A Double Dose of William Beaudine

When I was a kid I often spent my weekends watching double features that played on television as part of the “Monster Matinee” and I thought I’d write about one I can vividly remember seeing for the Double Bill-a-thon currently running at Broken Projector.

I watched a lot of great double features on the Monster Matinee show during the late seventies and lots of forgettable movies as well. One double bill that really stands out in my memory was when William Beaudine’s Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1966) and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966) were aired back-to-back. I had seen a brief commercial for the movies before they played and I was more than excited about seeing them together since they promised lots of “terror,” “thrills” and “action.” I had grown up loving westerns and horror movies, but until that point I had never seen any movie that combined cowboys with monsters. I just knew that Billy the Kid versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter had to be great. The mere idea of a horror/western film sent my 10 year-old mind reeling!

I invited some neighborhood kids over and asked my mom to make us some Jiffy Pop Popcorn and Tang to enjoy with the movies. We all gathered around the TV as the films began and anticipation was high, but nobody was looking forward to seeing these movies more than me. The first film shown was Billy the Kid versus Dracula, which starred the great John Carradine. I had previously seen John Carradine in the terrific 1945 film House of Dracula where he was very good. He scared me silly in that movie, so naturally I assumed he’s be great as Dracula again. Boy, was I wrong! As this incredibly dull film trotted along I immediately knew something wasn’t right. Billy the Kid versus Dracula totally lacked suspense and I couldn’t understand why. The other kids got restless and started playing board games. I ended up making excuses for the movie the entire time it was playing even though I found myself giggling at all the wrong moments. When Billy the Kid versus Dracula ended all the kids got up to leave, but I tried explaining to them that this was a ”double feature” and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter was on next. I was sure it would be better than the first movie we watched. The kids all ignored my desperate pleas and left. The popcorn and Tang were all gone so there really wasn’t any reason for them to stick around anymore.

I ended up watching the second half of this double feature all alone and that probably was for the best. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter was actually a little better than Billy the Kid versus Dracula, but it was nowhere near as good as I had hoped it would be. I was totally dumbfounded by how bad the movies I had just seen were. My little brain was doing cartwheels trying to understand why the acting seemed so terrible and why the scripts made no sense. They were also shot so poorly that I could hardly make out was going on most of the time. I wondered out loud to myself how in the world anyone could make a boring movie with a fantastic title like Billy the Kid versus Dracula? I literally gave myself a headache trying to make sense of William Beaudine’s movies that afternoon.

My mom ended up asking me what I had thought of the films, but I was rather speechless. I explained to her that I didn’t understand them and I couldn’t figure out why they had been so bad. It was the first time in my life that I can remember being genuinely disappointed with a movie, so I told my mom I thought they were “real stinkers” and they were.

The director of these two stinkers was known as William “One Shot” Beaudine and he earned that nickname late in his career due to the fact that he would often shoot just one take, regardless of the problems that happened while he was shooting. It didn’t matter to Beaudine if actors forgot their lines or the special effects failed. He would go on filming and if any changes were made to the final product he churned out, they were done in the editing room. Before becoming a b-movie maker and working on popular television shows, Beaudine had been an assistant director to D.W. Griffith and even worked with him on films like The Birth of a Nation (1915). Beaudine also helped make Mary Pickford a star with movies like Little Annie Rooney (1925) and Sparrows (1926). Billy the Kid versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein Daughter were the 74 year old director’s last feature films after making over 350 movies, and they’re the work of a tired man just trying to make a buck who doesn’t seem to care what he’s shooting anymore. Both movies were often shown as a double feature at the drive-in during the sixties, so it’s not too surprising that the movies were also often shown together on television.

Beaudine’s Billy the Kid versus Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein Daughter are both currently available on DVD. If you’re curious to see one of Beaudine’s stinkers I recommend Jesse James Meets Frankenstein Daughter since it’s slightly better than Billy the Kid versus Dracula. The lovely Narda Onyx stars as Dr. Maria Frankenstein and she’s worth watching even if all the others actors involved with the film seem like their sedated and reading their lines off of cue cards.

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12 thoughts on “A Double Dose of William Beaudine

  1. Ed Hardy, Jr. says:

    This piece is a great example of the modernist technique of form-as-content. Reading it, I was as disappointed as the Ten-Year-Old Kimberly when I found out these previously unheard-of and fabulously titled B’s were “total stinkers.” Imagine, reviews for action films that get your pulse pounding, reviews for melodramas that make you cry, funny comedy review!… Um, anywho: Do you remember calling them “total stinkers” or did your mother supply you with that little tidbit?

