Blu-ray Review: Arrow Video Revisits 1966’s ‘Blood Bath’

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It’s horror time and this week Steve Johnson takes a look at Arrow Video’s limited edition release of “Blood Bath.” It includes four versions of the film and stars William Campbell, Patrick Mcgee and the amazing Sid Haig.

Here’s a rundown of the film before we jump into the bath:

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. However, none of these tales is as complex, or 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 vampire picture “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 searched through the vaults to provide all four versions of “Blood Bath,” newly restored from the best materials available to offer a definitive release of one of Corman’s craziest ventures.

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REVIEW: After taking a brief break from horror, I’m back in the saddle with Arrow’s epic release of “Blood Bath.” When I say epic, I mean epic in the amount of material included. This set has it all, including what is described by Arrow as four versions of one film. I take exception to that and would describe it a bit differently. Yes, there are technically four films, but they play out as two different films with an alternate version of each. “Operation Titian” and the re-cut version, “Portrait in Terror,” represent one of the two films, while “Blood Bath” and its re-cut version, “Track of the Vampire,” represent the other.

I was not blown away by any of these films. Sure, they were beautifully shot and had good performances from the actors, but there was something about them that didn’t resonate with me. Both “Operation Titian” and “Portrait in Terror” play out as a murder-mystery involving a stolen painting, while “Blood Bath” and “Track of the Vampire” are straightforward vampire films. Not good vampire films, but vampire films none the less. If I had to choose the best film in this package, it would be “Portrait in Terror.” The cuts made to “Operation Titian” resulted in a much more cohesive constructed to play for a drive-in audience. “Blood Bath” and “Track of the Vampire” were boring and left too many unanswered questions. These two films aren’t total losses though, as there is a fun performance by a very young Sid Haig. While I didn’t care for these films much, I encourage you to take a look and make up your own mind. Maybe I’m just being grumpy and need a beer or something.

The two-disc limited edition set includes a brand new reconstruction of “Operation Titian” that uses original film materials and standard definition inserts. “Portrait in Terror,” “Blood Bath” and “Track of the Vampire” received the 2K restoration treatment from Arrow. Once again, Arrow knocked it out of the park with these presentations. The black and white films pop off the screen. The audio for the films is presented in mono format and is adequate.

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Arrow put an amazing amount of effort into delivering the special features for this set. To start things off, the package has a reversible sleeve featuring the original artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford. Arrow has taken things a step further with this release and also included a double-sided fold-out poster of the artwork. This represents some of the best artwork Arrow has commissioned thus far. One of the two highlights of this package is a limited edition booklet that contains new writing on the film and its cast by Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt, Cullen Gallagher and Peter Beckman. The second highlight is a feature entitled “The Trouble with Titian Revisited.” In this highly in-depth visual essay, Tim Lucas examines the convoluted production of “Blood Bath” and its multiple versions. This is easily one of the best and most informative features I have ever watched for a film. I especially enjoyed the side-by-side comparisons of the films. This feature, while long, is worth your time.

There are a couple of quick interviews in this set that are worth a look. The first is an archive interview with producer and director Jack Hill and the second is a newly recorded interview with Sid Haig. While both are quick, they are a lot of fun. I could listen to Sid Haig talk all day. If you’re reading this Sid, you are the best. Rounding out the special features are a stills gallery and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. The only surprise concerning the special features on this release is the lack of an audio commentary.

Arrow’s release of “Blood Bath” and its multiple versions is the definitive presentation of the film. While it isn’t my favorite, I enjoyed seeing how editing and reshoots can produce a completely different film. If you are a fan of this film you need to grab this. — Steve Johnson, Horror Aficionado

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