Bordello Of Blood was the second film to be released by Universal under the “Tales From The Crypt Presents” banner – and it would also be the last. Like it’s Crypt-spawned sister title Demon Knight, it goes for a pulpy and gruesome brand of horror. However, Bordello Of Blood also makes a self-conscious embrace of camp humor that Demon Knight kept confined to its Crypt Keeper framing device. Thus, the results are a different, more self-consciously silly flavor of pulp.
Bordello Of Blood offers exactly what the title promises: a house of prostitution, camouflaged as a funeral home, that is run by ancient vampire Lilith (Angie Everheart). Ne’er-do-well Caleb (Corey Feldman) visits the place and disappears, thus arousing the suspicion of his sister Katherine (Erika Eleniak). She hires wisecracking private detective Rafe Guttmann (Dennis Miller), who uncovers the strange truth as Lilith tries to silence him. Also caught up in this strange tale are an explorer (Phil Fondacaro) in league with Lilith and a wily televangelist (Chris Sarandon) that Katherine works for.
The resulting film feels like it was made by people who set out to make a cult movie – and that is both a blessing and a curse for Bordello Of Blood. On the plus side, the film never skimps on the skin or the splatter and has a nicer level of production resources than your usual pulp fare thanks to its studio backing. Director Gil Adler was a veteran producer and occasional director for the Tales series so he knows how to give the film a quick pace and the proper ghoulish-fun atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the script – adapted from a college-era screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale – is never as clever or inventive as it aspires to be and coasts on its vampire bordello idea rather than trying to develop it in any kind of satirical or thrilling way. It’s also kind of threadbare in terms of plotting: if you strip out the framing device, you’ve got maybe an hour and ten minutes’ worth of film. An even bigger problem is the fact taht Miller is uninspiring as a leading man: he smirks his way through the proceedings and his usual wisecracks are pretty evenly hit-and-miss here. His low-octane approach works against the film, being the exact opposite of the kind of madcap spirit it needed.
That said, Bordello Of Blood isn’t dull and justifies itself as a periodically amusing time-killer. Sarandon and Fondacaro are fun to watch, as is veteran English character actor Aubrey Morris as the perverse and dryly witty creep who runs the funeral home front for the bordello. Its campy tone also allows it to get away with more gore effects and topless women than would be allowed in a more serious horror film.
Besides, it’s hard to be completely negative about a movie that features a setpiece where the heroes square off against the vampires with waterguns full of holy water while “Ballroom Blitz” by the Sweet pumps on the soundtrack. In fact, that scene alone makes Bordello Of Blood worth seeing at least once for horror fans. If you can get behind that kind of moment, you’re likely to get some fun out of this little romp.
Blu-Ray Notes: This title was just reissued on blu-ray by Scream Factory as a “Collector’s Edition” disc. The transfer does well by the film, offering plentiful color and detail (the bordello scenes in particular look rich). Both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes are included. The 5.1 track was used for this review and has a crisp mix with a nice level of surround activity.
This disc also packs in plenty of extras, starting with a commentary track that pairs co-writer/producer A.L. Katz with moderator Robert Galluzzo. It goes into detail about the pileup of bad decisions that created a troubled production for this film as well as interesting material about the Tales t.v. show and Katz’s creative partnership with Adler.
“Tainted Blood” is a 36-minute featurette from Michael Felsher that expands on Katz’s stories and includes added input from Feldman, Everhart, Eleniak and more. Feldman in particular is entertaining here as he outlines the challenges that the cast and crew had dealing with the difficult Miller and the conflicted Eleniak. FX artist Todd Masters also pops up to shed light on how he had to salvage the makeup effects. It’s a wild tale that is more entertaining than Bordello itself and a great segment for Tales fans who want to know the dirt on this infamous film.
Promo material rounds the disc out. A “video promo” is a hard-sell designed for video stores that pitches the film and includes a few EPK interview bits with Everhart and a visibly disinterested Miller. A trailer runs just under two minutes and plays up the camp comedy element of the film. An image gallery offers over 60 images’ worth of stills, promo pix and ad art. All in all, this is a good disc with memorable extras that give you-are-there insight into a production gone wrong.