actress hoped to remarry baseball player Joe DiMaggio prior to her untimely death on August 5, 1962.

Beginning with bit parts in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Five Against the House (1955) and Tea and Sympathy (1956), Courtney moved on to stunt work, with credits extending from Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) to Mom and Dad Save the World (1992).

A 22-year-old Chuck Courtney had been the star of William Beaudine's earlier oater Born to the Saddle (1953), alongside former Frankenstein monster Glenn Strange.

On the long-running series The Lone Ranger, Courtney played Dan Reid, nephew of Clayton Moore's masked lawman.

Courtney played a featured role in the earlier western-horror hybrid Teenage Monster (1958).

Courtney was a favored actor of John Wayne and Robert Conrad and received supporting roles in several of their vehicles.

In 1994, Courtney was the recipient of The Golden Boot Award for his significant contributions to westerns on both the big and small screens.

Debilitated by a series of strokes that left him all but speechless, Chuck Courtney took his own life in his North Hollywood home on January 19, 2000. He was 69.

Iowa-born actress Virginia Christine was no stranger to fright films, having appeared in Universal's The Mummy's Curse (1944) and House of Horrors (1946), as well as the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

In 1964, Virginia Christine began her long run as Mrs. Olson, old world pitchwoman for Folger's Coffee in a series of television ads that lasted until 1971.

In 1970, Christine's hometown of Stanton, Ohio, celebrated its bicentennial by redesigning its water tower to resemble a coffee pot.

Second-string villain Bing Russell was the father of actor Kurt Russell. A veteran of many westerns, the elder Russell also played bits in the sci-fi classics Tarantula (1955) and The Deadly Mantis (1957).

Cast as "backwoods female pill-slinger" Doc Hull was Olive Carey, widow of actor Harry Carey, in her last film role.

Carey's son Harry Carey, Jr., who had costarred with John Wayne as one of The Three Godfathers (1948), contributed a cameo appearance to Billy the Kid versus Dracula as a stagecoach wagonmaster.

George Cisar, who plays ill-fated firewater salesman Joe Flake, was a veteran of such spookshows as The War of the Worlds (1953), The Werewolf (1956), The Giant Claw (1957) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), as well as several Elvis Presley vehicles.

Seen briefly as an Indian squaw who falls victim to Carradine's perambulating revenant is Charlita Roeder, who had starred opposite the original Count Dracula in William Beaudine's Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952).

Director of photography Lothrop B. Worth had previously lensed I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957).

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

SOURCES:
John Carradine: The Films by Tom Weaver
William Beaudine: From Silents to Television by Wendy L. Marshall
"John Carradine: He Loved Acting and He Was Good At It" by Raymond Stanley (www.classicimages.com)
www.britmovie.co.uk
IMDB
en.wikipedia.org

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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

"Highly enjoyable hokum with Carradine stalking Indian squaws in the manner born and giving the movie quite some class. One of the best titles in the horror compendium."
Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

"Ineptly made horror-Western... Mildly bearable at times, but when bored you can play 'Count the Anachronisms'-there are plenty."
Castle of Frankenstein

"Within a blink of a bloodshot eye, Dracula is killing everything around, from buxom Indian maidens to sheep. Billy, meanwhile, studies up on his van Helsing school of vampire killing lessons and chases the rootin' tootin' teether all over the prairie. Not much to sink your teeth into."
Ed Naha, Horrors: From Screen to Scream

"John Carradine considers this his worst film and wishes to burn the negative. You'll wish to provide the matches once you witness this abomination scripted by Karl Hittleman (sic), whose brain must have been transplanted to a corpse before he sat down to write. Directed by William 'Crankem-out-Fast' Beaudine, who abounds in absurdities and vampire lore miscalculations, such as having Carradine/Dracula creeping in broad daylight. By all means, don't see it if you can't miss it."
John Stanley, Revenge of the Creature Features Movie Guide

"John Carradine (in a top hat and a goatee) is Dracula for the first time since 1945... Funny dialogue and low production values in this hopeless horror Western."
Michael Weldon, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film

