Billy the Kid Week 2010: Freaky Friday the 13th featuring Billy the Kid, The Three Stooges and Dracula
This is Day 5 of Billy the Kid Week. All week I’ve been reviewing movies featuring the character of Billy the Kid. Here are the previous week’s entries:
Day 0: Young Guns II 20th birthday
Day 1: Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw
Day 2: The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman
Day 3: Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Day 4: Young Guns 22nd birthday
Since today is Friday the 13th, I am dubbing today as Billy the Kid Week’s “Freaky Friday”. I will review one wacky and one scary movie featuring Billy. The first movie will be the Three Stooges’ epic western, The Outlaws IS Coming. The second movie will be the horror schlockfest Billy the Kid vs Dracula. These movies look like they should be appropriately zany, so let’s get started.
Released in 1965, this is the last fully completed film featuring The Stooges. They began filming one more movie, Kook’s Tour, in 1970, but Larry had a stroke before filming was completed and the movie sat unfinished and unreleased for years afterward.
The original title of this movie was The Three Stooges Meet The Gunslingers. That earlier title sounds reminiscent of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein for a reason as this movie is setup in much the same way. Instead of being a “monster rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team, it’s a “gunslinger rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team. There are 9 famous gunslingers in this movie including Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Cole Younger, Rob Dalton and Belle Star. Each of the nine gunslingers were played by popular local Kid-TV hosts of the day. Other notable stars in this film are Adam West as Kenneth Cabot, a naive ne’er-do-well who works with the Stooges, the gorgeous Nancy Kovack as Annie Oakley and Henry Gibson as Charlie Horse, the Indian chief’s son. The movie is even narrated by Paul Frees, known for his voice work on Rocky and Bullwinkle (most notably, Boris Badenov). So, lots of talent were culled together to make this last movie for the Stooges. West would go on to Batman the very next year. Nancy Kovack would go on to several roles in geek classics like Queenie in two episodes of West’s Batman as well as Nona in an episode of the original Star Trek in 1968.
In the movie, the Stooges work as photographers and “undercover investigators” at an organization similar to the ASPCA. They work with West’s Cabot and are sent on an undercover mission to Casper, Wyoming to determine why the population of Bison are dwindling. They discover that a ruthless cattle baron, Rance Roden, has a group of deadly gunslingers killing off the bison to stir up the Indian population into an uprising that will slaughter the cavalry and put Roden in charge of the government (how the cavalry being defeated puts Rance as ruler of the government is not explained). Oh, and Roden is selling government weapons to the Indians. We meet the group of gunslingers in the beginning and learn where their territories are. For some reason, Billy the Kid is said to be in charge of the Dakota Territory instead of Santa Fe (New Mexico, where Billy spent the majority of his life). Johnny Ringo is in charge of Santa Fe. Not a big deal since this is a Stooges movie, but it surprised me. Anyway, we meet the gunslingers in the beginning, then we really don’t see them again until the end when there’s a big gunfight. So, Billy the Kid only has dialogue in like two scenes. Also, he’s played with the temperament of a teenager or child. He whines and cries whenever he doesn’t want to do something. Roden’s henchman Trigger Mortis (Get it? It’s a play on Rigor Mortis…haha!) gets most of the screen time for the villains.
West was pretty good, he was appropriately dull as the naive Cabot. The Stooges were funny and bumbling. Some of the gags were groan inducing, but this was at the end of the Stooges long run of movies and shorts so I didn’t expect them to be in top form. However, they were still pretty good considering. What really surprised me was how much I loved Nancy Kovack. Oh my lord, she was gorgeous. And she wore these ruffle-y hoop skirt Western dresses but always with gun holsters around her hips. It was awesome. I fell in love. I’m going to seek out her Batman and Star Trek appearances now to see more. She also played Madea in Jason and the Argonauts which I’ve never seen, so I’ll be seeking that out also.
So, yes, I can recommend this movie. Billy the Kid makes a small appearance, but this movie is really a showcase for the Stooges. It’s fun, not as good as some of the Stooges’ best movies or shorts, but still an enjoyable watch, even if only to see a young Adam West, a gorgeous Nancy Kovack and a really young Henry Gibson (who would go on to greater fame as an ensemble player on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In).
Billy the Kid vs Dracula was released in 1966 as part of a double bill with Jesse James vs Frankenstein’s Daughter. I thought this movie sounded gloriously insane. So bad that it would swing back over into the good category. I was wrong. This movie is terrible. First of all, it looks like it was filmed on someone’s Super-8 handheld. Second, John Carradine as Dracula looked like someone’s creepy uncle that dressed like a children’s party magician. TERRIBLE. And Billy? Not really a gunslinger in this movie (as he’s reformed, see), but the foreman of a ranch and engaged to the ranch owner’s daughter.
Dracula meets the ranch owner on a stagecoach on her way, with her brother, back to the ranch. She shows Dracula (calling himself Underhill) a picture of her daughter and he falls in love with her immediately (and eye f**ks the sh*t out of that picture, I might add. See above on the left for an example of said eye f**king). Dracula kills everyone in the stagecoach and assumes the identity of the ranch owner’s brother. I’m not sure Dracula really thought ahead on this plan because if he’s supposed to woo the daughter to be one of Dracula’s brides, you’d think he would pick another identity besides her UNCLE. Am I right? Whatever.
Anyway, Billy finds out the guy is a vampire, some weird family from Transylvania that happens to be in America and have had dealings with Dracula, show up and help Billy. No one, including the daughter (of course) believes that Underhill is Dracula (much less a vampire) so they decide to defeat Dracula on their own. And that’s when I tapped out. Seriously. I stopped the DVD and got on with my life. It wasn’t worth it to actually finish this movie. It was dumb. The film transfer looked like a sweaty Sasquatch wiped its ass with it and the story and acting were terrible. I just couldn’t subject myself to anymore of that nonsense.
So needless to say, Billy the Kid vs Dracula gets a do not watch under any circumstances from me. It’s a shame, because this could have been campy and fun. A remake of this today with Emilio as Billy and someone like Sam Neill as Dracula would kick all kinds of ass. It could be sooooooo good. Oh well.
Well, that’s Billy the Kid Week for this year. Hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did bringing it to you. I’ll be resurrecting it next July when we reach the 130th anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death.
Have a great weekend everyone.
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