CANNON MONTH 2: Blood Bath (1976)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on August 10, 2021.

Man, ever since I’ve obsessed over Night Train to Terror, I’ve been searching for a movie that has the same absurdist edge and amateurish energy that feels like a million monkeys had been working a million hours in a million room’s worth of typewriters and this is the alien manuscript that they delivered to us.

What makes Blood Bath a movie that instantly went to the top of my list was who made it: Joel M. Reed, who may have made only six movies, but one of them was Bloodsucking Freaks*. This film has the same berserk zeal as that film, a movie I rented so many times as a teenager that I really should have been considered for counseling.

Yet unlike that film — which has pretty much full nudity for most of its running time and some of the most aberrant behavior I’ve ever seen — Blood Bath is, well, nearly bloodless. That doesn’t make it any less strange.

Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson from Fargo) plays Peter Brown, a man who is at once the most Satanic director of all time and also the husband of an actual demon and a New York City cop. The cast of his latest film wants to convince him that the supernatural is real, so they all gather to tell several stories to him that creates the heart of this portmanteau.

From a killer whose big hit goes wrong to a novelist who escapes the drudgery of marriage into a fantasy that doesn’t live up to his dreams, a businessman locked in a vault with the ghost of a black man that he indirectly killed and a martial artist who steals the most important secret of a secret sect of mystics and sells it as part of his strip mall karate classes, none of the stories are going to set you ablaze (then again, the end of the martial arts story is absolute beyond insane, which is exactly what I want this entire movie to be), the stories all kind of pale to the real weirdness of seeing Raymond’s mom Doris Roberts, Andy Milligan stock player Neil Flanagan, Jerry Lacy — who played Bogart to Woody Allen — and a brunette P.J. Soles tying to get with our director protagonist before his half-demon goat boy son goes off.

The art director of this movie, Ron Sullivan, is probably better known as Henri Pachard, the director of The Devil in Miss Jones Part II and Taboo American Style. One of the actors in this, Sonny Landham, may be better known as both Billy in Predator and a hardcore conservative political career, but he started things off in movies like this (and also doing adult).

This is the kind of movie that has a newspaper headline that shouts “Kung Fu Master Opens Supermarket!” and karate masters — one has no arms and legs — sitting down to eat egg rolls before they battle to the death.

This movie is not well made and that means that to me, it’s beyond perfect. It’s an absolute mess, shot on stages that feel barely put together with doors literally coming off their hinges. It has the kind of heart that today’s endless streaming horror anthologies are missing. I demand more karate in my horror anthologies and films unafraid to be this incredibly odd.

*He also made the Jamie Gillis-starring Night of the Zombies.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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