"The movie is so awful that, along with its stablemate Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), it has achieved cult status."
The Aurum Encyclopedia of Film: Horror

"The film is not a particularly good one, but then neither is it a resoundingly bad one, it neither having the truly parsimonious cheapness nor the dialogue howlers that makes so many of these films alternately so horrendous and so perversely entertaining. It is certainly very cheap... but then if cheapness were the only measure of truly bad films it is one most vampire movies would be guilty of... One suspects that the film's reputation is something that has been derived from only a cursory glance at its title more than anything else."
Richard Scheib The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review

"Classic grade 'Z' horror/western has fifty-nine year-old Carradine recreating his Dracula role in the movies for the first time since House of Dracula (1945). Actually, it's better than expected... Although the production values are bottom-of-the-barrel (including a particularly fake-looking bat), this is worth watching for Carradine's remarkable, over-the-top performance and such old-time western performers as Virginia Christine, Harry Carey, Jr., and Roy Barcroft."
Stephen Jones, The Essential Monster Movie Guide

"This is one of those flicks to watch just to say you saw it, or to try and impress someone that they actually made a film like this..."
Horrorwatch.com

"John Carradine as Dracula, who travels the Old West trying to put the bite on a pretty ranch owner. But Billy to the rescue! Usually seen around 4 or 5 a.m. on channel 11 or 13..."
San Luis Obispo New Times

"What a stinker of a high concept! But unlike a lot of the trash Carradine appeared in during his last quarter-century of acting, this flick is so deadly dull that it's painful to endure... While the horror aspects of the plot are halfway enjoyable, you'll cringe and quickly OD on all the western shenanigans... (and) I guess it's just nitpicking to point out that they have Dracula roaming the countryside at high noon."
Steve Puchalski, Slimetime

"This entertaining cheapie features chintzy FX (the vampire-bat-on-a-string rivals Plan 9's [1959] infamous flying saucer hubcaps), a veteran supporting cast, and more choice lines ("Oh God! The vampire test!") than you can shake a stake at, as well as adding a few (mostly cost-efficient) twists to traditional vampire lore. A worthy addition to any B-movie buff's late-night video library."
Joe Kane, The Phantom's Ultimate Movie Guide

"It's every bit as silly as its title implies, but it isn't unwatchable; its veteran cast and off-the-wall premise make it worth a peek for the easy-to-please fan, and not too onerous a screen-watching chore for the obstinate horror buff who feels it imperative to see every vampire movie."
Tom Weaver, John Carradine: The Films

"A time-honored plot; Dracula sets his sights, the next victim screams a fair bit, and the noble boyfriend comes to the rescue. So far, so predictable. But this 'B' movie breaks out from the pack in several ways; the director, William "One Shot" Beaudine, keeps a cracking pace, so script weaknesses really don't have time to drag the story down. The cast, fresh from obscurity and coffee commercials, are not the world's greatest, but all were committed to the movie, and that's impressive. The one 'big name', John Carradine, hams it up for all he was worth, but really was miscast; he's too nervy and agitated to make the coolest villain of them all."
Andrew Heenan, Vampyreverse

"Final verdict on this movie is that it just doesn't live up to its ludicrous title."
It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

"A camp classic." www.RottenTomatoes.com

"My worst film? That's easy, a thing called Billy the Kid versus Dracula. I need the money, to be honest. Actors have to live, too, you know. It was a bad film. I don't even remember it. I was absolutely numb."
John Carradine

compiled by Richard Harland Smith

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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Mrs. Bentley: "You know, this is a little frightening, this traveling at night. And when we, uh, stopped to pick you up, way out in the middle of a black nowhere, I nearly died of a heart attack."

Dracula: Eighteen and beautiful...yes, I would like to see her."

Joe Flake: "Well, well, what've we got here, my good man?"
Tim: "Just a wandering band of Indians passing through."
Joe Flake: "Well, good...maybe I can sell 'em some firewater, eh?"
Tim: "You better not."
Joe Flake: "No?"
Tim: "No."
Joe Flake: "Oh."

