Bordello of Blood (1996)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #262

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Number of Views: Two
Release Date: August 16, 1996
Genre: Horror Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $15,000,000
Box Office: $5,781,045 (US)
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Gilbert Adler
Producer: Gilbert Adler
Screenplay: A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler
Story: Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis
Special Effects: Kevin Yagher, Terry Sonderhoff
Cinematography: Tom Priestley
Score: Chris Boardman
Editing: Stephen Lovejoy
Studio: Universal City Studios, Tales From The Crypt Holdings
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Stars: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Phil Fondacaro, John Kassir, William Sadler, Kiara Hunter, Leslie Ann Phillips, Juliet Reagh, Eli Gabay, Matt Hill, Eric Keenleyside, Kim Kondrashoff, Robert Munic, Gary Starr

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Suggested Audio Candy

The Sweet “Ballroom Blitz”

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It’s over sixty years since Tales From the Crypt first reared its decomposing head. It started out in the early fifties as a bi-monthly comic and was published by EC Comics for five years until controversy about its influence leading to potential juvenile delinquency and hilariously illiteracy. Although the curtain came down in March 1955 it remained a firm favorite with fans of pulp fiction and Amicus adapted its short stories into a full-length anthology in 1972. Then in 1989 HBO launched Tales From the Crypt as a television series and the hype once again began to build. Before long there were board games and pinball tables based on the series and Universal Studios planned an upcoming trilogy of films based on its folklore.

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The first, Demon Knight, appeared in 1995 and performed relatively well, with plans in place to complete the trinity with Ritual, before Bordello of Blood came along in the interim and fell flatter than Karen Carpenter on a varnished floor. Suddenly the name Tales From the Crypt was considered blasphemous and, while Ritual did surface in 2001, it did so without the attached moniker. As for Bordello, it was poorly received by critics, went limp in the theaters and ultimately fell foul to the Alka-Seltzer effect. Many aficionados swept it back into the crypt and carried on with their everyday existences whereas Keeper kept a vigilant eye on it for all that time, until which time I felt necessary to resurrect it.

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The time has now come Grueheads as I have once again ventured into the Bordello and, the good news is that it is, in no way, the dud it has been so shamefully branded. Neither is it a force to be reckoned with but, considering how lean the nineties were when it came to horror, this had no right to be vilified so harshly. It is indeed pulpy, anything less would have been disappointing, but it steers clear of outright parody and still manages to bring the noise. Sure, it’s unlikely that critics will be eating their stetsons after all these years but hopefully I can neutralize some of the acidic bile spewed its way consistently. You’ll thank me when you’re older.

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Our Crypt Keeper, who curiously resembles Iggy Pop and sounds like Stewie Griffin, is once again voiced by the legendary John Kassir, and this time he is joined by a whole host of B-list talent. Chris Sarandon (Fright Night), Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys), William Sadler (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) and Erika Eleniak (Baywatch) are all on hand to flesh out the bones and all are clearly having a hoot. Yet it is stand-up Dennis Miller as wise cracking private investigator Rafe Guttman who ties it together like a shag-pile rug. He has plentiful on-screen charisma and, better yet, wears a beard that looks like it was stolen from John Ritter. Moreover he has that impish twinkle in his eye as he delivers quip after quip. It’s impossible not to warm to him.

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The story is as limp as a beggar’s wrist and could be relayed in sign language even though I have no clue how to do sign. It involves an ancient strain of vampiric succubi who are unleashed and given their own modern-day whorehouse, masquerading as a funeral parlor, to perform their deep-throated open heart surgery. These vamps are far more concerned with tucking into still-beating hearts than biting jugulars and are also partial to flopping out their mammalia and cohorting in precious little. All the ingredients are in place for both schlock and titillation and Bordello of Blood succeeds on both counts.

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There is an air of camp to proceedings but Gilbert Adler never runs too far with it, although there are interesting turns from Sarandon as a guitar-wielding televangelist and Feldman as Feldman which are a joy and pleasure to witness. Tongues are firmly in cheeks throughout and Adler’s foot remains firmly pressed against the pedal, keeping its 87 minute runtime decidedly brisk and breezy. There are no great revelations during that time but instead there is abundance of zany and well worked visual effects and more than ample blood to hand-wash your stockings in.

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This is where Bordello is at its most charismatic. It may not be rocket science but who wants to watch that shit, at any rate? Let the scientists earn their keep and aspire to their Pulitzers. As for Keeper, I’m more than happy to sloth on my torn couch, scratching my left bag bean, and partaking in a blood orgy, the likes of which momma used to make. To those who staunchly believe it tarnishes Tales From the Crypt’s once proud name… pfft. Where’s your sense of fun? High art is overrated if you ask me, every 90-odd minutes is precious and there are far worse ways to spend that time than with harmless fodder such as Bordello of Blood. Stick that in your crack pipe and toke it.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Bordello is actually far more gruesome than it has any right to be. Hearts are plucked out and feasted upon, heads roll, vamps explode to smithereens; it’s a bona fide grue fest. In addition, If I had my own personal katamari and rolled it over all the boobs on exhibit here then I could breast-feed a nation perpetually.

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Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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1 Comment

  1. Keeper kept a vigilant eye on it for all that time, until which time I felt necessary to resurrect it. 😁

    …who wants to watch that shit anyhoots?

    Agreed. These films WERE so very vilified in the 90’s….as usual you bring some very good points to the frontline for peeps to ponder.

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