Release Date(s)1959 (October 6, 2020)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
Long out of print on home video, Curse of the Undead is a 1959 horror western hybrid that plays with the conventions of both genres. Directed by Edward Dein (The Leech Woman) and co-written with his wife Mildred, it centers on a story about an old west town in which a plague seems to have befallen the young women there. Many have died under the care of Dr. Carter, who is perplexed, but also distracted due to his son’s vendetta against a troublesome neighbor. During all of this drama, a dark stranger strolls into town with his sights set on Dr. Carter’s daughter. But before he can approach her, he must also deal with the town sheriff and the local preacher, the latter of whom discovers that this is more than just a normal man.
Curse of the Undead is certainly not the only film of its kind from this era, but it certainly takes a more serious approach than many of its counterparts. That said, there’s a bit too much family drama clouding the initially fun idea of a vampire walking into a western type setting. It’s also not entirely clear what his motivations are. One minute he’s out to settle a land dispute on the behalf of Dr. Carter’s daughter, and the next he’s got his fangs in her neck—or somebody else’s. The performances are decent, particularly from Eric Fleming (giving off a Liam Neeson vibe) as the preacher and Michael Pate as the bloodsucker himself, but the rest of the cast fills out the other carbon copied western film roles with no real zeal. And though the ending manages to put a twist on the trope of a shootout between two gunfighters, it feels more anticlimactic than satisfying. In other words, Curse of the Undead has good ideas, but doesn’t do nearly enough with them.
Curse of the Undead never made it beyond VHS, which is why this release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics is so special. Debuting with what is touted to be a “new 2K master,” likely from an interpositive, it’s an excellent black and white presentation. Grain is finely attenuated, allowing for an enormous amount of fine detail to shine through. Black levels are solid, whites are never blown out, and grayscale has been given careful attention. Good contrast is on display and a minor amount of scratches and softness are leftover due to optical transitions. The presentation is otherwise stable, clean, and satisfying.
The audio is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. It’s a very clean and surprisingly crisp track with good dialogue reproduction. The score and sound effects don’t have a large role to play as they tend to blend into the rest of the track without rising about it. But there’s also no leftover damage, helping to make this a problem-free listen.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Tom Weaver
- Poster and Image Gallery (HD – 48 in all – 8:12)
- The Black Sleep Trailer (SD – 1:35)
- Black Sabbath Trailer (HD – 2:23)
- The Oblong Box Trailer (SD – 1:56)
- Zoltan… Hound of Dracula Trailer (SD – 3:21)
In Tom Weaver’s audio commentary, he goes through the film with a fine tooth comb. His tongue is placed firmly in cheek, but he also provides plenty of valuable insight in a way that only he can. He also occasionally reads portions of the original script and alludes to alternate takes in the film’s trailer (which is not provided here). The poster and image gallery contains 48 images of on-set photos, promotional shots, behind-the-scenes stills, posters, and other promotional materials.
Long-time fans of Curse of the Undead should be more than pleased with Kino Lorber’s release. It’s been notably absent from film shelves for a couple of decades. This Blu-ray, with excellent picture and audio quality, as well as the enjoyable audio commentary, certainly beats the MCA Universal VHS of old.
- Tim Salmons