- Curse of the Undead
Curse of the Undead Directed by Edward Dein Produced by Joseph Gershenson Written by Edward Dein
Starring Eric Fleming
Music by Irving Gertz Cinematography Ellis W. Carter Editing by George Gittens Distributed by Universal International Pictures Release date(s) May 1959 Running time 79 minutes Country United States Language English
The Old West, circa 1880. In an unnamed town, young girls are dying of some mysterious epidemic. Dr John Carter (John Hoyt) and his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley) have been tending to patients for sixteen hours straight, but lost one patient an hour ago. Another patient, Cora (Nancy Kilgas), looks like she will pull through after Preacher Dan Young (Eric Fleming) remained at her side all night. Cora’s parents (Alan Reynolds, Amzie Strickland), offer their visitors some coffee and breakfast, which is accepted. 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.
With nothing more he can do, Doc Carter drives out to his ranch where he lives with Dolores and son Tim (Jimmy Murphy). Tim is extremely upset when Doc arrives. The Carters’ neighbor Buffer has been doing everything possible, including damming a stream, to drive the family out in order to get his hands on the Carter ranch. Tim tells his father how Buffer's men beat him up after he tried to destroy the dam, and then Buffer fired four bullets through his hat. To restrain his hot-headed son, Doc Carter drives back into town to have a word with Bill, the local sheriff (Edward Binns), who promises to do something about Buffer. 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. After the funeral the next day, the stranger beds down in the coffin.
Already grief-stricken over the loss of his father, Tim snaps after learning that a fence has been torn down and cattle are escaping. Convinced Buffer is responsible, Tim plies himself with booze and then goes after Buffer in the saloon. Unfortunately, Buffer is a much better shot, and Tim is killed.
Alone now, Dolores hangs up “Gun Wanted” posters all over town, offering $100 to anyone who can gun down the "murderer", despite the Sheriff pulling them down as fast as she puts them up. Watching everything, the stranger picks up a poster and heads into the saloon for a talk with Buffer. Buffer confirms he’s the alleged "murderer" in the poster, and the stranger promises that he’ll kill Buffer if he takes the job. Buffer considers this a threat, and one of his men takes a shot at the stranger, apparently missing. As the stranger leaves Buffer sacks the man who fired the shot, despite his insisting he hit his target dead center. Buffer scoffs – nobody can survive that...
The stranger, identifying himself as Drake Robey, arrives at the Carter ranch to take the job. As he does he reacts to the reflection of a cross from a button Preacher Dan wears. When asked, Dan says he received it upon his ordination, being told the thorn that makes the cross came from the site of the Crucifixion. Despite Preacher Dan’s protests, Dolores insists on hiring Robey and has him move into the house. That night, Robey sneaks into Dolores’ room and drinks some of her blood.
At the same time, Buffer is frightened for his life, demanding the Sheriff run Robey out of town. But as Preacher Dan points out, unless Robey breaks the law there’s nothing the sheriff can do. He then suggests an alternative – a kind of good-behaviour bond. Buffer is to put up $5,000 and if anything goes wrong on the Carter ranch – even a nail falling off a fence-post – it’ll cost him $1,000. Although not happy with the deal, Buffer goes along with it.
Next morning Preacher Dan goes to tell Dolores about the deal, but is surprised to find her looking tired, complaining of cold and very compliant with his wish that she sack Robey – it’s as if she’s had the life drained out of her, he says. Dolores releases Robey from his contract, and he leaves after refusing payment for the time she had hired him for – he doesn’t accept payment for things he doesn’t do. Dolores and Dan spend the day going over the Doc's papers, looking for his will. One of the papers found is a map showing the Carter property had once belonged to a Spanish family, the Robles. According to Dolores, the Doc said that the Robles sold out after suffering some kind of tragedy.
As it’s growing late, Dan takes the paperwork, including a safety box, home with him to continue the search and try and put the paperwork in order for lodging at the county seat. After Dan leaves, Robey comes to see Dolores, claiming he is losing the ability to see in sunlight. He offers his services as a night range-rider who can keep an eye on Buffer and his men while the rest of the ranch-hands are sleeping. Dolores gives him the job, offering him the cemetery caretaker’s old cottage to stay in as long as he doesn’t mind being near the dead. Robey smiles at the thought: “The dead don’t bother me – it’s the living that causes me trouble.”
