Brooding artist Antonio Sordi (William Campbell) kneels before his latest canvas and mutters to himself about how the painting, a portrait of a woman, will be his most significant. Shortly afterwards, a young woman is walking alone down the seaside town's streets when she is chased by a shadowy figure: when he catches her he knocks her out while grappling with her and to disguise his actions from a pair of passersby he jumps into an open-topped car with her and pretends to canoodle with her. But what he is actually doing is sucking her blood...
To say Blood Bath, known in its longer version as Track of the Vampire, had a troubled production history, not least a muddled one, is an understatement. It was yet another feature for director and writer Jack Hill performing second unit and additional footage work, but wouldn't you know it, producer Roger Corman took what he had shot out of his hands when he didn't like the way it was going and placed it in the hands of Stephanie Rothman who was told to finish it, all the while incorporating footage from an East European vampire horror he had been involved with. Needless to say, both Hill and Rothman disowned the result.
For some, Blood Bath simply doesn't make sense, but if you bear in mind you're watching the product of behind the scenes turmoil it the plot does carry a certain amount of logic, albeit of the half-recalled nightmare variety. As long as you understand that Sordi is being driven to vampirise women thanks to the machinations of the spirit that tormented his ancestor, you can pretty much follow what happens. Of course, what is unavoidable is the sense of watching a story pulling in different directions thanks to Hill's more comedic style, and Rothman's more sinister one.
Part of that comedic style is a few sequences with a group of beatnik artists straight out of A Bucket of Blood, each trying to impress one another, though the leader of his pack is Max (Karl Schanzer) who is developing a system known as quantum art (essentially squirting paint over more traditional works). His girlfriend is Daisy (Playboy Playmate Marissa Mathes) who falls out with him when he defaces a portrait of her and meets Sordi who takes her back to his place, shows her his art consisting of pictures of murdered women and ends up killing her and dipping her body in wax to preserve her (which is also Bucket of Blood-like, but here meant to be serious).
We may not have Dick Miller present, but Sid Haig is, amusing as one of the beatniks and indicating Hill's participation. Campbell, also in Dementia 13, another Corman-produced cult muddle, makes for a sweaty villain, and already has a girlfriend in the shape of dancer Dorean, played by Lori Saunders who to add to the murkiness additionally plays the spirit tormenting him in surreal visions, including one desert-set hallucination. With a steadier hand behind the cameras, Blood Bath could have been a weirdo classic along the lines of Carnival of Souls, but really it's one chase scene after another, usually filmed in near-darkness. Every so often an arresting image or moody atmosphere will be conjured up, but it's not enough to sustain the admittedly short running time. Interesting more for what it isn't, really. Music by Ronald Stein.