More Than Meets The Mogwai

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Horror Anthology #1: BLOOD BATH (Joel M. Reed, 1976)

The Devil's Spawn confronts his human father in BLOOD BATH's out-of-left-field finale (with P.J. Soles in out-of-focus background).
Joel M. Reed, the arguably depraved director of the infamous BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (original title: THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW), made this PG-rated, Amicus inspired portmanteau on a $1.98 budget a year before that despicable gore fest turned up to disgust audiences on 42nd street . The dapper Harve Presnell (THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, Daddy Warbucks in “Annie” on Broadway, FARGO), in an indubitable career low, plays Peter Brown, a horror director specializing in the same sort of cheap dreck that BLOOD BATH, on first glance, purports itself to be. After a prolonged “we were only making a movie!” false scare, Brown assures all of his producers and his cast that he doesn’t believe in the occult, and that he’s been making these kinds of films simply to line his pockets, opening the gates for the other dinner party guests to trudge out their past dealings with the the otherworld in order to dispute his stance.

With the first tale relying on pure bad luck, the second being a ghost story (with a horrible racist connotation that I don’t even want to mention, in the hopes that it was simply a mistake on the part of the filmmakers), the third a take-off on “The Monkey’s Paw” (thus continuing the unbroken rule that every anthology must contain a variation of the W.W. Jacobs short story), and the fourth being a hodgepodge of sci-fi/kung fu, it’s safe to say that BLOOD BATH doesn’t make a lick of sense, and doesn’t gel or come together in any real way. Another hampering on the proceedings can be found in the poor art direction (courtesy of Ron Sullivan, aka: hardcore porn director Henri Pachard), as each story (and the wraparounds) were filmed on redressed sets in the same corner of a Manhattan loft (slyly obscured through the non-use of any kind of long or establishing shot), with often the same props being recycled (a bookshelf being the biggest repeat offender). Reed’s direction is oftentimes incompetent – ill-timed edits and awkward, spacey close-ups abound.

Jerry Lacy (Bogie in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM) receives his first wish -- to be in the Napoleonic Wars (?!)

What makes these 70’s and early 80’s exploitation films particularly interesting (at least for me) can be the usual reliance on non-permit, chintzy and saturated red NYC location footage (mostly of 42nd street, natch), but being that BLOOD BATH consists of mainly interiors, there’s none of that juicy footage to be found here (save for a final minute POV night shot of a roving goat-boy in search of prey – he eventually breaks into an apartment to find P.J. Soles, in her screen debut). Jerry Lacy (Bogie in both play and film versions of PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM), Walter Hill favourite Sonny Landham (THE WARRIORS, 48 HRS.), Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), and Stanley Brock (NICKELODEON) are the other familiar faces.

The Subversive Cinema DVD release contains a 45-minute extra entitled “Taking a Blood Bath: Making 70’s Indies in New York”, with director Reed, art director Sullivan, principal Lacy, and bit part player Landham cutting across a wide swath of topics, but one problem: it’s annoyingly edited, jumping from one player to another, oftentimes in the middle of a story.

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2 Comments:

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