Cowboys and Monsters

cowboys-monsters_near-dark_lance-henriksenDecades before Cowboys & Aliens moviegoers watched Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Haunted Gold, before they saw Daniel Craig take on the Martians, cowboys have fought dinosaurs, ghosts, demons, vampires and even Frankenstein’s daughter.

Since the advent of sound, Western movie producers have been looking for ways to goose their cowboy sagas, and they have often looked to Horror and Science Fiction plot twists to do it.

The history of these odd films stretches from early sound serials to “B” films (Haunted Gold, starring John Wayne), Fantasies (The Ghost Goes West) to the full-out Western Horrors of the 1950s, like Curse of the Undead and Beast of Hollow Mountain, while 20th Century Fox stuck its boots in the trough with the bizarre The Fiend Who Walked the West, starring future mogul Robert Evans. And did a greater kiddie matinee double-feature exist than Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, both directed by the legendary William Beaudine?

Upping the budgets in the 1960s, special effects icon Ray Harryhausen made the ultimate “cowboys vs. dinos” flick with The Valley of Gwangi, while the world of Euro-Westerns was introducing Horror elements in any number of Spaghetti Westerns (Cut-Throats Nine, Django Kill!), culminating in Clint Eastwood’s ghostly saga, High Plains Drifter.

The modern West has been plagued with demon knights (The Thing That Wouldn’t Die) and Kathryn Bigelow’s genre-shaping vampires in Near Dark.  The direct-to-dvd world has given us Grim Prairie Tales and the quite good Eye of the Devil among others.

In showcasing some of these films, we present you a “new” genre that was actually born 80 years before Mr. Spielberg gave us his blockbuster.

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