A small western town has been hit with a mysterious plague. Young girls have been dying. Dr. John Carter (John Hoyt), with the help of his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley), has been trying to help the ailing. John is at a loss as to what is causing this strange illness that only affects young girls. Dan Young (Eric Fleming) is the town preacher. He has been helping to attend the ill. The latest girl to die is Cora (Nancy Kilgas). While praying by her side Dan notices two puncture wounds on her neck.
John and Dolores return home to find that John’s son Tim (Jimmy Murphy) has had a run in with their neighbor Buffer (Bruce Gordon), the local bully. Buffer has damned up the stream that passes through the Carter’s land. Tim confronted him and got beat up by Buffer’s men. John goes to talk to the Sheriff (Edward Binns). The Sheriff says he will talk to Buffer.
When John returns from the sheriff’s office he falls from his wagon dead. There are two puncture wounds on his neck. After he’s buried Tim is inconsolable. He blames Buffer. When the back fence is torn down Tim heads to town to confront his neighbor. Tim is killed in a shootout with Buffer. Now Dolores is the only one left in her family. She puts out posters looking to hire a gun slinger to kill Buffer. She offers $100. Dolores is approached by a tall man dressed in black. He calls himself Drake Robey (Michael Pate). He takes the hit job.
Dan talks Dolores out of having Buffer killed but he’s not happy with the way that Drake seemed to worm his way into Dolores’ confidence. Drake also manages get himself a job working for Dolores on the ranch. Dolores has been looking tired lately so Dan offers to review her father’s papers and look for his will. In a hidden compartment he finds a diary dated 1860 from the former owner of the Ranch, Don Miguel Robles (Edward Colmans).
The diary talks about a family tragedy where his son Drago killed his brother Roberto for having an affair with Drago’s wife Isabella. Drago later committed suicide. That’s when the strange deaths of young girls began. One night Don Miguel found his dead son over the body of Isabella drinking her blood. Don Miguel realizes that Drago was a vampire. Don Miguel tried to pin Drago to his coffin with a silver dagger not knowing that a wooden stake through the heart is what is needed to kill a vampire. Drago disappeared. Also with the diary is a picture of Drago. Drago is Drake. Dan is now in fear for Dolores. How can he convince her that Drake is actually Drago, a vampire, and what can he do to stop him?
“Curse of the Undead” was released in 1959 and was directed by Edward Dein. As one of Universal’s low budget productions it is an unusual offering in the weird west subgenre. It is a vampire horror movie that takes place in the old west. Reportedly it is the first western to feature a vampire. One of the cool things about the movie is that it actually has some actors in it that had done westerns.
The film came about because of a joke. Edward and Mildred Dein wrote the script as a lark. Universal producer Joseph Gershenson heard about the idea and loved it. There is a question as to whether the film was supposed to be a satire or not. It ended up being played straight. It ended up being not a bad little film. It was original and an interesting blend of the two genres. It’s a little quirky but fun.
Drake is not your usual vampire. He became one by committing the mortal sin of suicide not by being bitten by another vampire. This ties vampirism with religion and not just folklore. For his sin he is damned to eternally walk the earth and drink blood. Drake’s victims don’t come back to life. They have not sinned. There are a few of the standard vampire tropes included such as sleeping in a coffin and having an aversion to the crucifix but he doesn’t turn to dust in the sun. He doesn’t like it but it’s not deadly. Dan’s method to dispose of Drake is also a unique way of disposing of a vampire, yet very western.