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Blood Bath
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • 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

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman, Rados Novakovic
1966 | 62 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $49.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: May 31, 2016
Review Date: May 30, 2016

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

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.


PICTURE

Arrow goes all out with their limited edition (to 3000 copies) of the Roger Corman horror film Blood Bath, technically directed and put together by a huge swath of people. The set not only presents the film Blood Bath but also presents three other films: Portrait in Terror, Track of the Vampire, and for the first time on video (at least as far as I can see in North America), Operation Titian. What do all of these films have in common? Well, in what is probably the peak of showing how Corman maximized profits, he reused a lot of the same footage between all four films, and in the end we get what are four very distinct films. All of them are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and the films are spread over two dual-layer discs, Operation Titian and Portrait in Terror on disc 1, and the other films on disc 2. Because the films are so different in edits they are not presented with seamless branching. All four films are technically presented in 1080p/24hz high-definition, though one film does utilize standard definition footage in places.

On the whole Iím impressed and Arrow has done a commendable job, especially when one considers the very confusing nature of the films. Judging by the notes, Arrow did complete new 2K scans and restorations of Portrait in Terror and Blood Bath, and then for Track of the Vampire, which is pretty much and extended version of Blood Bath, they used Blood Bathís new restoration as the basis and then inserted the extended material from various sources.

In a few places of Track of the Vampire there are noticeable drops in quality, but theyíre very faint and restoration work looks to have been done to this extended footage as well. The extended footage is really confusing for this film in particular because it uses footage shot exclusively for this film (which is all rather poorly done and makes no sense in the context of the film) and then makes use of more footage from Operation Titian (rather cleverly I will admit) and then footage that was cut out of Jack Hillís original version of Blood Bath, which has been long lost. Again, it needs to be pointed out how well Arrow has done here navigating through the mess.

In terms of damage, what remains through these three films are some minor marks, faint tram lines, some dirt, and other mild imperfections. Fluctuations and pulsing do occur, but are mild. The last bit of Blood Bath and Track of the Devil looks a bit off with wonky contrast levels, but the notes point out that the materials were in poorer condition here. Despite these imperfections you can still tell that a lot of work has gone into restoring these films and the end results are surprising. The digital transfers themselves for these three films, as expected. They look filmic, rendering grain rather nicely, and delivering a staggering amount of detail and texture at times (when the source allows at least). Blacks are quite deep and inky and details still show through in the shadows.

Operation Titian is a bit of a different beast and the weakest of the four presentations. This is the film that started it all: a European heist thriller that Corman bought up the North American rights to, only to find it unmarketable. As he had done with other overseas footage he had come across through the years, he decided to excise footage from it and use it for a completely different film, which would be Blood Bath (which went through its own metamorphosis all on its own). Yet he still re-edited Operation Titian into Portrait in Terror for television, which still cut a lot from the original film and then made use of some of the new footage shot for the other films.

To reconstruct the original version of Operation Titian Arrow looks to be using Portrait in Terror as the base for the presentation, along with whatever footage made it into any of the other films. For the material that was completely excised and not used in any of the other films Arrow pulls the footage from a standard-definition source that looks to have been used for a DVD released overseas. These insertions are unfortunately obvious and the shifts are drastic: we can go from a rather filmic, sharp looking scene to a quick cut or extended scene which becomes pixilated and noisy, with ringing and edge-enhancement dancing around objects. Itís unfortunate but I get the feeling this is about as good as it gets short of doing a new scan of the materials, which Iím sure was prohibitive or not at all possible. Arrow has still put in a lot of effort to make sure that the best available source is used for every scene and shot in the film, even to the point where there are even quick high-def insertions between standard-def parts. It also proves to be interesting because then you can clearly see all of the footage that Corman found to be useless, and there is a lot.

But again, despite any weaknesses or issues that remain, Iím really floored by what Arrow has done here. MGM saw fit to slap Blood Bath on a manufactured-on-demand DVD and nothing more, but Arrow goes all out, tracking down the three other films sourced from the same footage, and gives them the best restorations they can. On the whole they all look really good.

Operation Titian: 6/10 | The rest: 8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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Operation Titian

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Operation Titian

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Operation Titian

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Operation Titian

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Operation Titian

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Portrait in Terror

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Portrait in Terror

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Portrait in Terror

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Portrait in Terror

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Portrait in Terror

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Blood Bath

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Blood Bath

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Blood Bath

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Blood Bath

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Blood Bath

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Track of the Vampire

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Track of the Vampire

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Track of the Vampire

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Track of the Vampire

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Track of the Vampire

AUDIO

The films are presented in lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono and as expected the quality varies. For the most part the audio is clean and you can make out dialogue clearly. Music also sounds fine, if a bit flat. Thereís some obvious background noise in places though itís thankfully not too distracting. Titian can be a bit more distorted in the extended footage but on the whole itís still easy to make out dialogue. In all the films are limited by a number of issues (age, conditions, materials, equipment, being sourced from multiple places, etc.) but the presentations deliver the best possible audio they can.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This setís awesome. I love this set. I mean, love it. This reaction I had to it is odd because admittedly I found the films mostly awful. Okay, Operation Titian isnít that bad, and is actually a decent little heist thriller with double crosses and odd plot turns, and both William Campbell and Patrick Magee look to be having fun (according to the supplements they treated the shoot in Yugoslavia like a vacation). Also, of the four films, it looks the best, so I can see why Corman was fascinated with the footage. Blood Bath itself has potential but seems constructed rather haphazardly (not surprisingly) and has a central vampire plot thatís not terribly interesting (I wasnít shocked to learn in the features that there is yet another lost version of the film that went a different direction). The other two are not good, Track of the Vampire being particularly terrible, though I liked how it made use of the Magee footage from Titian, after Mageeís performance was completely cut from Blood Bath. But going through the films and this set as a whole was not only an unbelievable amount of fun, it also proved to be educational as well, on both the power of editing and the inner-workings of Cormanís mind.

