Roger Corman salvages a vampire thriller from the remains of a little-known European movie
Arrow Video releases the 1966 horror film Blood Bath in a limited edition set, an obscure Roger Corman film with a mangled production history. It has been packaged with the three other Corman films which all share the same lineage, including some footage and various cast members. The other films are known as Operation Titian, Portrait In Terror, and Blood Bath’s padded television version Track of the Vampire. This is one example where the twisted production history behind a film may be more interesting than the film itself. As a movie Blood Bath is a mildly entertaining, if disposable, horror thriller about a mad painter that lives in a bell tower and kills women when a vampire.
The whole story behind Blood Bath as a production begins several years earlier in a film Corman helped finance in Yugoslavia, Operation Titian. Fresh off filming Dementia 13, Corman had sent actors William Campbell and Patrick Magee to Yugoslavia for the making of Operation Titian. Operation Titian was mostly funded with support by the Eastern European country’s Communist government. Along for the ride was an uncredited story editor named Francis Ford Coppola. The movie was deemed worthless for release in America by Corman. What did see release was a shorter, recut version of Operation Titian called Portrait In Terror with a new score, both included on this set by Arrow Video. Both movies are little more than fairly lackluster crime thrillers, though they do feature atmospheric footage shot in Eastern Europe. That was unusual for American cinema at the time.
It has been said that Corman hated giving up on a film and had director Jack Hill (Spider Baby) take the basic footage from Operation Titian, turning it into a vampire film. This is how we arrive at the movie called Blood Bath. Hill does a compete overhaul, only using a few minutes of original footage from Operation Titian and keeping its lead actor, William Campbell. He shot roughly forty new minutes for Blood Bath, which is something since it only runs sixty-two minutes. Stephanie Rothman was brought in to finish up the direction of the remaining material.
So what is Blood Bath as a film? It’s one of those forgettable but strangely entertaining, kooky horror films from the Sixties. It concerns an artist that kills models posing for him. Sordi (William Campbell) has also fallen in love with a woman that doesn’t know he’s really a vampire. The moody footage from Operation Titian fits surprisingly well into the dark narrative and there is some oddly surreal material. It never actually saw a theatrical release from what I understand. A padded expansion cut made for television called Track of the Vampire adds seventeen minutes, also included on this set.
This set is mostly for diehard Roger Corman fans. Arrow Video has extensively mined Jack Hill’s work in recent years, which is how I suspect the idea for this set came about. You can tell what Jack Hill was going for in Blood Bath but limitations in the production are apparent at every step, which undercuts its entertainment value. It is low-budget filmmaking that was created to be disposable, hamstrung by factors beyond anyone’s real control. There is fun in seeing some of the usual Corman players, including Sid Haig, William Campbell and others. Other notable cast members include Lori Saunders and Playmate Marissa Mathes.
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 no one was really asking for in the first place. Blood Bath, the padded television cut called Track of the Vampire, Operation Titian, and Portrait In Terror are all shown in 1080P video framed appropriately at 1.66:1.
They all feature new 2K restorations from the best film elements available, though Operation Titian does have a number of scenes sourced from standard-definition video. The jarring transitions between film-sourced segments and inferior sources produces a rough but watchable presentation for the forgotten Eastern European thriller.
Blood Bath is shown in adequate definition and clarity. The black-and-white film’s new footage uses a different film stock than the included footage shot for Operation Titian, which introduces changes in density and contrast. For the most part an intact film print or secondary element is its source. Some black crush and telecine wobble is noticeable, but the video is certainly presentable enough for this kind of niche, drive-thru fare. Resolution is often on the soft side. The film transfer shows no obvious video processing and likely represents the best Blood Bath will ever look given its tortured production history.
Each movie is equipped with a satisfactory 1.0 PCM soundtrack. The audio seems to have survived in better fashion than the video, boasting crisp dialogue without serious wear. Operation Titian, being a composite cut of differing sources, has minor problems in terms of fidelity but is easily listenable. Fans of Corman’s early films shouldn’t have much problem with this level of audio quality.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are included for all four movies in a white font.
Arrow Video’s limited edition spreads the four movies on two BD-50s. The big bonus feature here is Tim Lucas’s excellent documentary on the sordid history behind Blood Bath, The Trouble With Titian Revisited. It’s a candid, exhaustive piece that covers every film in the set and has a nice personal touch by Lucas. Frankly, including all four cuts may have been overkill for one of Corman’s more obscure films. Though each version offers something different, only the most devoted fans will bother to watch them all.
• The Trouble with Titian Revisited (81:13 in HD) – A brand new visual essay in which Tim Lucas 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 (04:36 in HD) – A new interview with the actor, recorded exclusively for this release. Haig discusses Corman’s penchant for going around the various film labs based in Europe, always looking for possible material to license or utilize in his own films.
• Archival interview with producer-director Jack Hill (03:06 in SD)
• 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
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a pre-production screener by Arrow Video. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters can view screens from all three different versions.