Eva: "It was the vampire. I knew it. I knew there would be trouble."
Billy: "What does she mean, 'the vampire'?"
Dooley: "Well, we picked these people up near Council Bluffs and they never stop talking about bats and vampires. They claim one's following them. Even now."

Dracula: "I a vampire? What are you talking about? I've never heard anything so ridiculous."Dooley: "Oh, they got vampires on the brain. That's all they talk about."

Dracula: "So much has happened this evening, I'm afraid sleep is out of the question for me."

Eva: "My Lisa is dead. The marks of a vampire on her throat."Franz: "How does one fight the supernatural? A thing that is dead...and still alive."

Dracula: "This young man has been listening to some superstitious immigrants. He's rushed out here to save you."
Betty: "Save me? From what?"
Dracula: "From me, no doubt, my dear niece. This young man thinks I'm some sort of monster."

Betty: "What happened, Billy?"
Billy: "Well, a girl was...was killed."
Betty: "By who?"
Billy: "That's just it. No one seems to know. Her mother swears a...a vampire did it."
Betty: "A vampire? How stupid."
Billy: "That's what I thought at first, but...
Betty: "Have you ever heard of anything so fantastic, Uncle James?"Dracula: "Ridiculous. Fifteenth Century witchcraft talk."

Dracula: "I'm very tired. I might sleep all day."

Eva: "I've brought some wolfs bane."
Betty: "Wolfs bane?"
Eva: "Jah. In my country, we put it around the windows at night. It keeps away evil things, like bats and vampires."
Betty: "Oh, you're joking."
Eva: "No, I'm serious. Very serious...Please do not remove these, nor open your window."
Betty: "Oh, now really, Eva..."
Eva: "I beg of you to listen to me. Didn't Billy tell you?"
Betty: "Well, yes, but...Well, it seems so unreal..."
Eva: "Because it seems unreal, people do not guard themselves and so they lose their lives. And even worse."
Betty: "Worse?"
Eva: "Jah. When the vampire takes a mate, he turns the one he chooses into one of the living dead, like himself."
Betty: "That's a horrible thought. Well, I probably won't be able to sleep a wink tonight."

Betty: "Know what this is?"
Billy: "No, what?"
Betty: "Wolfs bane."
Billy: "Wolfs bane?"
Betty: "Mmm hmm. It's, uh, guaranteed to keep vampires and bats out of your room."

Billy: "Don't be giving away any more carcasses until you check with me."

Betty: "Eva...Eva, look, you've got to stop this nonsense about bats and vampires. I mean, it's the 19th Century, not the middle ages."

Billy: "You know that lamb I told you about? Its throat was ripped wide open. At least that's what the boys told me."
Doc: "You think it could be the work of a vampire, is that it?"
Billy: "I hate to think it could be true but, well, I...I don't know about things like that. You know, I...I ain't had too much schoolin'."

Doc: "Wait a minute. Listen. (Reads) 'According to an old European superstition, a vampire is a ghost which leaves its resting place at night to suck the blood of living victims. Humans, when possible. Sometimes it kills its victims, other times it keeps them alive. Sometimes a vampire takes one of his victims as a mate and eventually turns her into a vampire.' Now you know as much about it as I do."
Billy: "Gosh. Well, how do you know if a person is a vampire? How can you tell?"
Doc: "Well, there's some footnotes here in German. My German's pretty bad. But one thing I can make out: (Reads) 'A vampire...does not cast...a reflection...in a mirror."

Dracula: "Now my dear, I'd like to see the cave your mother told me about."
Betty: "The cave? Oh, you mean the abandoned silver mine. Well, there's, there's nothing there except a bunch of scorpions and bats."

Billy: "Found another lamb with his throat cut."
Betty: "Well, animals have been attacked before."
Billy: "Not like this. Indian Jim was on guard. He says he saw a large bat do it. No signs of a struggle. There's something spooky about all this, something I don't understand."

