Review by David Paul Hellings
“Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the release of the complete Blood Bath, released on Blu-ray and DVD on 30th May. This limited edition set has reconstructed and restored all four versions of the film – Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire – from the best surviving materials and comes with a feature-length visual essay companion by Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas.
The films of Roger Corman are often as well-known for their behind-the-scenes stories as they are the ones unfolding on the screen. He famously made Little Shop of Horrors in just two days using sets left over from A Bucket of Blood and shot The Terror over a long weekend because bad weather prevented him from playing tennis. But none of these tales is quite so complex, or quite so extraordinary, as the making of Blood Bath.
The saga began when Corman invested in a Yugoslavian Krimi-like picture entitled Operation Titian just prior to it going into production. Insisting it be filmed in English, he sent actors William Campbell and Patrick Magee, and uncredited story editor Francis Ford Coppola (all fresh from Dementia 13), to Dubrovnik to make a US-friendly movie but wasn’t satisfied with the end results. First it was re-cut and re-scored to create Portrait in Terror, a film more in line with drive-in tastes, then it was handed over to Jack Hill (Spider Baby), followed by Stephanie Rothman (Terminal Island), each undertaking reshoots that resulted in a vampire picture by the name of Blood Bath. One final twist was provided when a TV version was required, chopping scenes and adding others to create Track of the Vampire”.
via Arrow Video
Welles’ low budget films, Cocteau’s works; both come to mind when watching the curious yet rewarding results of taking one film and basically turning it into three others, allowing you to watch all four and see a work from different angles. From standard B-thriller comes the US variant, plus the two interesting horror outings and accidental comments on art, itself.
“Mr. Arkadin” (aka “Confidential Report”) and “Orpheus” both come to mind, one for the style and budget imposed content, the other for mood and ideas. The making of “Blood Bath” is almost as interesting as the finished film and its variant “Track of the Vampire” goes one further, becoming a most curious and fascinating piece. There’s a sense that you really need to watch all three films, the US friendly version and its cut up spawn to form an almost surreal, experimental spin-off trilogy that works when it shouldn’t.
The films have been long unavailable, so to see them restored and in as complete a form as is possible allows audience members to view what is, basically, a Roger Corman business move translated into an attempt to release something from the wreckage of a seemingly failed eastern European partnership. Tim Lucas’ superb, accompanying visual essay “The Trouble with Titian Revisited” gives the complete low down on the history behind the making of the films and really does offer a great insight into the kind of world that can only exist in the film business.
“Track of the Vampire” works far better than the still interesting “Blood Bath” (which has characters appearing from nowhere – Patrick McGee – that leave you asking ‘where did they come from?’), but both still have a fascinating dream world quality. There’s an excited filmmaker feel to the products, which only comes from low budget, guerrilla filmmaking. There’s more to the films than merely cheapie Eurotrash. Whether this was by accident or intention is open to debate, but most would vote for the former. The resultant cult status of the trilogy is down to a mixture of the nature of the production process and the surreal content of the final items. There are nods to Dali, Welles, Cocteau, even Carol Reed, by way of the photography of Alfred Taylor and Directors Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman.
This is a fascinating release, allowing us “Operation Titian”, the reconstructed version of “Portrait in Terror” and the restored versions of its two bastard children. For fans of the original films, finally they have the chance to own them in excellent, natural condition. For those who follow arthouse horror of the period, as well as more general genre of the time and place, these should prove very rewarding. A pleasant surprise indeed.
Limited Edition collection of the complete Blood Bath.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of four versions of the film: Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire.
Brand new 2K restorations of Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire from original film materials.
Brand new reconstruction of Operation Titian using original film materials and standard definition inserts.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all four versions.
The Trouble with Titian Revisited – a brand new visual essay in which Tim Lucas returns to (and updates) his three-part Video Watchdog feature to examine the convoluted production history of Blood Bath and its multiple versions.
Bathing in Blood with Sid Haig – a new interview with the actor, recorded exclusively for this release.
Archive interview with producer-director Jack Hill.
Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artworks.
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford.
Limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt, Cullen Gallagher and Peter Beckman.
This review originally appeared on SFFWorld at: