Blood Bath aka Track of the Vampire – USA, Yugoslavia, 1966 – reviews

‘The shrieking of mutilated victims caged in a black pit of horror!!!’

Blood Bath is a 1964 American horror film written and directed by Jack Hill (Spider Baby) and Stephanie Rothman (also see Queen of Blood; The Velvet Vampire; Ruby). It stars William Campbell, Merissa Mathes

Main cast:

William Campbell (Dementia 13; Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte), Linda Saunders (So Sad About Gloria), Merissa Mathes (The Phantom Planet) Sandra Knight (Frankenstein’s Daughter; The Terror; The Haunting of Morella), Sid Haig, Jonathan Haze, and Patrick Magee.

Blood Bath had a convoluted production history, originating as a 1963 Yugoslavian-shot art smuggling crime movie, Operacija Ticijan  (Operation Titian), before it was re-edited as Portrait of Terror, with a very young Francis Ford Coppola involved with the screenplay, co-financed by executive producer Roger Corman, who deemed the final product unreleasable.

In 1964, numerous horror sequences were then shot and edited into the film, first by Jack Hill, then by Stephanie Rothman. Corman approved of Rothman’s version and the film was given a brief theatrical release by American International Pictures (AIP).

In 1966, the film was re-edited for TV in 1966 as Track of the Vampire and also released in some European territories as Horror Cocktail.

“William Campbell played the lead in that one – he played a demented artist who kills his models and kind of melted them down in a vat. It still wasn’t really good enough to release theatrically, so we did another version where I was the cameraman and added more stuff. But William Campbell was no longer available, so this time the script turned him into a vampire, and we hired another actor who looked vaguely similair. It was an odd way to make movies.”Gary Kurtz (producer of Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back), quoted in Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses

Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses Roger Corman King of the B Movie

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On May 30, 2016, Arrow Video release the ultimate version of the film on Blu-ray:

  • Limited Edition collection of the complete Blood Bath
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of four versions of the film: Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire
  • Brand new reconstruction of Operation Titian using original film materials and standard definition inserts
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all four versions
  • The Trouble with Titian Revisited – a brand new visual essay in which Tim Lucas returns to (and updates) his three-part Video Watchdog feature to examine the convoluted production history of Blood Bath and its multiple versions
  • Bathing in Blood with Sid Haig – a new interview with the actor, recorded exclusively for this release
  • Outtakes from Track of the Vampire, scanned from original film materials
  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artworks
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
  • Limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Peter Stanfield, Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt and Cullen Gallagher

Blood-Bath-Arrow-Blu-ray

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In Venice, California, student Daisy (Merissa Mathes) leaves a club alone after having an argument with her beatnik boyfriend Max (Carl Schanzer). Walking through the deserted streets, she stops to admire some gruesome paintings in a gallery window painted by artist Antonio Sordi (Campbell), who coincidentally also comes by to look in on his “lost children.”

After a friendly conversation, Sordi convinces the young woman to pose nude for him that night. At his bell-tower studio, Sordi is possessed by the spirit of a long-dead ancestor and suddenly transforms into a vampiric monster who hacks the screaming Daisy to death with a cleaver. Afterwards, he lowers her mutilated corpse into a vat of boiling wax.

Sordi, in his vampire form, stalks Venice in search of victims; he is able to do so freely at all hours. In the middle of the day, he chases a young woman into the surf at a beach and drowns her. At night, he kills a prostitute in a car while pedestrians stroll by, all of them assuming the pair are lovers sharing an intimate moment.

Another victim is approached at a party, chased into a swimming pool, and drowned there after the other guests have moved into the house. The murdered women are carried back to Sordi’s studio and painted by the artist, their bodies then covered in wax…

Reviews:

“If we must assess Blood Bath as a whole, it’s a piebald piece of junk, cobbled together from ill-fitting bits… but those bits represent the better efforts of a number of talented contributors. In short, it’s not likely to interest the average viewer, but for those who can identify directors from their fingerprints should find its mottled complexion a source of endless fascination.” Tim Lucas, Pause. Rewind. Obsess.

“A cross between art film and schlock, Blood Bath (a “second feature” in the true sense of the word, running just over an hour) repeats a semi-successful beatnik/loner artist formula found in such AIP cheapies as Bucket of Blood...” DVD Drive-In

Blood-Bath-MGM-DVD

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“The film doesn’t make a lot of (if any) sense but it does feature some stunningly atmospheric shots – some scenes with ‘beat artists’ (including Sid Haig) that are immensely entertaining, and a weird climax of crumbly wax-covered corpses that’s worth the price of admission.” John Llewellyn Probert, House of Mortal Cinema

“Other movies do crazy artists better. Other movies do better with exploitation, gore, bikinis, beatniks, humor, surrealism, and (of course) vampires. But none combines these elements like Track of the Vampire. It’s one third weird, one third funny, one third gross… and that’s a pretty impressive B-movie combination. An unexpected and unbelievable ending is icing on the cake.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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“Cheap and crude,with echoes of a dozen movies ranging from Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) to A Bucket of Blood (1959), this film isn’t unenjoyable.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

Filming locations:

Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Venice, Los Angeles, California, USA

Wikipedia | IMDb | AFI

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