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SHOCKORAMA: BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA / JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSETIN'S DAUGHTER
DVD. Cheezy Flicks.

Billy the Kid vs Dracula / Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's DaughterWhen I first began to read about horror movies as kid, these two films from jobbing director William Beaudine became the stuff of legend – long before deliberately trashy titles became commonplace through companies like Troma, this pairing of famous monsters and Wild West outlaws seemed too ridiculous to be true. Catching the films many years later proved that they didn’t live up to the title promise, though there’s still entertainment value to be had from both.

In Billy the Kid vs Dracula, John Carradine is the vampire (never actually identified as Dracula) who is travelling across the West when his coach companions show him a picture of their teenage niece. Carradine’s eyes light up like a predator’s, but these being more innocent times, no one makes much of it. However, before too long, the coach party are all dead and the vampire is posing as James Underhill, uncle of ranch owner Betty (Melinda Plowman). Dracula is determined to make her his vampire bride, but her boyfriend Billy the Kid (Chuck Courtney) is equally determined to stop him…

Billy the Kid vs Dracula is a mix of camp laughs, straight-faced action and some rather plodding moments. Watching the film, you wonder how Carradine ever gained a reputation as an actor; cheap trash this might be, but there’s no excuse for his lazy, hammy, clearly disinterested performance. He might have felt these films were beneath him, but if he’s cashing the paycheque, he should make an effort. Then again, I suspect he simply couldn’t act.

There are some laughs to be had – Dracula is impervious to bullets but can apparently be knocked out by someone throwing a gun at him, and his transformation into a bat is worth a few chuckles. But director Beaudine plays it all straight and while a little slow, this is a solid low budget effort.

Jesse James Meets FRankenstein's DaughterJesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter sees the title characters facing off after James (John Lupton) and his slow-witted associate Hank Tracy (Cal Bolder) get involved in a botched stagecoach robbery. Tracy is shot, and the pair end up at the Frankenstein place where Maria Frankenstein (Narda Onyx) is carrying out brain transplant operations. After James rejects her amorous advances, she switches Tracy’s brain, takes to calling him Igor and turns him into her personal killing machine.
This is rather duller than its companion piece – after a brief opening scene, the film degenerates into a rather dull Western for most of the first half, and once the horror begins, precious little happens.

It’s hard to imagine who these films were aimed at: both horror and western fans will feel short-changed. Still, these two vintage hybrid movies ought to be seen; even in 1965 they must’ve felt rather dated, and now they are even more of a museum piece, and the novelty appeal is almost enough to get you past the rather tedious nature of both films.

Cheezy Flicks have inserted their own logo into the credits of these apparently public domain films, but the prints are the same washed-out versions you might have come across online. I doubt anyone is in a hurry to restore these films from the negatives – if the negatives still exist – so this is probably the best you’ll get. The two discs also include some vintage – and poor quality – cinema concession stand ads.

DAVID FLINT

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