Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blood Bath (1976)

... aka: Baño de sangre
... aka: Horror Cocktail - Die verrücktesten Schauergeschichten der Welt
... aka: Joel M. Reed's Blood Bath

Directed by:
Joel M. Reed

This low budget comic horror anthology barely got any kind of release here in the U.S. and never saw the light of day on a home viewing format here until 2006, when Subversive Cinema finally released it on DVD. Prior to that, it received video releases in the UK, Argentina (as Baño de sangre = "Bloodbath") and Germany (as Horror Cocktail - Die verrücktesten Schauergeschichten der Welt = "Horror Cocktail - The Weirdest Stories in the World"). Considering it's from the director of the outrageously tasteless BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1976) - a film well-known to genre fans for the over-the-top gore, female nudity and almost gleeful sadism - this is a much more mainstream affair. In fact, there's no nudity, next to no blood and it was tame enough to receive a PG rating!

At a New York City film studio, arrogant horror film actor / writer / producer Peter Brown (Harve Presnell) completes a scene from his latest opus and then reveals to the cast and crew that "everyone believes in the occult except me." Taken by surprise, a German film director (Stefan Schnabel), who pines for the good old days of "sophisticated" horror, a wannabe actress who'll do anything to get a role (Deborah Loomis, one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's co-stars in his very first film, Hercules in New York) and a couple of Peter's actor colleagues in his latest film join the skeptical actor for dinner and decide to try to change his mind by telling him "real" stories of the supernatural.

Our first tale centers around George Lake (Tom Tammi), an intelligent and cocky murderer-for-hire with sixty victims to his name. George makes ingenious use of a tape recorder to ensnare rich philanderer Charlie Burman (Stanley Brock) and his airhead mistress Candy, then moves on to bigger things by attempting to make a mob hit using a bomb hidden in a briefcase despite warnings he receives from a psychic (Edith "Greenfield" / Fields) not to do it. This has several cool ideas and the twist at the end is pretty amusing.

Next up is the story of Don Savage (Jerry Lacy), a novelist trapped in an unhappy marriage with his comically whiny, nagging, annoying wife Shirley (Jean Palmerton). Don goes to an antique store and purchases a 10 dollar talisman / coin from a gypsy (Fields again) that supposedly makes wishes come true. He is instructed to give it to his wife but instead uses it to transport himself back to the French Revolution as a wounded war hero in Napoleon's army. (Of all the possible wishes you could make with the coin... that?!) Like with the first story, there's a decent twist at the end.

The third story centers around greedy, racist loan shark Ralph Lambert (Jack Somack), who doesn't care about anything other than money and doesn't give a second thought to the lives he destroys in the process of obtaining it. Right before he's set to join his wife (Doris Roberts) on a month-long European vacation he goes to his walk-in safe to relax and encounters Earl Simmons, the ghost of a black man whose death was more-or-less caused by Ralph repossessing his '64 t-bird. Earl claims he's from hell and just wants his car back, but then Ralph's bimbo secretary (Sharron Shayne) stops by and accidentally locks him in the safe... and the office is set to be closed for an entire month. This was easily my favorite of all the stories and is surprisingly amusing.

Usually they save the best for last, but not in this case as the concluding tale is a weird and dumb kung fu spoof with intentionally bad dubbing on the Asian actors and a silly story. You can see the same thing done much, much better in the hilarious "Fistful of Yen" segment in the sketch comedy The Kentucky Fried Movie (1976). American kung fu master Phillip Lott (Curt Dawson) had gone to China to learn the "nine sacred secrets of self defense" from arm and legless Master Lim (William Chen). Phillip's supposed to live a humble life of poverty, chastity and moderation but is instead defying all of the rules and attempting to sell the secrets to his students for 10K a pop. When word gets back to Lim, he flies back to the U.S. to challenge Phillip to a duel-to-the-death where he'll use the tenth secret ("Buddharama") to take down his opponent. The twist at the end is extremely stupid. Things then return to the framing story of the horror actor, which has a lame twist of its own.

British VHS Release [Rank Video]

Argentinian VHS release [Tauro Video] (photo credit: Raro VHS)

German VHS release [Video Medien Pool]

Despite the title, Blood Bath is certainly not a blood bath, so don't go into this expecting one or you'll be extremely disappointed. The closest this gets to gore is a few severed (mannequin) limbs in the second story. The whole thing is incredibly cheap-looking too, with painted plywood sets and barely-dressed rooms in several of the stories. Thankfully, the screenplay at least has its moments and the director has also lucked out in the talent department as most of the performances are at least halfway decent. I had to research many of the people in this one as they were unfamiliar to me but discovered many were busy (and award-winning) Broadway performers at the same time they appeared in this. Cult movie fans may also recognize such familiar faces as Andy Milligan film regular Neil Flanagan as a Satanic priest in the very first scene and a dark-haired P.J. Soles, who shows up at the very end for a few seconds getting to scream in bed. Sonny Landham, who went from a hardcore porn actor to a star in violent action movies to a nutso conservative politician advocating the genocide of Muslims in his unsuccessful bid for Kentucky governor, is also on the cast list but I don't recall seeing him anywhere.

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