31 Days Of Horror #6: Blood Bath (1966)
There once was a film named Operation Titian, which was made into a film named Portrait Of Terror. Portrait Of Terror was then used as a framework to make a film entitled Blood Bath (this film, of course). And then Blood Bath had additional footage inserted to create a TV movie entitled Track Of The Vampire. Unsurprisingly, this convoluted chain of events came about thanks to Roger Corman trying to figure out just how best to deal with a movie that he had co-financed and then deemed unreleasable. All four versions of this one movie are available on a superb Bluray release from Arrow Video, under the title of Blood Bath, and I thought I would finally check it out.
The plot here is a slight one. William Campbell is an artist who keeps finding himself compelled to murder his models. It’s all to do with the spirit of a long-dead ancestor, of course, but Campbell only finds himself in major trouble when his latest victim (Marissa Mathes) leads to him crossing paths with a local beatnik artist (Max, played wonderfully by Karl Schanzer). More deaths follow, leading to an inevitable finale that allows the whole film to clock in at just over an hour.
Written and directed by Jack Hill, with additional scenes written and directed by Stephanie Rothman, this is a film that’s more interesting to watch as a curio piece than an actual coherent movie. Having said that, the first third of the movie is enjoyable stuff. Whether focusing on pretentious nonsense being spouted by Max and his acolytes (including Sid Haig), the kind of people so wonderfully sent up in A Bucket Of Blood, or showing a quick murder scene that is covered up by the killer pretending to be in a car canoodling with his victim, it’s lively and entertaining.
Things only really start to go downhill when Campbell is made to show himself as a tortured soul. And then it gets worse as the plot starts to come together, with more scenes starting to feel appropriately out of place and clumsy. Different shooting angles and shadowy compositions are used to attempt to fool viewers into thinking that it’s always the same cast members involved in the set-pieces, with varying degrees of success. Yet, despite these things, the final product still has a rough charm to it.
Campbell isn’t bad in his role, even if Schanzer steals the film, and there’s the easy pleasure of being able to watch Mathes, Lori Saunders, and Sandra Knight try to make the most of their screentime. They all do their bit, along with Haig, Biff Elliot, and one or two others, to make this less painful than it otherwise might have been.
Impossible to rate as an actual good movie, despite the stuff that it gets right, this is still a good example of how to efficiently and effectively transform material from one genre (Operation Titian was a spy thriller) into something altogether different. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears here again one day, when I have a window in my schedule that allows me time to explore the other incarnations of the film.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JACK HILL, STEPHANIE ROTHMAN
STARS: WILLIAM CAMPBELL, MARISSA MATHES, LORI SAUNDERS, SANDRA KNIGHT, KARL SCHANZER, SID HAIG
RUNTIME: 62 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA, YUGOSLAVIA