BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Blood Bath is one of Roger Corman’s wildest endeavors. I dare suggest that the history of the movie is probably far more interesting and unpredictable than the movie itself. Well, to be exact, Blood Bath, having started its life in 1962 and finally released in 1966, is actually four different movies with four different plots. Confused? You see, Blood Bath began as a Yugoslavian spy film entitled Operation: Titian. It was recut with additional scenes added and became Portrait in Terror which was then retooled with more scenes and a change in location to be director Jack Hill’s Blood Bath and that film would get a rewrite before being released and then eventually emerge on television as Track of the Vampire. Whew. You got all that?
You see, the always economical Roger Corman is a smart guy. He never stops working - especially on vacation. Corman was using his Poe-earned profits to buy b-roll location shots from overseas and invest in cheap international features. If those movies failed to live up to his standards or he thought he could make them for American audiences, it was far easier (and cheaper) to hire a director he trusted, write additional scenes, hire some actors, and recut the film for drive-in audiences. This is what happened with Blood Bath…several times.
Having already invested in a disappointing spy film called Operation: Titian (written by Francis Ford Coppola, another Corman hired hand), Corman reached out to director Jack Hill to try and make something out of the finished project, which originally starred William Castle and Patrick Magee. Hill went to work in Venice, California in 1963, threw Sid Haig and Jonathan Haze as Beatniks with wild theories on art into the mix, and created a quasi-arthouse flick about a painter who believes he’s the reincarnation of a madman burned at the stake many, many centuries ago.
The “Dead Red Nudes” sell well, much to the anger of the local Beatniks. And they let the disturbed artist know it. The wealthy pay dearly to own a real Antonio Sordi (Campbell, fresh from Dementia 13, was available for the reshoots at a cost that pissed Corman off) but, when the girlfriend of one of the Beatniks goes missing, the group suspects Sordi, as well they should.
While reminiscent of Price’s House of Wax and other genre flicks like it, Hill adds a group of Beatniks, conversations about pushing art to its fringes, and a most incredible hatchet-killing sequence that, to this day, never fails to make a disturbing impact. Unfortunately, Corman was not satisfied with the end result and moved on to another writer and director. Hill had his paycheck and was on his way, too. Not his problem anymore. Spider Baby was next for him.
Enter Stephanie Rothman. She adds in a vampire twist, suggesting Sordi “vapes” into a vampire (a different actor) and kills the females he uses as models in his work, then paints their portrait in the position they are in…knife and all…before dropping them in vats of wax. Corman, for whatever reason, felt this was the correct version to release and, in 1966, the co-directed version of Blood Bath was released.
But that wasn’t the end of the story for this movie. Eventually, a TV version - with additional footage of Linda Saunders dancing - was repackaged and released as Track of the Vampire and, up until RIGHT NOW, is the ONLY version the majority of us have ever seen. Hill’s solo version of Bath Blood is probably long lost BUT Rothman’s co-directed effort gives us the closest version to date since she uses much of the footage he shot. It is now available in ONE package.
Arrow Video, fully embracing the confusing history of the movie, gives fans of Corman and Jack Hill what they never knew (but long suspected) they were missing out on. The 2-disc limited edition release of Blood Bath offers every single version of the movie possible. Brand new constructional efforts have been used for this high-definition release, too. Operation Titian, Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire are all presented – with standard definition inserts due to the condition of the prints – to give audiences the complete telling of this one picture (but four movies) saga in gloriously crisp black-and-white 1080p.
It is, for fans of Hill, a visual treat to FINALLY see Blood Bath get the attention it deserves. Arrow Video, updating all four films with a 2K restoration for this limited edition release, know EXACTLY how to treat lovers of these forgotten and very, very cult-appreciated films. You will gladly pay the price they are asking for in order to enjoy this Blood Bath.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 80 mins
Director: Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman
Writer: Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman
Cast: William Campbell, Marissa Mathes, Lori Saunders
Tagline: The shrieking of mutilated victims caged in a black pit of horror!
Memorable Movie Quote:
Distributor: American International Pictures (AIP)
Release Date: March 2, 1966
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: May 31, 2016
Synopsis: A crazed artist who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a murderous vampire kills young women, then boils their bodies in a vat.
Available on Blu-ray - May 31, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BD-50)
Region Encoding: A
Arrow Video released Blood Bath in its four different versions to thundering applause. The 2K restoration employed here is beautiful work. Grain has never looked this inviting. The details through this black and white feature are simply scrumptious. From fabrics in the clothes of the actors to the facial imperfections of Haig, this AVC encoded image (presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio) 1080p transfer gets the look right. Enjoy the shots of architecture and cathedral bells ringing that originally inspired Corman to invest in the feature. The score and dialogue are presented in a mono 1.0 track so be prepared to turn it up and, when the screaming starts, back down again.
Spread over 2 discs, the supplemental items are simply a MUST WATCH for ANY one at all interested in film history. Up first is a brand new 81-minute long visual essay 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. Sid Haig, in a new interview, talks about the film and his involvement in it. There’s an archive interview with Jack Hill. A Stills Gallery rounds out the collection. Additionally, there’s a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork, a reversible sleeve with original and new artwork, and a limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt, Cullen Gallagher and Peter Beckman
- The Trouble with Titian Revisited
- Bathing in Blood with Sid Haig
- Archive interview with producer-director Jack Hill
- Stills Gallery