New on Blu: Seminal Horror-Western CURSE OF THE UNDEAD (1959)

Universal’s original vampire western arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Curse of the Undead arrives on Blu-ray tomorrow, October 6, from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

1959 has long been a favorite cinematic year of mine, headlined by a couple of all-timers in Ben-Hur and Some Like It Hot, plus a number of other terrific films like Darby O’Gill and the Little People, North by Northwest, Operation Petticoat, Sleeping Beauty, Anatomy of a Murder, Old Yeller, A Bucket of Blood, and many more.

I can officially add add Curse of the Undead to that list, a unique vampire western directed by Edward Dein which, while not particularly frightening, offers a neat supernatural spin on the traditional western formula and is played refreshingly straight.

The film debuted in May of 1959, mere months after TV’s Rawhide proved a breakout hit for star Eric Fleming, who also plays the primary protagonist of this film, “Preacher Dan”.

The film mixes familiar elements of both the western genre and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A land dispute between the Carter family and their bullying rancher neighbor Buffer (Bruce Gordon) has simmered a place of great contention. Meanwhile, patriarch “Doc” Carter has attended to some local girls who have recently succumbed to a violent illness, each marked with a pair of punctures on their neck.

Also at the intersection of these events is the doctor’s friend and cohort Preacher Dan, who also attended to the last girl killed during her illness. A friend to the Carters and suitor to daughter Dolores, he is aware of their feuding with Buffer.

When Doc is killed on the way home from town, suspicion immediately falls on Buffer. As further violence escalates between the houses, a dark, rugged stranger (TV western staple Michael Pate) answers Dolores’ bounty posters.

Curse of the Undead’s framework is that of a fairly traditional western, but it introduces the question of supernatural events and a vampiric influence, expounding on the origin of this lore and always playing the concept seriously without devolving to parody or camp. Both Dan and Dolores are sympathetic characters, and when a conflict of opinion drives a wedge between them, you can understand both of their stances.

Thanks largely in part to its classic black and white cinematography, the film looks rather striking and nicely lit and shot, particularly in its more horror-stylized vampire scenes, giving it an effectively nocturnal feeling throughout.

The Package

Curse of the Undead arrives on Blu-ray October 6 from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The package design features poster-based cover art in a standard blue case.

Special Features and Extras

Commentary by Film Historian Tom Weaver
An excellent commentary. Tom has a great presence, speaking with great charm and humor and discussing the tale with script in hand, analyzing not only the film but its intentions, offering more insight on the story’s details as written and how it was censored in production (as well as plenty of spite for the version of Preacher Dan that emerged). Tom also comes armed with relevant sound bites from individuals close to the production.

Image Gallery (8:12)

Several trailers for Kino Lorber Studio Classic releases Black Sabbath (2:23), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Oblong Box (1:56), and Zoltan The Hound of Dracula (3:20)

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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