  2. cinebeats says:

    This piece is a great example of the modernist technique of form-as-content.

    Really? Neato! And here I thought I was just having fun. I usually hate writing about films I don’t like much, but I couldn’t resist today after memories of watching this dissapointing Beaudine double bill filled my head.

    Do you remember calling them “total stinkers” or did your mother supply you with that little tidbit?

    I’m pretty sure I called them stinkers, which is a term I probably heard from my mom. Of course I could have also called them plain “crappy” as well since I’ve sworn like a sailor since I was a kid, but my mother would have yelled at me for that and I don’t remember any yelling.

  3. Gautam says:

    Kimberly- a very interesting insight into your childhood there, I couldn’t help but feel sad for your 10-year old self. Back in the early nineties, Star TV in India had Double Bills every thursday night but I ended up watching only the first features because the second ones would start at 11 pm, way past my bedtime.

    As for stinkers, well what did you expect from a film boasting about popular western characters meeting classic horror figures?

    Thanks for the wonderful contribution to the blogathon, you know all the entries that I’ve recieved were just plain unusual! Personally, now I find my own entries to be rather straightforward and boring.

  4. Chris says:

    The popcorn and Tang were all gone so there really wasn’t any reason for them to stick around anymore.

    Priceless. I like the fact that your review is also about what happened in the room you watched the movie in. Did you ever have any more *screenings with the neighbors*?

  5. cinebeats says:

    Thanks Gautam!

    As for stinkers, well what did you expect from a film boasting about popular western characters meeting classic horror figures?

    When I was 10 years old a film “boasting about popular western characters meeting classic horror figures” sounded damn exciting!

  6. Jonathan Lapper says:

    Oh Kimberly, those kids, playing board games instead of watching the movie with you. Oh it’s such a feeling to play a movie up to friends only to watch it and have them be clearly disappointed. It’s happened to me a million times. But this story was heartbreaking. I can picture little Kimberly in her white go-go boots pleading with them to stay. Well they were the ultimate losers for not knowing how to enjoy the company of an iconoclast in the making when they saw one.

    And by the way, I saw parts of these years ago when Penn and Teller did a few marathons for TBS of bad, bad movies like Plan Nine, Queen of Outer Space, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and so on. Whew baby, they were something else.

  7. cinebeats says:

    Thanks Chris! I actually used to watch a lot of movies with the neighborhood kids. Movies like the Wizard of Oz and the original Willie Wonka were almost “events” and we all gathered at someone’s house to see them when they aired. That’s probably because there were 5 or 6 houses with kids of the same age on the block and we played together a lot.

    I had one friend who I used to watch a lot of Hong Kong films and some horror movies with (I tended to watch horror movies a lot more than was probably healthy) and we also watched TV shows like The Monkees, Charlie’s Angels and Kung Fu together a lot.

  8. cinebeats says:

    Ha, ha! Thanks for the show of support Jonathan! 😉

    I spent a lot of time watching movies by myself when I probably should have been outside getting some sunshine with the other kids. I’m pretty sure the kids called me names behind my back and thought I was a little freaky due to the fact that I loved horror movies so much. It also didn’t help that I was a total book worm. In other words… I was probably a total geek in the eyes of other kids.

  9. Jonathan Lapper says:

    I bet they’re all miserable investment bankers now who harbor secret jealousy of someone like you who’s not tied in to their type of status quo life. At least that’s what I like to think about everyone who had problems with me.

  10. Peter Nellhaus says:

    I saw Sparrows at the SF Silent Film Festival, July 2006. Even then, Beaudine wasn’t that good in my estimation. There is the story, possibly connected with the making of the western/horror films that when a producer told Beaudine that he was running behind schedule he responded, “Someone is actually waiting to see this?”

  11. Keith says:

    Hey Kimberly. I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience that day. It does sound like these movies were real stinkers. Sorry that the kids did like they did. I remember days like that myself. I enjoyed reading about one of your childhood experiences. If I was there, I would have sat there and watched the second film with you. I watched a lot of clunkers when I was growing up. I was more likely to be watching a film or reading a book that outside playing. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  12. adrien says:

    ‘Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter’ can be found on the 50 Chilling Classics DVD set. (warning: bootleg quality)
    W.S. Van Dyke, who directed ‘The Thin Man’, among other things, also had the nick-name “One Take”. But then how many takes does one need if directing Myrna Loy and William Powell in their prime?

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