A fascinating documentary/political thriller with a classic rock band at the heart of the action, What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? involves the U.S. State Department, the Nixon White House, the governments of Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland and documentary footage that has been suppressed for over 50 years by one or all of the above. We open the film March 31 at the Monica Film Center with special one-night screenings and Q&As April 3 at the NoHo, April 4 at the Claremont and April 5 at the Glendale. The full Q&A schedule is here.
In early 2020, just prior to the worldwide explosion of COVID 19, Bobby Colomby, an acquaintance and founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, called me for a friendly check in. As a fan of the band in its heyday, I innocently asked him, “What the hell happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?”
Bobby proceeded to tell me the story of the events surrounding the Iron Curtain Tour. He mentioned that a documentary film crew had accompanied the band to shoot material for what was intended to be a theatrical documentary. That film was never released and Bobby had no idea what became of it.
I loved the mystery and intrigue behind this story, but would we be able to find that documentary footage or enough audio/visual material to tell the story effectively? I also love a good treasure hunt. So, as the pandemic was shutting the country down, my team and I began a search. Soon enough, we found references to National General Television Productions as having been the company behind the documentary and that their crew had shot 65 hours of footage during the Iron Curtain Tour.
We cast a wide net around the world to locate this footage, contacting anyone and everyone who had a connection to National General or the film crew, as well as private archives, independent storage facilities and film labs. It was one dead end after another. It appeared that the footage and related elements had completely vanished.
And then, finally, success. While searching for the raw footage, we stumbled upon a pristine print of a 53-minute version of the documentary that had been edited for television syndication. This was an unexpected find as no such version was ever broadcast. A new high-definition transfer was made from this print and watching it provided a fascinating time capsule of our nation, the world, and this group of nine young men on an unprecedented adventure from 50 years earlier. I knew then we had the makings of a fantastic documentary and, indeed, 40 minutes of the “lost” Blood, Sweat & Tears documentary is the backbone of our film.
Some additional heavy digging led us to the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where we ultimately uncovered five raw audio tapes that were recorded live during concerts on the Iron Curtain Tour. The band had a mobile 8-track machine on the tour and we later determined that their engineer had recorded a total of 18 tapes, but only these five were found.
Our search into the private collections of band members and others who were on the Iron Curtain Tour yielded hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and memorabilia. I never gave up hope of finding the 65 hours of original footage. However, after two full years of chasing down every lead and digging deep into vaults across the country as well as government storage facilities in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, we came up empty. The mystery of what became of that material remains.
This film sheds light on history through a fascinating lens. It’s not a biography of the band, nor is it just for music lovers or fans of Blood, Sweat & Tears. It’s a compelling story that explores a unique moment in time and has surprisingly powerful resonance and parallels to what’s going on in the world today. ~ John Scheinfeld