The third and final film before the television series which began nearly fourteen years later, this film serves as a prequel to the whole shebang. It actually has a few notable talents, like Orlando Jones and Danny Trejo reprising his longtime role as the bartender. Interestingly, Italian actor Marco Leonardi plays the lead role as Mexican outlaw Johnny Madrid and I couldn’t even tell one bit that he wasn’t actually Mexican. It was good, memorable acting for the most part and fit the film quite well. But the thing is, while Leonardi might have had the starring role, he did not really have the strongest performance for me. That honor goes to Michael Parks, who you might also recognize from the original film as well as other Tarantino movies like Kill Bill Volumes 1&2 or Django Unchained (which I still have yet to watch). Here, Parks plays the role of an intellectual, namely an American author by the name of Ambrose Bierce.
Basically, we are given the role of about five or six major characters in the story, which is told in a slightly lengthier fashion than other films in this series – it’s almost two hours long and doesn’t feel at all wasted. Somehow or another, they were able to make nearly every scene count, no matter how minute and it all added to the mythos of the franchise. In a nutshell, Bierce has a slightly odd mission in which he must transport a rare artifact to revolutionary Pancho Villa. While traveling in the carriage he meets two missionaries, John Newlie (Lennie Loftin) and Mary Newlie (Rebecca Gayheart). Here begins what is probably some of the best dialogue in the movie, where the intellectualisms of the athiest challenge the southern baptist nature of western Christianity. I wouldn’t have expected such mind-blowing dialogue for a movie like this, where we have an awful lot of tits and blood closer to the end. While this is going on, our main character is about to be hung, to which the hangman (Temuera Morrison – later went on to do some later Star Wars films and Moana) notices his daughter standing in the crowd. After a rough shit talking session by our main character, the hangman commands that he be held down, to begin lashing. As soon as he notices his daughter (Ara Celi) in the crowd, she is also brought to the gallows, where she recieves a brutal lashing as well. I didn’t expect that. Later on, our hero manages to escape using blades in his boots and takes the hangman’s daughter out of the town, to which he runs into another woman by the name of Reece (Jordana Spiro) who begs for her life and mentions “a gringo who might have gold” of course, referring to Bierce. The group ride off to the carriage, by which it is later attacked and quite menacingly too. We actually get to see a nice shade of gore in the headshot of the driver. Hijinks ensue, and the occupants of the carriage are actually let go. A very interesting scene with Reece occurs later, as both parties eventually wind up heading to the old inn that will eventually become the Titty Twister.
Now here is something interesting. When the first party arrives to the inn, it looks to be long deserted and covered in dust and cobwebs. But after a few minutes, it slowly becomes active to the point where there’s an all-out party vibe of dancers and people from all over the country sitting around and having drinks. By now, you already know what’s going to happen in this inn and there’s no skimping of the obscene sex and blood and violence that these films are known for. Orlando Jones comes in around this point as Ezra Taylor and it is nearly comical how his role is literally everything that one could embody in an African American stereotype without the “yessuh.” It’s almost as if he was playing a caricature at this point, as a traveling brush salesman who later meets his end around feeding time. Jones doesn’t have a lot of time in the movie, and just about as much as Trejo, even though the lines are memorable in both cases. Quixtla (Sonia Braga) appears around this time as well, as does an entire regiment of the Mexican army along with our outlaw, the hangman and his daughter. After seeing all that one might expect for this film as far as blood and boobs are concerned, we finally approach the good stuff, in which the makeup effects are extremely proficient. The film might be a little low-budget, but the effects and makeup work is superb. These women go from beautiful to downright frightening in an instant, which is awesome. As we might expect, a few people do become vampires, and there is an unfortunate death in the film that I wasn’t crazy about, as this character recieves a great deal of character development and we learn his true nature just a few minutes before his death. The creature that kills him is actually rather attractive looking as a vampire compared to the others, and I wondered why that was. It’s peculair. She also had a sort of attack that I have not seen used by any of the other creatures in any of these films. I don’t understand why she got special treatment, but it did make for a pretty cool scene. No CGI effects either.
I’m not going to spoil the film completely, but I will say that it has a sort of bittersweet ending that fits the series perfectly. This is a prequel film, so obviously it builds to the debut and hopefully ignores the sequel. In fact, let’s just forget that Texas Blood Money ever existed, as it is by far one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Saying little more, keep in mind that this film was actually nominated for the Saturn award, which goes out to all direct-to-VHS releases. This one actually would have done well in the theatre as well. The critics hated it on Rotten Tomatoes, but it has been praised a bit by fans and more people seem to enjoy it than do not. It takes a western setting, sprinkles in some vamps and throws enough in the way of twists and character development to make it actually worth watching. Maybe the first part of the film is a little slow, but I feel that it is essential to package the action packed mayhem that occurs in the inn later. Some people don’t even realize that this film was made, so if by chance you skipped out on it and you’re sick of vampires getting the shitty treatment, give it a view. I daresay that it’s one of the best combinations of vampires and the old west that I’ve seen. Far better than the Uwe Boll Bloodrayne sequel that tried to do the same thing. Perhaps Boll thought he could one-up this. Though as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think that any vampire western can.