15 March 2016 | tomgillespie2002
Confusing and badly-edited film that somehow works
Like many Roger Corman productions, the creation of Track of the Vampire, or Blood Bath, has a hell of a story behind it. Starting out life as an Americanised Yugoslavian espionage thriller called Operation: Titian starring William Campbell and Patrick Magee and with a script overlooked by Francis Ford Coppola, the film was quickly re-edited into Portrait in Terror. Corman was unhappy with both versions and hired Jack Hill to salvage the film. Hill shot extra footage and renamed it Blood Bath, turning it into a horror movie. Corman still deemed it unworthy of release and hired Stephanie Rothman to again film extra footage.
The final products were a vampire movie based around a deranged artist retaining the title Blood Bath, which ran at just over an hour in length, and a longer feature-length version under the title Track of the Vampire. The resulting experience is confusing and clunkily- edited, yet bolstered by a goofy sense of humour during the scenes Jack Hill shot of a group of idiotic beatniks (including Sid Haig). Campbell plays Antonio Sordi, a painter of gory grotesques that sell at a high price who also happens to be a vampire capable of stalking people during the day. He is in love with Dorean (Lori Saunders), a ballerina who is a dead ringer for Sordi's former mistress, a witch named Melizza who denounced him centuries ago.
Occasionally Track of the Vampire possesses that Ed Wood-esque charm of being so badly done you cannot help but laugh. Rothman added an eight-minute dance sequence on the beach in order to add bulk to the running time, and since Campbell refused to return for re-shoots, Sordi's vampire form is played by a different actor. Yet it's also occasionally terrific, namely whenever Hill is in charge. A haunted shot of the lovelorn Sordi standing on a deserted beach is just about as impressive as anything I've seen in low-budget cinema, and the aforementioned scenes involving the beatniks antics as they try to come up with a new style of art are witty and well-performed. This clash of qualities make for a strange 90 minutes, but it somehow works.