Movie Review: Curse of the Undead, 1959

4.5 out of 5 stars; some bits of dialogue are melodramatic by today’s standards. But overall the plot is well-paced, the characters are great, the supernatural elements blend well with the western setting, and there’s an awesome last-minute save at the end of the movie. Plus, Eric Fleming (of Rawhide) as a kind but determined preacher facing down evil. How can you go wrong?

This is the only movie I’ve seen that successfully placed a vampire in a western setting. And how it succeeded shows what some of the problems are in blending the genres.

First, the western frontier is portrayed as having a background level of violence and death much higher than, say, modern vampire movies or the upper-class background of Dracula. So even a massive number of “mysterious deaths” can slip under the radar of most people in the community. The exceptions being the doctor who can’t determine why only young ladies are sickening and dying, and the priest praying at their bedsides.

Second, part of the theme of westerns in general is that past social class doesn’t matter, you are who you make yourself on the frontier. Dracula with his cape and wealth would be sneered out of town. No; this vampire is a paid gunfighter. Well-paid, by the black outfit, polished guns, and fine black horse.

Third, the known history of the West is much more recent and relevant to the people living in it. This vampire is no half-mythical tyrant hero. He’s a person from a tragic, fairly recent past, and the map of his family’s lands has direct relevance to a land dispute in the ongoing plot.

The movie can put a vampire into this setting because they draw on the original folklore, instead of the watered-down version Hollywood settled on later. This vampire has no problem walking in daylight. He’s the result of a murder and suicide, not another vampire’s bite, and none of his victims later return from the grave. A wanted poster serves as an invitation. Any grave or coffin will hide him, because the town is on his ancestral land. And the stand-up gunfight is faced without fear, because lead isn’t lethal.

Thorns, however….

Part of my interest in the movie is, the vampire gets to be a much more fully-developed character than most modern bloodsuckers. He’s found a niche in society as a hired gun; a dark and bloody profession, but human. And then he falls for a beautiful heiress, and offers to quit killing and instead ride her range at night to defend it….

Spoiler: Vampire. Can’t stop killing. But he never tries to rule society; he blends in. And his confrontations with Father Dan are more about faith and what you believe than anyone brandishing crosses and crucifixes.

…And you know it’s a Western, because in the end, to defend his flock, the preacher has to strap on a gun.

All told, if you want inspiration for a vampire story, or more general hints on pacing and suspense, check this out. It’s on DVD, cheap!


4 thoughts on “Movie Review: Curse of the Undead, 1959

  1. …And you know it’s a Western, because in the end, to defend his flock, the preacher has to strap on a gun.

    I need to find this movie. 😀

    K, here’s why this was the final hook for us-
    Each year, our household recognizes the by-popular-acclaim patron saint of gunfights.

    Saint Gabriel Possenti. A flirty fop in Italy who had a calling, was in training, then one day disarmed the bandit/soldiers menacing a young lady and chased them out of town, then died at 24 of TB before he could even become a priest.

    I’ll need to get my husband to watch it with me, but it might be something to share with other family, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reminded me of an episode from… darn it, can’t remember which series, but it was Twilight Zone or a similar series. Regardless, the plot portrayed a Soviet Era commisar or similar, investigating the death of a government official/officer/bureaucrat(someone like that) in the depths of Siberia, in winter. The death was thought to be a wolf attack, iirc, but I think the local area has seen a number of government stooges meet early ends, so there is suspicion of something else going on. The investigator finds himself traveling the woods at night for some reason, also possibly being chased by a wolf pack, when he stumbles upon the scene of a women baring fangs, who just killed a wolf…

    Gist of the story, the local community has been living in symbiosis with some vampires, who keep the wolves at bay, in return for the humans hiding them, but the Soviet government can’t held off much longer without exposure (too many “accidents”). Unless, they have an agent actively IN the government..l which is where the episode closes out. (Agent gets congratulated for a job well done, the Soviet Union needs MORE men like him… which they will…)

    Liked by 1 person

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