Over a quarter of a century before SyFy transformed high concept into low art, prolific Hollywood director was churning out such mash-ups as “Billy The Kid vs Frankenstein’s Daughter” and “Billy The Kid vs Dracula”. In fact, those two would turn out to be the final feature films he directed, capping off a career which began in the silent era and spanned over 250 credited movies.
Dracula (John Carradine) travels to the American West [for some reason] and decides to make a beautiful young ranch owner his next victim. But the Count hasn’t counted on her fiancé, notorious outlaw Billy The Kid, who might have a thing or two to say about it.
Although the rights had long since passed into public domain by the time this movie was made, none of the characters ever say the name ‘Dracula’. He’s only ever referred to as a vampire, mostly by the conveniently eastern European settlers who arrive in town around the same time, their suspicions aroused by a suspiciously rubbery looking bat following them on some very visible strings.
Shot in eight days but looking like less than that, “Billy The Kid vs Dracula” is cheap, tacky and deeply terrible. John Carradine claimed it was the worst film he ever acted in but that’s a bit rich considering I sat through the whole thing and barely saw him act at all. Instead, he seems to stumble through the movie half-cut, coming across as a curmudgeonly, slightly odd and creepy uncle who’s simply looking out for his niece at a difficult time.
There’s plenty of casual racism tossed around, mostly in the direction of the pesky ‘injuns’ who take the brunt of the blame for Drac’s early handiwork and while there’s a campy appeal to the basic wild west tropes trotted out one after the other, it doesn’t make anywhere near enough of the premise of a vampire being the stranger in town who comes a-lookin’ for trouble.
Apart from the lack of a reflection, many of the common vampire conventions are forgotten or ignored. Drac has no need to sleep in a coffin or his native soil anymore, a grimy camp bed in an abandoned mine will do just fine, although the fact it’s a silver mine may raise some eyebrows amongst purists. The coup de stupidité of this genre-straddling nonsense is when Billy finally confronts Dracula – revealed as a vampire – and shoots him six times, every bullet futile in stopping the fearsome Count. Thus disarmed, Billy falls back on that tried and trusted last resort of throwing the gun at Dracula, clonking him on the head and promptly flooring the vampire where he becomes easy pickings for a silver scalpel. Of all the ‘deaths’ Dracula has ensured over the years, this must rank as one of the most ignominious.
A super-cheesy, cheap and cheerless effort, this is a movie that only deserves an audience in a ‘ten-to-two, you’ll do’ kind of fashion, whether a 2:00pm rainy weekend afternoon matinée or a 2:00am midnight movie screening, preferably with as much moonshine as you can stomach.