Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Weird West Week: Curse of the Undead

Welcome back you cattle rustlers to Day 2 of Weird West Week. Yeah I should stop attempting the Old West speak. Today's endeavor brings us to 1880 in a remote town on a series of Universal sound stages, a virulent disease seems to be affecting the townsfolk's' young girls as they waste away. Dr. Carter has been tending these girls as best as humanly possible but there is no rational explanation. This is Curse of the Undead.

Mind yourself, son.  Good manners means less holes in the body.

Doctor John Carter (John Hoyt of Operation C.I.A., 120' Clock High, Gunpoint, Duel at Diablo, The Big Valley, The Virginian and Return to Peyton Place) and his nurse/daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley of Target Earth, Wesward Ho, the Wagons!, The Rebel Set and Downhill Racer) are perplexed at this viral infection, why does it afflict the young and why only the girls? Attending the patients hour at a time, some have died in their sleep when another patient Cora look as though she will pull through it, The Carters have some breakfast and a break from this nightly vigil when they hear a muffled scream from Cora's bedroom. Rushing to get there only to find Cora slumped on her bed, her window open and she is quite dead. Preacher Young (Eric Fleming of Conquest of Space, Queen of Outer Space, Rawhide and The Glass Bottom Boat) prays for the girl's soul when he notices two neat holes in her neck. Prickly heat no doubt.

Doctor Carter makes his way back to his ranch when son Tim (Jimmy Murphy of Mister Roberts, Crashing Las Vegas, Looking for Danger and The Last American Hero) has had nothing but problems from nearby neighbor Buffer (Bruce Gordon of Behind Closed Doors,The Untouchables, Tower of London, Peyton Place and Piranha) trying to steal/ruin/terrorize them off their land to add to his own. Rather than letting Tim just give him the business with a .45 Peacemaker, Doctor Carter suggests talking to the Sheriff about it. While this goes on a mysterious black clad stranger moseys into town with a chiseled jaw and ice in his veins.

Daddy, you missed your turn.   

True to his word the Sheriff (Edward Binns of 12 Angry Men, North by Northwest, Judd for the Defense, It Takes a Thief, Lovin' Molly, Patton, Diary of the Dead and The Verdict) gives Buffer an earful, belts one of his loud mouthed gunfighters and even smoothly draws his hogleg aimed at Buffer's belly waiting for him to draw his own horse pistol. Buffer comes across as the man that buys a gun arm or backshoots a man and just makes nice with the sheriff. The doc makes his way back to the ranch but seems to be asleep at the reigns when he falls limp from the momentum of the coach (buckboard I think)coming to a halt. Tim convinced it was Buffer goes for revenge. Meanwhile the stranger goes for a light nap... in Doctor Carter's coffin. Hmm, interesting.

Tim topped off with enough whiskey can't see straight loses to the gunfight with Buffer. With two funerals and beloved family gone Dolores prints up wanted posters for Tim's killer, the stranger snags one. Couple of Buffer's boys attempt to shoot the stranger when he causally draws his piece and shoots one of them in the hand. The gunhand swears he shot the stranger right in the belly. Dolores meets with the stranger known as Drake Robey (Michael Pate of Hondo, Julius Caesar, The Court Jester, Matlock Police, Death of a Soldier and A Dangerous Life) who is more than eager to take out Buffer but shys away from crucifixes, mirrors and daylight. What does this gunfighter get out of helping a grief-stricken woman? Will there be more deaths to follow?

A few notes of interest at this time. I just realized that the Preacher is Trail boss Gil from Rawhide.

With the mono sound, black and white cinematography and haunting musical score, this fairly fasted paced Western is is clever, well-written and the performances are pretty impressive. Feels like a 50's Western with a hint of horror. Fleming's preacher is cunning and wily about his opposition and must save his town. Yet what of the gunfighter? With his need for Karmic balance, one could argue that he wishes to good as much as what his nature will allow. Coming under 79 minutes this was a decent film and I am damn glad I picked it on a whim.   

Timmy, you've been drinking again.  Honey, take it easy.