Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Sundown The Vampire in Retreat (1989)

David Carradine as Count Mardulak, Sundown The Vampire in Retreat (1989)

*SUNDOWN (?) (Anthony Hickox, 1989, US) David Carradine, John Ireland, Morgan Brittany, Bruce Campbell, Maxwell Caulfield, Deborah Foreman, M. Emmet Walsh.

If there ever was a genre with a future, it would be Vampire Westerns.  Fanged immortals shooting it out on Main Street at High Midnight, hordes of bloodthirsty outlaws riding into town popping off the civilised undead with sixgunloads of wooden bullets, whiskery old time vampires in sombreros and shades trying to stay out of the sun, and the scenic splendours of Monument Valley in glorious Panavision, not to mention a super old-time movie score, are well in evidence in this bizarre item that just misses working.  Unusually for a modern horror film, it has too many ideas and too much going on.  Our hero is summoned to the vampire-run town of Purgatory to help the urbane and humanist Count Mardulak (Carradine) produce artificial blood so he can achieve his aim of integrating with normal humanity.

Meanwhile, pilgrim father Ethan Jefferson (Ireland) is stirring up the old-style predators and assembling an army of murderous saddle trash and drugged-out sleazeballs to take over.  On top of that, Dr Van Helsing’s inept great-great-grandson (Campbell) has just caught the eye of a pretty vampirette waitress (Foreman), the all-in-black swine Shane (Caulfield) wants to steal his old flame (Brittany) away from her husband, and twenty-seven other sub-plots are ticking over.  As with Hickox’ last horror picture, ‘Waxworks’, the results are too scrappy to be considered completely successful, with terrible attempts at slapstick breaking in whenever a given scene threatens to get going.

That said, as a long-time fan of Vampire Movies and cleaning-up-the-town Westerns – I even like ‘Billy the Kid Vs Dracula’ with David Carradine’s Dad as in the role the son plays here – I was moved by several powerful moments, especially when the good-hearted vampires are reconciled to the church, when Dracula proves faster on the draw than the villain and when the camera sweeps over the mountains.  I just wish Hickox, who gets mainly fine performances from his mix ‘n’ match cast, would hire himself a screenwriter, drop the ‘Count Duckula’-style lousy jokes and get on with the serious business of making post-modern genre movies.

Written for City Limits,  but Sundown didn’t get a theatrical release.


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