Cinema Fearité presents 'Blood Bath'
Cinema Fearité says goodbye to Sid Haig with his first horror movie.
Whenever someone in the horror community dies, the word “legend” gets tossed around, but in this case, it’s completely true. This last weekend, horror legend Sid Haig passed away at the age of 80. Working with everyone from Roger Corman and George Lucas to Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie, Haig was more than just a horror fixture; he was a cinematic fixture. His long and storied career saw him in sixties schlock classics like Spider Baby and eighties sci-fi clones like Galaxy of Terror. But FilmFracture has already covered all of that. This week, Cinema Fearité is going to take a look at Haig’s first foray into the horror genre, the 1966 noir vampire thriller Blood Bath.
Blood Bath is about a vampire named Antonio Sordi (William Campbell from Hush..Hush, Sweet Charlotte) who kills young women, preserves their bodies in wax, then paints macabre portraits of them, earning respect as an artist in the process. One evening, Sordi meets a young woman named Daisy Allen (The Phantom Planet’s Marissa Mathes), and offers to paint her if she’ll pose for him. Of course, Daisy promptly disappears, and her sister, Donna (The Terror’s Sandra Knight), takes it upon herself to investigate. After a bit of research, Donna starts to believe that Sordi may be the reincarnation of a 15th century painter/witch named Emo who was executed for supposedly capturing his models’ souls on canvas.
The human, non-vampiric Sordi is in love with Daisy’s old roommate, a ballerina named Dorean (Lori Saunders from So Sad About Gloria), whom he thinks is the reincarnation of Emo’s old flame. Armed with this knowledge, Donna enlists the reluctant help of Daisy’s artist boyfriend, Max (Karl Schanzer from Dementia 13), and his friends, hoping to find Daisy alive and rescue her from the clutches of the bloodsucking menace.
Written and directed by Jack Hill (House of Evil, The Snake People) and Stephanie Rothman (The Velvet Vampire), Blood Bath combines the hip beatnik vibe of A Bucket of Blood with the surreal, dreamy horror of Carnival of Souls. At its root, it’s a vampire movie, but it goes much deeper than that. The film also shows shades of being a noir mystery, an occult thriller, and a good old-fashioned slasher movie. And, like any good classic horror movie, it’s got an exciting confrontation and a jaw-droppingly awesome ending.
For his part, Sid Haig’s role is a very small one. He basically plays one of Max’s artist friends named Abdul the Arab. He’s only in a handful of scenes, but he commands each and every one of them, and not just because he’s a good foot taller than the rest of the cast. Haig has a magnetic presence that forces the viewer to watch him, even in the middle of an ensemble. It’s never distracting, but it’s probably a good thing that Haig’s scenes are so sparse, as his character a sideman and not the hero, and more screen time would have resulted in him stealing the entire movie away from his castmates.
Blood Bath was shot by cinematographer Alfred Taylor, who would go on to also shoot seminal sci-fi horror movies like Mutant and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Taylor’s photography in Blood Bath is very noir-centric and gothic, with plenty of long shadows and crazy angles. The most interesting scene from a cinematographic standpoint has little to do with lighting, though. There’s a scene at the midpoint of the movie where one of Sordi’s victims is attacked and pulled into a pool, and the struggle is shown from under the water in a way that is similar to the best (and most famous) scene from The Strangers: Prey at Night. It’s quite inventive, and the sequence elevates Blood Bath to being something more than just a simple film noir vampire flick.
And what would a sixties horror movie be without a stirring stock music soundtrack? The music for Blood Bath was provided (uncredited, of course) by Ronald Stein, who also scored awesome B-movies like The She-Creature and Attack of the Crab Monsters. It’s a creepy crawly score, alternately (and hilariously) slithering its way through suspenseful vamps and bombastic crescendos with slick prowess. Sure, it sounds like every other score from the period, but that’s kind of the point. The generic music sets the mood perfectly. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Even in an early movie like Blood Bath, it’s clear that Sid Haig was having a ton of fun. He was an actor who truly loved what he did, and that joy was reflected in his performances. Even when the movies were morbidly gruesome affairs, Haig’s glee shined through the shock and schlock. That made him fun to watch, no matter what role he was playing. And he did seem to show up just about everywhere, just like an old friend. And he was always great to see, even if his appearance was as short and sweet as it was in Blood Bath.