Another day and another boxset from Arrow Video. The more they crank out, the more I get to bask in the glory of kickass boxsets. One of the more recent ones to come out is Blood Bath. This one is a bit different than the others, as it is really one movie split up into 4 different films. There is a lot of history behind how this happened and the special features go into great detail about it all. As for this review, I will break down each film and what’s in the box (come on, you know you read that in Brad Pitts voice) and tell you whether or not you should seek this one out. With that being said, let’s get this review show on the road…
Operation Titian (95 minutes)
Portrait in Terror (81 minutes)
Blood Bath (62 minutes)
Track of the Vampire (79 minutes)
Operation Titian (1.66:1)
Portrait in Terror (1.66:1)
Blood Bath (1.66:1)
Track of the Vampire (1.66:1)
AUDIO: Mono 1.0
SUBTITLES: English SDH
PRODUCTION DATE: 1965
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2016
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. For this release Arrow Video has searched through the vaults to bring you all four versions of Blood Bath, newly restored from the best materials available to provide a definitive release of one of Corman’s craziest ventures.
The first film in the set is Operation Titian. Roger Corman bought the film before production started and it is the starting point for the rest of the films. It’s not a horror film, but actually, a crime caper involving paintings being stolen, double crosses and a convoluted story. The film feels quite long, but has a better flow than the other movie on the same disc: Portrait in Terror.
As for Portrait in Terror, the directors Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman go about shooting some new scenes and removing others. In relation to Operation Titian, the films starting point is a scene that was originally about 20 minutes into Titian. It also feels very choppy. Another change was a kill scene, which resulted in a different actor being shown on screen, who is clearly someone that wasn’t in the film originally. And, they must have had to pay a lot for scuba gear, as they decided to shoot an extended underwater scene that ran way too long.
Having said all that, the two films pretty much tell the same story. However, it has a few twists and turns that should keep you entertained. If I was to choose one to watch, I would go with Operation Titian.
Now we get to Blood Bath. Somehow, the makers of the flick decided that a crime caper about stealing paintings could easily be turned into a flick about vampires. Yes, you heard right, vampires. Blood Bath has a tiny bit of scenes from the original Operation Titian, but for the most part, it’s an entirely new flick. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good flick, as it really isn’t. It’s a long drawn out bloodless affair – a vampire flick titled Blood Bath that is without blood?!? For shame!
Track of the Vampire is a TV film that blossomed from Blood Bath and it’s really the same flick, save for some new scenes that add absolutely nothing to the plot. They take a couple scenes from the original Operation Titian and try to shoehorn them into the film, dubbing over the characters to reflect whatever they are trying to convey, in this case, a side plot about a husband who thinks his wife is cheating on him. There is also a really long scene at the beginning of the flick that has a vampire chasing a woman down, during the day. Yes, the day. Also, I would be remiss in not mentioning the lengthy dance number on the beach.Why a dance number you may be asking? I haven’t a clue.
Unfortunately, none of the films in this set add up to much. They are all rather boring and to be perfectly frank, bland. However, it’s not the film themselves that make this boxset so interesting, but the history behind it and the power of what a bit of editing and reshooting can do for a film. Which brings me to the special features on the Blu-ray…
The biggest reason to buy this boxset is that of one special feature in particular titled The Trouble With Titian Revisited. It’s an 1 hour and 21-minute visual essay by Tim Lucas on the complete history of the films. It breaks down each one and goes into wonderful detail on how all this confusing mess came to be. The other features aren’t as lengthy, with the interview with Sid Haig (who was in the Blood Bath versions of the film) is only roughly 4 minutes and the archival interview with Jack Hill clocks in at 3 minutes. Your money is definitely going to that one lengthy feature and one feature alone. As a note, the features are present on Disc 2 of the set.
As for the video and audio, things are a bit hit and miss depending on which version you are watching. Both Operation Titian and Portrait in Terror have bits and pieces of rough video and audio hiss. There are plenty of times where the video is clean, though. As for Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire, they fair about the same. They aren’t perfect and still feature rough areas. These are films from 60’s with some very rough materials and in the case of Operation Titian, some of the material was standard definition.
• 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
• Outtakes from Track of the Vampire, scanned from original film materials
• Stills gallery
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Peter Stanfield, Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt and Cullen Gallagher
• 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
Blood Bath is one boxset where I can’t recommend it based on the movies alone, so it does make it hard to recommend if the price is high. However, if by chance you see the Blu-ray for a sweet deal and love special features and hearing about the crazy history behind a wacky movie(s), you’re going to love it. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.