Staking out the frontier

American values menaced by aliens

Published: Apr 13 2018, 01:01:am

Friday, March 11, 1966.

BILLY THE KID VERSUS DRACULA. Written by Carl Hittleman. Music by Raoul Kraushaar. Directed by William Beaudine. Running time: 73 minutes.

JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER. Written by Carl Hittleman. Music by Raoul Kraushaar. Directed by William Beaudine. Running time: 83 minutes.

AN AUSPICIOUS EVENT, THE melding of two great indigineous art forms into the Western-horror film, provides this week's fare at [Toronto’s] Downtown theatre.
    Before out very eyes we share the spectacle as Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and the epic confrontation of Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. It is a Technicolor conspiracy in cumulative cliche.
    The perceptive audience will detect certain points of similarity between the two films, beyond the decidedly unsubtle use of the same sets, properties and extras. Both share the dubious talents of the same producer, director and writer combination.
    And, of course, scripts approved by the Senate Sub-Committee Investigating UnAmerican Activities.
    The whole problem is that the Frankensteins and Dracula are foreigners “tampering with the laws of God” and running around "undead.” Billy and Jesse are, after all, native-born, even if they do "'ride the owlhoot trail".
    When you come right down to it, those stupid cowpokes really don't understand the ways of sophisticated  European monsters. They don't have enough sense to be terror struck by the idea of an aristocratic vampire ("aah what?") in their midst.
    Seeking to impress us with their knowledge of  outlaw legends, the filmmakers strike out  completely with the occult beasties. Sure, James’s alias really was “Mr. Howard,” but a vampire never, never goes out in broad daylight!

The above is a restored version of a Varsity review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1966. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: What can I say? I was young. A University sophomore writing for the campus newspaper, I was trying to be be snobbishly sophisticated and glibly entertaining at the same time. Who knew that I would someday make my living writing about movies? Not me, I can tell you.   
    A director whose career began in the silent era, William Beaudine is remembered  as one of Hollywood’s most prolific moviemakers. Billy the Kid Versus Dracula and Jessie James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter were the last two of an estimated 178 feature films he made between 1922 and 1966. Although I gave him no respect in the above review, he was an A-list director between 1925 and 1935, guiding the performances of such stars as Mary Pickford and W.C. Fields. He was a major industry presence. And then he wasn’t. Beaudine spent the last three decades of his career cranking out low-budget pictures of every kind for Hollywood’s poverty-row studios.
See also: Today we added four Billy the Kid movies to the Reeling Back archive: the 1966 Billy the Kid versus Dracula; Dirty Little Billy (1972);  Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973); and Young Guns II (1990).