Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the vampires Jane, Mercy, Marcella, and Daniel all converge at the manner house of the mysterious Lord Draco. This is part of their exchange:

    “Billy the Kid?” asked Jane, wide eyed. “Wasn’t there an old movie called, Billy the Kid versus Dracula.”

    “There was,” said Mercy with a wink. “I guess you could say it was Marcella’s life story.”

    “So, what exactly is a ‘bloofer lady?’” I asked, innocently.

    “Oh, it’s a reference to Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula,” said Jane. “After the Count killed Lucy she became the ‘bloofer lady’ and starts abducting children.”

    Mercy shot both of us a dark look. “Some parts of the past are best left alone.”

When I wrote that scene in 2004, I had not seen the movie Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. Nearly a decade later, I finally found a copy of the film on DVD and got to sit down and watch it. As you might expect from the title, it’s good campy fun. Whereas I took pains to weave the vampire Marcella into the real history of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, this movie seems to be set in an alternate reality where the Kid lived well past his twenty-first birthday and decided to give up his outlaw ways and settle down with the girl of his dreams. The only problem is that a vampire played by John Carradine, sporting a beard so sharp you could cut yourself on it, has arrived and also has eyes for Billy’s girl.

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

The movie’s title is the only clue we have that the vampire is, in fact, supposed to be Dracula traveling in the old west a few years before he bought property in Whitby, England. We meet him as he kills the daughter of some German immigrants moving west. A short time later, he turns up in a stagecoach and meets the aunt and uncle of Billy the Kid’s intended, Betty Bentley. The stagecoach stops for the night and our vampire strikes a peaceful encampment of Native Americans, who in turn blame the passengers of the stage and kill them. The vampire assumes the identity of Betty’s uncle and begins stalking her with the intention of turning her into a vampire.

Fortunately for Betty, the German immigrants show up and the woman, played by Virginia Christine who I remember as Mrs. Olson from Folgers Coffee commercials, recognizes the vampire for what he is. As it turns out, Betty’s most formidable ally isn’t Billy the Kid, but Dr. Henrietta Hull, a no-nonsense country doctor who does what she needs to do to help Billy get rid of the pesky vampire.

The movie features a rubber bat on a wire, a vampire who mysteriously materializes in rooms and whose face turns red for no discernible reason when he hypnotizes someone. Billy the Kid is a surprisingly affable gunslinger who must be no younger than his late twenties or early thirties. John Carradine’s vampire seems more a creepy old man at times than a fearsome vampire. Despite all that, I found this an enjoyable Saturday afternoon popcorn movie.

One thing I found especially interesting was a parallel with Vampires of the Scarlet Order that has nothing to do with history. Near the end of the movie, we see the vampire turning into bones on the floor. Outside, we see the bat he transforms into fluttering on the breeze, then falling to earth. Clearly the vampire and the bat were somehow two separate entities. I actually imply something very much like this in my novel. I won’t say too much more to avoid spoilers, but I will point to one of the age-old problems with shape-shifting. Where does all the mass go if you transform from a human into a small bat?

If you’d like some clues about how I resolve this paradox, check out Vampires of the Scarlet Order, available at many fine book retailers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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