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The Weird, Weird West: Horror Westerns


Horror and Western seem like two genres that would rarely, if ever, mix, but in fact, cinematic horror-Western hybrids date back to the early silent era of film. Here's a not-quite-comprehensive list. (For the sake of this list, I'm sticking with traditional Westerns -- you know, cowboys, horses and such.)

Haunted Range (1926)

Haunted Range
© Davis Distributing
Silent film about a cowboy trying to solve the murder of his father at the hands of a ghostly figure known as "The Black Rider."

Haunted Gold (1932)

Haunted Gold
© Warner Bros.

This early John Wayne feature stars the Duke as a man who inherits an abandoned mine that's rumored to be haunted. The "ghost," however, turns out to be more of the Scooby Doo "I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you darn kids" variety -- as was the case in several ghostly westerns of this era, including Speeding Hoofs (1927) and Haunted Ranch (1943).

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Mystery Ranch (1932)

Mystery Ranch
© Alpha Video
This dark Western has the feel of a Gothic horror movie, featuring Charles Middleton (best known as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon films of the '30s) as a sadistic land baron who holds a young woman prisoner in order to force her to marry him.
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Riders of the Whistling Skull (1937)

Riders of the Whistling Skull
© Republic
"The Three Mesqueteers" (including Ray "Crash" Corrigan) star in the tale of a posse searching for a missing archeologist who run afoul of an evil Native American cult -- and even a mummy.
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The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)

The Beast of Hollow Mountain
© United Artists
An Allosaurus terrorizes a local Mexican cattle-herding community -- at least, for the final 20 minutes of the movie.
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Curse of the Undead (1959)

Curse of the Undead
© Universal International
A small-town feud is complicated by the arrival of a Spanish vampire cowboy in this lesser-known entry in Universal's legendary horror legacy.

The Living Coffin (1959)

The Living Coffin
© Casanegra

In this Mexican adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story The Premature Burial (adapted three years later to greater acclaim by Roger Corman), a cowboy lawman visits a family haunted by ghosts and vampires. This is one of several Mexican horror westerns of the era, including The Headless Rider (1957), Swamp of the Lost Monster (1957), Night Riders (1959) and Ship of the Monsters (1960).

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula
© Cheezy Flicks

One of two ridiculous camp horror-Westerns (see below) from low-budget "quickie" director William "One Shot" Beaudine, this film places Dracula in the Wild West, plotting to hypnotize and marry a local young lady. However, her fiance is none other than Billy the Kid, who vows to put a stop to the vampire shenanigans.

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Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966)

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
© Cheezy Flicks
The granddaughter (not daughter) of Dr. Frankenstein travels to the American Southwest to harness the power of electrical storms to help bring the brain of her grandfather's monster to life in the body of Jesse James' dimwitted sidekick.
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Django the Bastard (1969)

Django the Bastard / Strangers Gundown

A Civil War soldier returns from the dead to take revenge on the officers who betrayed his unit in battle. One of dozens of (often odd and explicitly violent) unofficial sequels to the 1966 "spaghetti Western" Django, Django the Bastard (AKA The Strangers Gundown) is rumored to have inspired Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter (see below).

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