New from Arrow Video is the Blu-ray/DVD release of the box set titled Blood Bath, which is a wild tale of how Roger Corman turned one foreign film purchase into four different motion pictures.
Corman purchased the rights to a Yugoslavian movie before it began production and insisted that it be in English and feature American actors, which ended up being William Campbell and Patrick Magee. After not being satisfied with the results, it was re-cut and re-scored and given the new title Portrait of Terror.
Then Corman had Jack Hill use footage from the original and shoot additional scenes to create a horror film. When Hill left to work on Spider Baby, Stephanie Rothman took over and did additional re-shoots and turned it into a vampire story called Blood Bath.
Then Corman sold the TV rights to Blood Bath but added additional footage in order to fit the required television running time and renamed it Track of the Vampire. Arrow Video has painstakingly spent the time to restore all four versions and tell the story of how all of this happened.
Operation Titian AKA Operacija Ticijan (1963)
In Dubrovnik, Yugoslovia an old man is murdered and a seemingly valuable Titian painting has been stolen from his home. When the police begin their investigation, it leads them to a foreigner dressed in white who arrived on plane with an American diving team. There are multiple plot twists as they try to discover who is involved in the plot to steal the painting and whether or not the old man had a real Titian or just a fake.
This was an excellent crime thriller and could definitely be considered film noir. The production values are superb, with great cinematography and beautiful location settings with the seaside and old stone buildings. The filmmakers created nice camera angles and placement. It also makes good use of shadows that would be common for a noir film. It is reminiscent of some of Orson Welles directed pictures such as Touch of Evil, as well as the Carol Reed directed noir The Third Man.
The acting from Campbell and Magee is fantastic. Magee plays the interesting man in white, who is a diabolical hitman. He has a very memorable murder scene and chews up the scenery when he is on screen. Campbell is also great, especially near the end when he finally gets to turn it on and get some major screen time.
It has a beautiful jazz score that was unfortunately not used when they re-cut the movie. Had this been made ten years earlier when film noir was still popular, it would have most likely done well and been considered an effective example of the noir genre.
Portrait in Terror (1965)
This has the same storyline but was re-cut and re-scored and has a shorter running time. This version is nowhere near as good as the original one and some of the new footage that was put in took away some of the suspense and plot twists that were previously present.
The beginning and endings have been changed up, basically scrapping the original footage. They did a decent enough job of picking California locations that doubled well for the stone structures of Dubrovnik in the reshoots that were done. Overall, I personally enjoyed the original version and found that they really didn’t do anything to improve on what was already a good film. Many fans will have fond memories of this version from when it was played on television.
Blood Bath (1966)
William Campbell returned to do some re-shoots and in this version he plays a crazed artist who believes that he is the incarnation of a vampire relative, killing young women and boiling their bodies in a vat of wax. He then paints their portraits in the way that they had died.
It should have been obvious to viewers then and now that there were different films’s footage used, as the cinematography for the new footage is nowhere near the level of the original picture. For a low budget drive in movie, this is a decent and weird vampire movie. Campbell is very good as a crazed artist and there is one excellent dream sequence that is shot out in the desert.
Track of the Vampire (1967)
This was the extended television version and most of the extended footage tends to not make a whole lot of sense. There is a very long chase sequence that runs between five to eight minutes and then there is a sequence that is used from the original picture but dubbed in new audio. It is all very strange.
The original version of Blood Bath is much better because of its shorter running time, but there are still fans of this version from when it originally aired on television.
• 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 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
• Stills gallery
• 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
The extras are what make this collection so special. While there is a short interview with Sid Haig and also Jack Hill, the crown jewel is the 81 minute visual from Tim Lucas titled Trouble with Titian. It is simply a brilliant and insightful presentation about the history of these four films and everything else that came before and after it.
It is essential viewing for fans of these films, Roger Corman, or drive-in and low budget of this era. There is also a large booklet with four critical that cover the careers of William Campbell, Patrick Magee, Sid Haig, and one that deals with Track of the Vampire. The are phenomenal with loads of information for fans that want to know more about these actors and Track of the Vampire.
The restoration as always with Arrow Video’s products is excellent and new 2K restorations were done on all of the pictures. According to the insert booklet, it was a very complex process as they had to try and make sure that the films were put back together as how they were originally released.
This is truly a niche boxset and product. I believe that you are going to have to either be a true fan of one of the versions that had been released, or Roger Corman’s productions, or pictures from the drive-in era to want to own this. It is an amazing history lesson for fans of low budget cinema. It is a nice collection and any fan of the above would be interested in owning a copy of it.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 8/10
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.