Curse of the Undead is a flick I've been hankering to gather into my collection for many years now. I missed it somehow on VHS and have waited impatiently for it get a DVD release which has now finally happened thanks to the Kino-Lorber outfit. This is one of those Universal monster movies from the 50's which played on my TV in the 60's and slithered into my imagination at just the right time. The notion that this is a horror-western movie just makes it all the juicier.
The story is dead simple. A small western town is suffering a plague and the viewer immediately knows vampires are afoot, though of course the locals aren't aware. The vampire in question (Michael Pate) is a man in black, a gunslinger who prowls around in the early stages of the movie before revealing himself to a young woman (Kathleen Crowley) who is seeking vengeance for the deaths of her father and brother. Turns out the vampire used to be a man who might have once owned the very ranch she's protecting, and it turns out much to my surprise (been a long time since I've seen it) that he genuinely falls in love with her. He's a depraved vampire of course, but he falls in love and that changes things. The scenes where he is preying on her neck are surprisingly sexy for a film of this vintage.
There's a preacher in town (Eric Fleming) who finally figures out what the problem is and works overtime and often with little effectiveness to heal the many wounds in the community. Ultimately there's a showdown in classic western style. One of the weirdest things about this movie is that the vampire wanders around in the daylight though he complains at one point about being sensitive to light. This is never really brought up more than once and much of the movie happens in broad daylight undermining its effectiveness. The best scene, the one which is seared into my memory is one in which the vampire finds himself beneath the shadow of a cross and it gives him a problem. It's a beautifully shot scene and the film would've benefitted mightily from many like it. This movie ain't as good as I remembered in some ways, but in others it's better. That's fine too.
As I said Curse of the Undead is one I've been aching for and it finished up my collection of these 50's Universals. Last year or thereabouts I got hold of The Thing the Couldn't Die and I've long had The Leech Woman, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis, The Monolith Monsters, Monster on Campus, The Mole People and several more. These movies were my "classics", not the 30's Universals as good as they are. These are the stuff of my imagination. Nice to get to look at them yet again.