Friday, July 13, 2007

Track of the Vampire – review

Directed by: Jack Hill & Stephanie Rothman

Release Date: 1966

Contains spoilers

As per normal, once I had written the body of this review, I went to see what folks on imdb thought of it – and you know what, people seemed to like it. You know what else? I cannot for the life of me understand why, and hopefully the reasons for that confusion are already embedded into the text I had written…

The film does seem confused in content, probably because it was two films cut into one. That, however, is no excuse. A film being appalling because it was rescued from two pitiful outings is just as bad as if it had been shot that way in the first place.

The film begins with a man, later revealed as Antonio Sordi (William Campbell), stalking through the streets of an unnamed town. He grabs an unsuspecting woman and throttles her. People are coming so he bundles her into a nearby car. After they have passed he looks up and we see he has fangs and she has blood on her neck.

In a café local experimental artists are looking at a metronome with an eye on it! Then head honcho artist Max (Karl Shanzer) reveals his latest style – quantum art. He produces a portrait of his favourite model Daisy (Marissa Mathes) and she is happy that for once she is recognisable. The other artists think it too formal but it is not finished. He gets out a gun and fires a paint pellet at it, eradicating the face in the process – now it is finished. Daisy is disgusted. A buyer comes in looking for one of the ‘dead red nudes’ by Sorti.

We see the hat wearing vampire, during the day, chasing a woman. Now this was bad. He chases her through the countryside, to a building, out back the way they came and towards a beach. It seems to go on forever. Her scream is heard by a lifeguard for no reason, as there is no intervention just a scene of the lifeguard returning to his seat later. They, the woman and the vampire, end up in the water, where he catches her and carries her out of the surf. Bizarrely she has changed between being grabbed and being carried out from wearing a dress to wearing a bikini. Go figure. It is without suspense and has no further impact on the film, indeed the scene is a waste of celluloid.

Then we see a dance studio. After some bs, Daisy enters and talks to dancer Dorean (Lori Saunders). Daisy wants to move back in with her as she is leaving Max, which is fine but Dorean is meeting a fellow at the beach.

On the beach we get some ‘perfume ad’ shots of her then she is shocked as the man in the hat walks by. Now, later we discover her man is Sordi so how she didn’t recognise him in his ‘cunning’ disguise is beyond me. After he has gone we get 8 full minutes of interpretive dance on the beach, that’s right 8 out of 80 – a full 10% of the running time. At this point I was close to tears. Sordi doesn’t show by the way and she is still on the beach the next day when he does but we jump ahead…

Daisy is looking at Sordi’s work in a shop window and meets the man himself. She agrees to model for him. As he prepares the canvas things start to happen and this was the only vaguely interesting bit of the film. He explains that his ancestor, Erno Sordi, was a painter but his works were deemed as magical and he was burnt at the stake by the church. Chief witness for the inquisition was his mistress Melizza (also played, in flashback, by Lori Saunders).

As he tells his tale Melizza appears in the canvass and starts moving. He seems transported to another place, a desert, and becomes his ancestor. In the real world Daisy screams as he transforms and gains fangs. A few hatchet blows later and he produces his next ‘masterpiece’. He disposes of the body by dipping it in boiling wax – less a disposal, I guess, and more preservation.

Anyway long story short, this has happened before – the return of Erno as a vampire that is – and Sordi carries on like this for a while. Part way through the film he waxes a jealous husband played by an uncredited Patrick Magee, who was in one of the two films fused to make this but somehow got virtually cut out of the end result. Daisy’s sister Donna (Sandra Knight) is suspicious (as Daisy has vanished) and follows Sordi leading to another bizarre on foot chase culminating in him slitting her throat on a merry-go-round, an attack unseen although it is before witnesses!

He eventually turns on Dorean, who doesn’t recognise him because he is wearing a hat again! She gets chased from the beach and through the streets, eventually finding Max and his buddies. They chase the vampire (again he isn’t recognised) whilst she goes to Sordi’s bell tower studio to be safe. Max throws the vampire off a high area, killing him it appears but then he vanishes.

Sordi is going to make art with Dorean, and at this point is referring to her as Melizza and himself as Erno, until, for no adequately explored reason, all the wax encased bodies come alive and push him into the vat of wax. Don’t even try to work out why all this is going on.

There isn’t much else to say about this. Un-suspenseful on foot chase scenes abound, the comic relief is singularly unfunny and the story makes little sense. The acting is pretty darn poor and I can’t recommend it in any way. Even the little interesting bits aren’t really enough of a reason to watch it.

The DVD I have, however, is interesting. Double billed with Nightmare Castle the disc is set up to run like a drive-in double feature. It carries trailers for the two features and Blood of Dracula and even has a Betty Boop cartoon as an intermission. An interesting DVD set up doesn’t help this atrocity of a film however, 0.5 out of 10 reflects the fact that there are a couple of interesting ideas lurking beneath the mess.

The imdb page is here.

I look at the Blu-Ray of the film and its cut as Blood Bath here.


Gene Phillips said...

I didn't like TRACK/BLOOD BEAST in earlier viewings, but it grew on me somewhat, even with padded scenes like the dance on the beach (which I note you were happy not to see again in your review of BLOOD BATH's shortened Blu-ray release).

I thought you might find my review of it of some interest, if only because I labored to comment on director Stephanie Rothman's egregious injections of confusing vampire lore.

Keep up the good work.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gene many thanks for the comment, kind words and the link.

I certainly did enjoy your review and look forward to exploring your blog.