Eva: "Is something wrong, Miss Betty?"
Betty: "Oh, it's Billy. He's been acting so strangely lately. Now he wants me to try some, some experiment on Uncle James."
Eva: "What, what, what kind of experiment?"
Betty: "I don't know, it has to do with a mirror."
Eva: "Oh God, the vampire test!"

Dracula: "Now we shall take care of those immigrants."

Betty: "Uncle James..."
Dracula: "Don't be afraid, my child. From the moment I saw your picture, I wanted you, I chose you for my mate. Tomorrow you will become one of the undead, as I am.
Betty: "If that is your wish."

Doc: "I don't like it. I don't like it a bit."
Billy: "What's wrong with her Doc? What are those marks on her neck?"
Doc: "Well, if I didn't know better, I'd say it was the work of a vampire."
Billy: "A vampire? Her uncle?"
Doc: "I been reading up on the subject. Pretty spooky."

Dracula: "Where do I find this backwoods female pillslinger?"

Billy: "I've never seen a man yet a bullet won't stop."
Doc: "But he's not a man!"

Dracula: "Now my dear you will sleep...sleep...sleep...sleep...sleep..."

Dracula: "Your bullets can't hurt me."

Billy: "At least I paid him back for Betty."

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

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Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula

"THE WEST'S DEADLIEST GUNFIGHTER! THE WORLD'S MOST DIABOLICAL KILLER!"
--Tagline for Billy the Kid Versus Dracula

When this film and its companion piece, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter appeared as a double bill in 1966, they pretty much doubled the number of U.S.-made horror westerns. The films marked the end of the road for prolific Hollywood director William "One-Shot" Beaudine, while also serving as punch lines of many a joke. To John Carradine, who stars as Count Dracula, it was the worst film in his career, though there are many more likely contenders whose less catchy titles might not have sprung as readily to mind. Yet it clearly falls into the camp category of movies "so bad they're good," giving classics like Robot Monster (1953) and Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) a run for their money. Moreover, at 73 minutes it moves quickly and never takes itself too seriously, which is more than one can say for contemporary clunkers like Mother! (2017) and Battlefield Earth (2000).

Despite titles like The Terror of Tiny Town (1938) and The Fiend that Walked the West (1958), horror and terror have rarely come together in the States. The only two notable examples fell within a year of each other, the no-budget Teenage Monster (1958), about a teenager transformed into a monster when struck by a meteor, and the imaginative Curse of the Undead (1959), about a town stalked by a gun-slinging vampire. The hybrid genre has been more popular in Mexico, where setting tales of monsters and demons in the past almost inevitably puts them into a frontier setting. As a result, the ideas behind Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and its companion piece were relatively fresh when they appeared in 1966.

In the former, Carradine returns to the role of Dracula -- which he had played in Universal's monster mash-ups House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) -- although he's never actually named in the film. Instead, he's traveling incognito as James Underhill, the uncle of the beautiful Elizabeth Bentley (Melinda Plowman). He hopes to make her into his latest bride, but there's one hitch in his plans. Her current boyfriend, a reformed William "Billy the Kid" Bonney (Chuck Courtney), isn't ready to give her up.

Although credited to credited to Carl K. Hittleman, the script is reputed to have been written by Jack Lewis, a World War II and Korean War veteran, who had worked as a military consultant for films as well as doing stunt work and writing scripts for Westerns and the science fiction film The Amazing Transparent Man (1960). Billy the Kid Versus Dracula combined elements of his past work, but he wouldn't be credited for it. Allegedly, he sold the piece outright to Carl K. Hittleman for $250. Hittleman had written the script for Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and needed a companion piece to be shot back-to-back with it. The two films were produced by Carroll Chase, who was primarily a TV producer for such shows as Racket Squad and Sugarfoot, and released through Joseph E. Levine's Embassy Pictures.