As Dan looks through the paperwork he knocks over the safety box, cracking it open. In it, he finds a diary written in 1860 by Don Miguel Robles (Edward Colmans), the former owner of the land, praying for divine help against the Devil – whose instrument was his own son. According to the diary, Don Robles sent his son Drago to Madrid on business, necessitating that he leave behind his new bride Isabella (Jeanna Cross). In Drago's absence, Isabella turned to Drago's brother Roberto (Henry Delgado) for companionship. When Drago returned and discovered their relationship, he killed his brother with a dagger. Unable to live with his deed, Drago committed suicide with the same dagger. Over the following months the district was plagued by the mysterious deaths of young girls. One night Don Robles heard Isabella scream and came into her room to find a man there – it was Drago Robles, dead some six months. He fled, leaving Isabella drained of blood. Don Robles, following a local wise-woman’s advice, plunged a silver dagger through Drago’s heart as he lay in his coffin to end the curse. After confessing his actions to the priest he found out that he needed to use a wooden stake instead to destroy a vampire – but on returning to the coffin he found it empty except for the dagger. Confirming the story is a photograph of Don Drago Robles left in the diary – it’s Drake Robey in Spanish clothing…
As Dan reads Don Robles’ diary, Robey/Robles summons a sleeping Dolores to him to feed from, but is interrupted by the sheriff. After hearing the sheriff denounce him, Robey follows him back to town and kills him. Dan is called to the sheriff’s office to examine the body, but as he starts back to his house he is pursued by an unseen Robey. In a panic he races for the church, and Robey is caught in the shadow of the church cross and flees. Back in his house he is confronted by Robey, who defends his actions, protesting “What I am is not my own choice. You should pity me, not judge me in my torment!” He also gleefully declares that Dolores has re-hired him, pointing out that “It’s amazing how little influence you have when you’re not around…” He then attacks Dan, but flees with his photograph and the Rancho Robles map when interrupted by the preacher’s housekeeper.
When Dan tells Dolores about his discovery, plus the fact that Robey came to him later that night and stole the map and his photograph, Dolores (unsurprisingly) doesn't believe him. Dan promptly drags her to the family crypt to find Drago Robles’ coffin, which proves to be empty except for a silver dagger – just as the diary had said. When Dan insists they look in every coffin for Robey – including her father and brother – Dolores explodes and throws him out. After Dan leaves to get a court order to do so, Dolores, apparently weakened by blood loss, her anger at Dan’s insisting the coffins be opened, and possibly Robey’s hypnotic influence, collapses. Robey emerges from one of the Carter coffins to feed from Dolores before carrying her back home.
After Dolores awakens, confused at how she got home from the crypt, Robey shows her the Rancho Robles map; the stream Buffer has been damming up is on HER property, not Buffer’s. Robey goes into town to show the map to Buffer, who refuses to accept it and shoots Robey. Robey fires back, killing Buffer, and walks away. The dying Buffer protests “I hit him… I know I hit him…”
After reporting back to Dolores – claiming his cigar case stopped Buffer’s bullet after she sees a bullet hole in his vest – Robey learns that Dan is heading for the county seat to get a court order to open the graves. Robey promises to join with Dolores stop him, not saying that he plans to stop his rival permanently. Warned by Dolores’ housekeeper Dora (Helen Kleeb), Dan makes preparations. Robey heads for town to talk Dan out of getting that court order, (followed by Dolores after she learns that Robey left without her), but Dan won't be stopped. They challenge each other to a shoot-out, and Dan shoots first. Robey collapses as Dolores arrives and disintegrates into dust as she and Dan look on in shock. Dan walks over to Robey's clothes and picks up his bullet... which has his thorn cross on it.
- Eric Fleming as Preacher Dan Young
- Michael Pate as Drake Robey/Drago Robles
- Kathleen Crowley as Dolores Carter
- John Hoyt as Dr John Carter
- Bruce Gordon as Buffer
- Jimmy Murphy as Tim Carter
- Helen Kleeb as Dora
- Jay Adler as Jake (bartender)
- Eddie Parker (credited as Edwin Parker), John Truax, Frankie Van, Rush Williams as Henchmen
Curse of the Undead started as a gag idea by husband-and-wife team Edward and Mildred Dein called Eat Me Gently, described by Edward as "a Western horror story about a fag vampire running around the desert eating little boys". Universal-International producer Joseph Gershenson heard about the idea from his wife and quickly phoned Edward Dein: "Hey, smartass. The good stuff you don't give us. I want to make this picture." According to an early studio announcement the film was intended as a satire of the vampire theme set in the Old West, but the final version is fairly serious. Shooting was finished in only 18 days.
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