Blood Bath (2-Disc Limited Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
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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.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
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It all started in 1963 when B-movie maestro Roger Corman secured production of a Yugoslavian crime thriller, OPERATION TITIAN and, hoping to appeal to an American audience, cast William Campbell and Patrick Magee in principal roles. Unhappy with the result, Corman re-cut and re-scored the film, as well as added a few scenes and released it as PORTRAIT IN TERROR. Believing he could still fare better, Corman had the premise re-structured into a vampire tale requiring more extensive reshoots resulting in BLOOD BATH, which itself was expanded for TV distribution as TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE. Although he was the guiding force behind this convoluted venture, Roger Corman received no onscreen credit on any of the four BLOOD BATH incarnations.
In retrospect, the source for all the subsequent versions - OPERATION TITIAN - isn't bad at all, with fine direction by Radoš Novaković and fabulous location photography of the ancient, Adriatic coastal port of Dubrovnik. BLOOD BATH was directed by Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman, and likewise generates great atmosphere derived from footage of TITIAN's exteriors coupled with the scenes shot at Venice Beach which sort of resemble Dubrovnik. Indeed, they recall DEMENTIA a.k.a. DAUGHTER OF HORROR (1955) and Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL (1958), two other films that also make splendid use of Venice. PORTRAIT IN TERROR streamlines TITIAN's plot somewhat, while TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE pads out BATH's with re-dubbed scenes from TITIAN and two incongruous sequences: the vampire chasing a sarong-clad girl in broad daylight and a solo ballet along the beach that goes on forever. The severely underrated William Campbell is the only actor to appear in all four versions of BLOOD BATH as artist Antonio Sordi; his transformation into a vampire with a Zorro-type hat is played by an uncredited actor.
All the films are worthwhile in their own way. BLOOD BATH has some genuinely frightening moments, such as the gruesome murder of one of Sordi's models, former Playboy Playmate Marissa Mathes. Another great sequence is when Sandra Knight's character pursues the vampire Sordi and becomes pursued herself, meeting a grisly fate on a carousel.
Arrow Video is to be praised for finally giving this quartet of films their just due with a most welcome Blu-ray edition sourced from original film elements. I never thought I'd ever get to see OPERATION TITIAN, let alone an entire boxed set celebrating everything that led up to TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE. Bonus features include a superb documentary, "The Trouble with Titian Revisited" by Tim Lucas that chronicles the complicated history of BLOOD BATH's multiple versions, a new interview with actor Sid Haig, archival interview with director Jack Hill, a stills gallery, a double-sided fold-out poster and a limited edition booklet with new articles on all four films.
As a fan of these underground cult classics, I would have to say that this is easily the most significant video release so far in 2016.
My highest recommendation.
However Corman was not satisfied with Jack Hill's embellishments so he hired young up and coming director Stephanie Rothman to embellish it further. This she did by incorporating a story about the artist also turning into a vampire (who looks nothing like him). Mix that in with the beatniks, the mad artist and the Yugoslavian footage and all in 62 minutes and you have one wild, bizarre movie experience that manages to hang together into a fascinating whole. It doesn't make a lot of sense but then it doesn't have to. Later the original film was expanded to 80 minutes with more leftover footage and turned into the TV movie TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE. The original Yugoslavian footage was reedited by a young Francis Ford Coppola as the TV movie PORTRAIT IN TERROR.
Now for the first time since its drive-in run it's possible to see BLOOD BATH the way it was in the theaters. We're back to the original 62 minute print with the original widescreen aspect radio restored. What really makes the movie is the astonishing black & white photography which is beautifully highlighted in this MGM Limited Edition DVD-R. Ronald Stein's creepy score and the startling paintings (which would influence NIGHT GALLERY) make for a genuinely disturbing film. This is what creative, low budget cinema is all about and its great to have BLOOD BATH and its companion piece QUEEN OF BLOOD looking even better than they did when they were first released. Try and see them both if you can but only in the MGM Limited Edition versions.
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