Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Gilbert Adler
Written by A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler
1996, 87 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 20th, 2015
Dennis Miller as Rafe Guttman
Erika Eleniak as Katherine
Angie Everhart as Lilith
Chris Sarandon as Rev. Jimmy “JC” Current
Corey Feldman as Caleb
Aubrey Morris as McCutcheon
Phil Fondacaro as Vincent Prather
Robert Paul Munic as Zeke
Katherine is a moral conservative working for local celebrity televangelist Jimmy “JC” Current. When her rebellious brother Caleb fails to come home after their latest argument, she reports him missing to the local police. Frustrated with their lack of interest, she reluctantly hires Rafe Guttman, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. He is self-absorbed, arrogant and cocky, but continues to surprise her with his ability to make progress on the case. According to Rafe, before disappearing, Caleb recently visited a brothel secretly operating out of a funeral home. Katherine is disgusted by the update, but agrees to continue the search out of concern for her brother. Rafe visits the whorehouse and learns things are far more nefarious than simple carnal pleasures when he meets the gorgeous Madam Lilith, a queen vampire. Rafe manages to escape the bordello intact, but Lilith is not finished with him, as she intends to expand her entourage. She will do anything to get him back, including harm those closest to him, and soon Rafe is teamed with an unexpected ally as he returns to fight these sexy creatures of the night, with any means necessary.
HBO’s Tales from the Crypt (1989 – 1996) is a television program that revived the classic EC Horror comics of the same name with a collection of 93 half-hour episodes that successfully mixed horror, humor and ghastly violence. The show features an impressive pedigree of talent on both sides of the camera and ran for seven seasons. As the series was approaching the finale, the idea of extending the fun into feature films was encouraged and the first installment, Demon Knight (1995), proved to be a success. The follow up picture, Dead Easy, was bumped from rotation at the last minute, and Bordello of Blood (1996) hastily went into production. Based on an early screenplay by heavyweights Bob Gale (1941) and Robert Zemekis (Back to the Future), the story was subsequently rewritten by series producers Gilbert Adler and A.L. Katz, with Adler stepping in to direct. The script switch was just the beginning of a myriad of problems facing the filmmakers. External forces, including meddling studio executives, hobbled the production with creative decisions that would ultimately sink the final product.
Bordello of Blood is a very busy film that makes a lot of noise, but doesn’t deliver much substance. Granted, a film about vampires running a whorehouse of horrors isn’t likely to be a sensitive message movie, but the ever-shifting tone of the script betrays the story being told. Things start off promisingly as Phil Fondacaro (Troll) appears as an archaeologist in search of the legendary Lilith, but following the pre-credit sequence, his character is lost in the shuffle and barely registers as a supporting player. Taking the reins as reluctant hero is comedian Dennis Miller, who reportedly accepted the job only after receiving a million-dollar paycheck. Miller quips his way through the film with a barely concealed contempt for the material. His character Rafe shares zero chemistry with the rest of the cast and despite offering a few moments of sarcastic levity, remains largely unlikeable. Angie Everhart (Jade) is out of her depth as Lilith, but manages to hold her own without embarrassing herself, as the role requires two basic expressions: sexy or scowling. Erika Eleniak (The Blob) appears frequently uncomfortable in the role of Katherine. She shuffles from one scene to the next without ever embracing the mantle of heroine, satisfied to let others do the heavy lifting around her.
The life of the film comes from a trio of supporting cast members who are not only well aware of the kind of film they are making, but dare to enjoy themselves in the process. Veteran character actor Aubrey Morris (Lifeforce) delivers the perfect balance of humor and gravitas as mortician/ house manager McCutcheon. Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) brings a lot of energy to the ne’er-do-well Caleb, but remains out of step with the sleepwalking talents of Dennis Miller. The real casting coup is Chris Sarandon (Fright Night) as Rev. “JC” Current, a complicated figure who is both intimidating and comedic. Sarandon owns the role and really shines in the scene where his character is given a shot at redemption. Genre fans will be happy to see both Feldman and Sarandon riff on their earlier work in vampire pictures and luckily both are up to the task.
Coming off the success of the series and the well-received Demon Knight, the failure of Bordello of Blood must have carried extra sting. Gilbert Adler is a successful and prolific producer of both film and television, but this remains his sole gig as a feature director. The series spawned the animated spin-off Tales from the Cryptkeeper, but there were no more official movies. A few years later Tales from the Crypt Presents: Ritual (2002) appeared on video store shelves, but has no connection to the franchise outside of an in-name-only tag that was included for legal reasons to close the deal for a third picture. There are currently talks to reboot the series, but as of this writing little progress has been made. Longtime fans will always have the original comic books and the Amicus anthology films Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Vault of Horror (1973) to fall back on while they wait for additional content. Cryptkeeper groupies have over forty years of quality tales to enjoy, but Bordello of Blood may be the most anemic.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Bordello of Blood looks terrific. Colors are strong, blacks are inky and flesh tones appear natural throughout. There is a lot of small-object detail here and the source material is in great shape, but the level of clarity works against some of the dodgier visual effects.
Scream Factory offers the option of either a DTS-HD MA 5.1 or 2.0 tracks, either of which is effective. I chose the more aggressive 5.1 mix and have no complaints. Music and effects are well-balanced and do not intrude upon dialogue levels and there is plenty of support for the rear channels, particularly during the “Ballroom Blitz” sequence.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Hold on for an entertaining and informative audio commentary with writer/ producer A.L. Katz, a man who has no trouble sharing his disappointment in this film. Moderator Rob Galluzzo (Icons of Fright) does a fine job guiding this discussion that includes more tales about the series than this feature, but fans of the franchise will eat up every minute of it.
As much as I enjoyed the commentary, the making-of featurette Tainted Blood (36 minutes) is even better. There is no shortage of brutal honesty on display here as A.L. Katz, editor Stephen Lovejoy, special effects artist Todd Masters, and actors Corey Feldman, Angie Everhart and Erika Eleniak reflect on their time making this picture. The stories are too good to spoil here, but do yourself a favor and check this fantastic piece out immediately.
A brief promo (3 minutes) for the home video market offers a heavy sales pitch voiceover and mixes footage from the original trailer with a few quick snippets of cast interviews before tossing in a free popcorn popper for anyone selling enough VHS units.
A photo gallery (67 images) features the standard selection of cast photographs, lobby cards and even a glimpse of the unhappy director.
The original theatrical trailer is also on display to spoil enough of the film that people will know whether they wish to invest ninety minutes of their lives.