The Film (3.5 - Composite Score)
It is releases like the Arrow Video Blu-ray release of the Roger Corman produced Jack Hill/Stephanie Rothman/Who else was hanging around AIP that day directed Blood Bath that should prove not only the viability of physical media, but why it is a necessity for true film aficionados. Blood Bath was a film that seemed to go under my radar as long as I have been a fan of horror, Roger Corman, and Jack Hill, however now that I've discovered it I am completely blown away, not just by the film itself, but the complexity of its production.
Blood Bath found its start when Roger Corman found himself as an investor in a Yugoslavian crime picture called Operation Titian. To get Corman's involvement in the picture the producers agreed to make it an English language film, and to allow Corman two English actors into the film William Campbell (Star Trek, Dementia 13) and Patrick Magee (Clockwork Orange, The Black Cat).
The film as presented to Corman was not up to his expectations so he had it reshot to be a Bucket of Blood clone about a killer artist called Portrait in Terror. That version also did not please Corman, so he hired Jack Hill to fix it, Hill's fixes didn't work for him, so Stephanie Rothman (Velvet Vampire) came in, and made William Campbell's character who is now a murderous artist, a vampire. The problem is that after all the reshoots Campbell wouldn't come back, so they shot the vampire with a different actor and used a cheap effect to show the vampire "transformation". This version was released by Corman as Blood Bath. Blood Bath was rather short, and couldn't be sold to TV, so they padded it out with random footage of vampire chases and other things and changed the title to Track of the Vampire, and sold that to TV.
Arrow Video have done what no label have ever done for this film before, and have gone back and restored all 4 versions of the film and released them in one comprehensive package. Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath, and and Track of the Vampire are restored from original materials in HD. They have also created a composite version of Operation Titian using original materials and standard definition inserts.
The Arrow Video released had to carry one title, and they went with Blood Bath. However, for interested potential viewers the Blu-ray is ordered chronologically across 2 discs. So the films are presented in the order of their respective versions, and Blood Bath, which is my preferred version of the 4 (and yes I did indeed watch all 4 for this review, it was a pleasure) is the first cut on disc 3.
Blood Bath follows a group of artist and art fans in a Mediterranean sea side community. As the film begins one of their ranks is displaying his latest work a portrait of his muse, which he then shoots with his "Quantum Gun", and basically destroys the piece, insulting her. This leads her to into the arms of a competing local artist Sordi (William Campbell) who is also a murderous vampire and kills her to create his art. It turns out that Sordi has lived in the clock tower of the community for centuries has been burnt, died, and been resurrected in the centuries before. Now, he has become popular again for his morbid art, and in order to find inspiration must kill, and drain his victims. Of course, murder isn't something that keeps you hidden in shadows, and people begin to notice their friends and loved ones disappearing and trace it back to Sordi.
OK, so this film for very obvious reasons is difficult to synopsize. But having watched 4 versions of it over 2 nights it is a film that is less about plot, and more about mood, especially in the latter 2 version Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire. It is sort of interesting that one can sort of tell where Hill and Rothman's contributions come in, but they sort of blend into the overall piece quite well. The difference in actor between Campbell and the vampire is not as jarring as the Lugosi stand in for Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, and is actually fairly well handled. Track of the Vampire is an odd experience coming directly after Blood Bath, because it feels almost exactly the same, just more padded out, but the padded scenes (especially late at night) feel oddly bizarre in their rhythm, and if you are open minded about weird cinema have a bizarre hypnotic quality to them.
The earliest two version of the film are the least interesting of the quartet. The first Operation Titian is a by the numbers crime film without anything to make it truly stand out from other films in the same genre. Portrait in Terror feels very much in the Bucket of Blood school of horror filmmaking, but without the humor that made that film a resounding success.
Audio/Video (4/5 - Composite Score)
Arrow Video have presented Blood Bath in a quite excellent 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks quite stellar with detail being quite sharp, solid contrast, and damage from the source being minimal. The only real negative I can pick on is the standard definition inserts in Operation Titian, and I won't do that, because they were necessary to complete the film.
The audio is presented with a 1.0 mono track in English. The track is quite solid with no issues, and sound coming through nicely.
Tim Lucas updates his legendary 3 part Video Watchdog article into a Visual Essay called The Trouble with Titian where he discusses the bizarre production of the film. This extra is an absolute must when watching this set. We also get an interview with actor Sid Haig, an archival interview with Jack HIll, and a booklet of liner notes. There is also a stills gallery, and a fold out poster.
This release is a must buy for fans of Roger Corman, Jack Hill, and Stephanie Rothman. The Blu-ray is so wonderfully comprehensive in bringing all 4 Blood Bath versions to life that I can't help but HIGHLY RECOMMENDING this one.