To direct, Chase hired Beaudine, a director who had become famous for his versatility and his ability to work quickly and on limited budgets. It hadn't always been that way. In the silent era, he had been considered a major director, particularly for his work with Mary Pickford on Little Annie Rooney (1925) and Sparrows (1926). A trip to England in the mid-'30s, where he worked at Warner Bros.' Teddington Studio, derailed his career. On his return to Hollywood in 1937, he had trouble reestablishing himself, eventually turning to poverty row productions to make ends meet. Although he directed some of the best Bowery Boys films, he also directed some major turkeys filled with cinematic gaffes he had neither the budgets nor the time to fix with retakes. His speed earned him the nickname "One-Shot" Beaudine. Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter would be his final features, though he would continue doing television work through 1968. When he retired at 76, he was Hollywood's oldest working professional.

The picture's casting coup, of course, was Carradine, a prolific actor with more than 350 credits in his 65-year film and television career. An esteemed character actor, Carradine had become part of the John Ford Stock Company when he played a small role in The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) and continued with the director through ten more films, most notably Stagecoach (1939) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Although he had unbilled bits in such horror classics as The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), he didn't move into the genre in a major way until Universal cast him as a mad scientist trying to turn an ape into a woman in Captive Wild Woman (1943). He continued working in horror films throughout his career, first to finance his touring theatrical company, which gave him the chance to tackle such Shakespearean leads as Hamlet and Macbeth, and later to pay alimony to his three ex-wives and child support for his five children, including actors David, Keith, Robert and Bruce Carradine. By the end of his career, he was sometimes working for as little as $500 per picture.

By the time Carradine made Billy the Kid Versus Dracula, he was already suffering from crippling arthritis, which made it rather difficult for him to hold his own in fight scenes. When he had first played Dracula in the '40s, studio hairdressers had been required to put gray streaks in his hair to make him look mature enough for the role. By 1966, he had to have his hair died black to look fit enough for the character.

For his hero, Beaudine cast Courtney, a bit player turned stunt man on such films as Spartacus and Swiss Family Robinson (both 1960), though he was probably most recognizable as Dan Reid, the title character's nephew on The Lone Ranger. He had previously worked with Beaudine on the Western Born to the Saddle (1953). The cast also included veteran talents like Virginia Christine, best known as Mrs. Olson in the Folgers Coffee commercials, British comic actress Marjorie Bennett (Victor Buono's mother in 1962's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Olive Carey, a veteran character actress and the widow of early cowboy star Harry Carey, and her son Harry Carey, Jr.

The film was shot in only eight days (some sources say five) in the Producers Studio (now Raleigh Studios) on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood and at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley, CA. True to his nickname, "One-Shot" Beaudine didn't bother with retakes if he could avoid them. As a result, the film includes people calling Christine "Mrs. Olson," rather than her character name, "Mrs. Oster," and you can hear Carradine yell in pain and surprise when Courtney throws his gun at him. The slipshod nature of some of the work may also be the result of Beaudine's age. At 74, he often required lengthy breaks between takes.

With its clumsy title, high concept, rubber bats and red-tinted shots of Carradine attempting to be menacing, Billy the Kid Versus Dracula has become something of a joke in cinematic history. Like many jokes, however, it's still kind of fun. More generous reviewers have even labeled it "camp," with some suggesting Beaudine may have done the entire thing with tongue firmly planted in cheek. That it exists at all is a testament to the tenacity of Beaudine, a man who refused to knuckle under to economic problems or bad scripts. Once, when a studio executive complained that he was falling behind schedule on one of his low-budget programmers, he is said to have quipped, "You mean someone out there is actually waiting to see THIS?" It's attitudes like that that turn bad movies into classics.

Director: William Beaudine
Producer: Carroll Chase
Screenplay: Carl K. Hittleman, Jack Lewis (uncredited)
Cinematography: Lorthrop B. WorthScore: Raoul Kraushaar
Cast: John Carradine (Count Dracula), Chuck Courtney (William Bonney), Melinda Plowman (Elizabeth Bentley), Virginia Christine (Eva Oster), Walter Janovitz (Franz Oster), Bing Russell (Don 'Red' Thorpe), Olive Carey (Dr. Henrietta Hull), Roy Barcroft (Sheriff Griffin), Marjorie Bennett (Mary Ann Bentley), Harry Carey, Jr. (Ben Dooley)

By Frank Miller

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