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Film & TV

Curse of the Undead (1959): Cinema’s First Vampire Western

Curse of the Undead - Vampire Western

The cinema’s first vampire Western! Young women in a small Western town are dying one by one of an unknown malady involving massive blood loss. The Carter family’s ranch is being terrorized by ruthless land baron Buffer. And a mysterious black-clad gunfighter with an aversion to sunlight has just arrived in town.
Curse of the Undead : Vampire WesternThe film benefits greatly from an excellent performance by Michael Pate, whose menacing presence as the vampire, Drake Robey, still manages to elicit a certain degree of sympathy with the character’s plight.
This rarely seen film is worth catching, and is very much novel of its kind. “Curse Of The Undead” was released in a very interesting period in horror history. Hammer was on the verge of creating new horror and Universal was trying to stay in the game. Since Westerns were popular at this time, the powers-that-be decided to give the western a twist: make the bad guy a REAL bad guy. Meet Drake Robey (Michael Pate), a gunslinger in black. Since his arrival, there has been some mysterious deaths involving young girls. Dr. Carter (John Hoyt) tells the local minister, Dan Young (Eric Fleming) about his suspicions, including the marks on the neck. In the role substituting for Van Helsing is Eric “Gil Favor” Fleming who plays the Preacher who goes after the Vampire.
Curse of the Undead - Vampire WesternWith an eerie score worthy of any Hammer horror film, “Curse of the Undead” may have plot holes, but they don’t derive from vampire folklore. In fact this movie is more faithful to the legends than anything filmed by Hollywood in decades. What’s interesting about this film, other than one of the first blends of westerns and vampires (It would be years before “Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula.”), is the use of a little known vampire myth. According to myth, a person can become a vampire if they’ve committed suicide. In many cultures, suicides were in danger of coming back as vampires or revenants. That’s why many suicides were buried at crossroads; upon emerging from the ground the lost soul would dither about what direction to go and not get around to doing damage to the living. Could this interesting take make up for the unforgivable omission of fangs on Drake Robey? Ummm…..maybe.

You can watch “Curse of the Undead” in its entirety below:

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