Not only do you get these four films but you also get an exhaustive, borderline obsessive video essay by Tim Lucas entitled The Trouble with Titian Revisited. Running a staggering 81-minutes, Lucas first explains how he became obsessed with the films: as a child he caught both Track of the Vampire and Portrait in Terror on television only to notice that both films, while completely different in tone and plot, used a lot of the same footage, just edited together differently to tell different stories. This led to him discovering Blood Bath and then eventually finding out about Operation Titian, which he only got to finally see recently, almost 40 years after seeing the other two films. He gives some background to how Corman came to be involved in the production of Operation Titian and talks about its filming. From here he then goes through each film that was then born out of this one film. This is where I first learned about an alternate version to Blood Bath, which actually makes more sense to me. Jack Hillówho Corman credited with saving what he considered an Francis Ford Coppolaís incomprehensible Dementia 13ówas brought in to take footage from Titian (at least 30-minutesí worth) and then film another movie, a horror movie, that could be worked around it. Hill was able to get William Campbell back and he shot the new footage over a week. This version of the film is lost but Lucas explains the plot, which makes a lot more sense in comparison to what we do get, and actually doesnít sound too bad and actually rather clever. Apparently Corman was unhappy with this film and brought in Stephanie Rothman, who then shot more footage and changed it from a thriller to a vampire movie, which apparently pissed off Hill something fierce. William Campbell, who was getting sick of Corman constantly changing this film and using footage of him for multiple movies without more pay, refused to do these reshoots, so a different actor had to be brought in to stand in. Shockingly the film is actually much shorter than the original, running only 62-minutes, and this running time actually led to Track of the Vampire: Corman needed a longer version that would fill a 90-minute slot on television, so the film was re-edited again with more new footage shot for it. Footage of Magee from Titian was also put back in, working in a jealous husband plotline, and even footage from Hillís version of Blood Bath also found its way in. My brain hurts just thinking about all of this.

This essay is packed with a lot and Iím only touching the surface of it up above. Lucas presents a number of comparisons demonstrating how sequences play out differently despite using similar footage, and itís here where I had to admire the otherwise terrible Track of the Vampire a bit more. This also helped my appreciation for Arrowís work and the nightmare they went through reconstructing everything: Trackís worst sin is that a lot of the new footage is just padding to the extreme. Arrow had a hard time determining whether what they had was actual footage from the film or outtakes because the footage ran on so long. But matching it with the sound effects track determined that, yep, as insane as it was it was all part of the film.

Originally written by Lucas for Video Watchdog, he does a wonderful job translating it to video here. It is one of my absolute favourite special features this year.

Arrow then includes a couple of brief interviews. The first one, a 4-minute talk with Sid Haig, briefly has the actor go on about Blood Bath and doing reshoots for the reshoots (he was amused by one review that said the film felt like it was made from three different films), while an older interview with director Jack Hill, running only 3-minutes, features the director trying to recall the confusing history of Blood Bath and his part in it. Even he has trouble making sense of it all. The disc then closes with a gallery of about 27 production photos and advertising materials, the latter looking to be targeted directly to theaters to show the films, with Blood Bath put together as a double-bill with Queen of Blood.

And it doesnít end there. The release is packaged in a slip case, holding a 2-disc clear Blu-ray case with reversible art, the other side showing the original completely unrelated but awesome poster art for the film. The slip also holds a double sided foldout poster featuring the new artwork on one side and the poster art on the other. We also get a wonderful 36-page book with great pieces on actors William Campbell, Patrick Magee, and Sid Haig (by Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt, and Cullen Gallgher respectively), which all proved illuminating (I admit I actually didnít know Quentin Tarantino originally wanted Haig for the part of Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction).

This booklet also contains a wonderful essay by Peter Beckman. This essay is great, and is probably the final piece that made me fall in love with this release through and through. Beckman recalls his work at a local television station and buying up AIP-TV packages for broadcast. This led first to him getting television rights for The Avengers (because of certain super hero franchises I feel inclined to point out this is the British spy series being referred to), which became a big hit, and then him discovering Portrait in Terror and Track of the Vampire in another pack of films he bought. He would purposely run the films together since they used the same footage, and he loved that. Amusingly this led to phone complaints that the station was running the same film back to back, and since he ran the films a lot he was eventually fired for it. Itís not just this aspect that proves fascinating but the rather personal nature of the essay makes it a great read: you get the feeling this was a wonderful time of his life and heís overjoyed to be sharing it.

Overall, this is great. Yeah, I wish the interviews were longer, that there was more from Hill about his participation, and so on, but the supplements we do get, particularly Lucasís exhaustive essay, are great.

9/10

CLOSING

This release surprised me. The films arenít particularly good and who knows if Iíll ever revisit any of them again, but oddly I love this release. Love it! In grading it may not reflect that because Iím still trying to remain objective in that regard, but itís one of my favourite releases so far this year. So much care andóIíll use the word againólove has gone into this. Admittedly I think only fans of obscure horror films or odd production histories will get the most out of it, but oh man, they will be thrilled with what they get here.




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