Curse of the Undead – USA, 1959

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Curse of the Undead – aka Mark of the West – is a 1959 American vampire western hybrid horror film directed by Edward Dein (director of The Leech Woman; screenwriter of The Cat CreepsThe Soul of a Monster; Jungle WomanCalling Dr Death), from a screenplay he co-wrote with Mildred Dein.

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The film stars Eric FlemingMichael Pate (Tower of London)Kathleen CrowleyJohn HoytBruce Gordon, and Jimmy Murphy. It features a theremin-heavy soundtrack score by Irving Getz and was distributed by Universal-International Pictures.

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The Old West, circa 1880. In an unnamed town, young girls are dying of a mysterious wasting disease. Dr John Carter (John Hoyt) and his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley) have been tending to patients for hours on end, but lost one patient an hour ago.

Another patient, Cora (Nancy Kilgas), looks like she will pull through after Preacher Dan Young’s (Eric Fleming) nightlong vigil; he and the Carters are offered breakfast and coffee by Cora’s parents (Alan Reynolds, Amzie Strickland). In the kitchen, however, they hear Cora scream – by the time they get to her room, she is sprawled dead on her bed, her window open. As he kneels to pray, Dan notices two small, bloody holes in Cora’s throat…

Returning to his ranch along with Dolores, Doc Carter finds his son Tim (Jimmy Murphy) extremely upset after the actions of their neighbor Buffer, who has been doing everything possible to get his hands on the Carter property, including damming a stream on the Carter ranch and having his men assault anyone who complains.

To restrain his hot-headed son, the Doc drives back into town to have a word with the local sheriff (Edward Binns). The Sheriff’s discussion with Buffer (Bruce Gordon) in the local saloon proves less than successful, however, and a black-clad stranger (Michael Pate) follows Doc Carter’s buckboard. By the time he gets home, the Doc is dead, his throat bloody…

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Reviews:

” … an old-school Gothic horror film with a Western setting, made in a year more commonly associated with rampaging aliens, insane scientists, and radioactive dinosaurs. More surprising still, it is clearly the result of a well thought-out effort to combine elements from two not-obviously-compatible genres in a way that both makes good sense and comes across as more than just a ticket-selling gimmick.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

Buy DVD (with English audio): Amazon.co.ukAmazon.com

“Though this is slow-moving, unimaginatively-filmed, extremely talky and too cheap to really build much in the way of atmosphere or excitement, the somewhat unique portrayal of the vampire helps to maintain at least some interest. The bloodsucker here casts shadows, can go out into the sunlight without dying (it merely causes eye discomfort) and has managed to blend into society whilst simultaneously remaining on the outskirts of it.” Justin McKinney, The Bloody Pit of Horror

“The writer-director and several of the actors seem to be taking things seriously, with some energetic performances and occasionally artful cinematography […] feels like a cheap TV movie, and the Western elements are far less interesting than the vampire elements. The hero (a handsome preacher) is stiff and unlikeable.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“Quirky but inconsequential, Curse is one of many misguided Hollywood attempts to breathe new life into the genre after Universal discontinued the Dracula series.” Gene Wright, Horrorshows: The A – Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theater

” …the climactic showdown between good and evil features a very unique, but logical method for killing an immortal vampire gunslinger. (Interestingly, the shootout appears to take place in broad daylight!). Curse of the Undead is a neat little neoclassical tragedy masquerading as a B horror-western. It deserves a better fate than near-total obscurity.” Brian Schuck, Films from Beyond the Time Barrier

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” …Curse of the Undead comes out feeling like an interesting experiment that has its feet in two different genres that don’t entirely click together. Michael Pate is not a very vampire-like vampire – he walks around in daylight and at most claims ‘a condition’ where he has to sleep during the day. Rather than a cape and dinner-suit, he has the more routine outfit of jeans, cowboy hat, side holster and leather vest, albeit all in heavily symbolic black.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“A neat idea which doesn’t come off, apart from the bright idea of having the campire killed with a bullet containing ‘a Thorn of the True Cross'”, Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

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“For the most part, the movie effectively walks that thin line of being both a western and a horror movie, and though some may scoff at the very concept, it’s certainly better than Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. There are a few problems: the music in the soundtrack could use a bit more subtlety, and some of the acting early on is hysterical, but I think it comes across well enough despite a certain uneasiness to the proceedings.” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“If you’re willing to overlook the extreme acting performances ranging from wooden to melodramatic, you’ll find Curse of the Undead to be a fun and unique story categorized into the subgenre of the weird western.” Paul V. Wargelin, FeoAmante.com

Choice dialogue:

“A bartender’s like a free gal. She’s bait for whoever’s got a free buck, right?”

“Ah, the dead don’t bother me, it’s the living who give me trouble.”

Buy VHS: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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Wikipedia | IMDb | Related: Death Rides a Horse: Horror Westerns – article

Image credits: The Bloody Pit of Horror | Wrong Side of the Art! | Zombos’ Closet | 50s Westerns from the 50s



Categories: 1950s, vampire

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1 reply

  1. I loved Curse Of The Undead it was an excellent movie if only Warner Brothers would release the movie on dvd in the Region 1 area as I live in the USA. I keep on looking on Amazon.com but no luck so far.

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