Monday, January 13, 2014

Film Review: TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996, Gilbert Adler)



Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Tag-line: I couldn't find one, but I believe the poster image of a martini-quaffing Cryptkeeper staring at a pair of partially-clad female legs is probably tag-line enough.
Notable Cast or Crew:  Starring John Kassir (The Cryptkeeper), William Sadler (DIE HARD 2, MACHETE KILLS), Dennis Miller (comedian, THE NET, DISCLOSURE), Erika Eleniak (E.T., UNDER SIEGE, BAYWATCH), Angie Everhart (model, ex-wife of Joe Pesci, LAST ACTION HERO), Chris Sarandon (FRIGHT NIGHT, THE PRINCESS BRIDE), Corey Feldman (STAND BY ME, THE LOST BOYS), Aubrey Morris (LIFEFORCE, "Deltoid" in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), Phil Fondacaro (TROLL, WILLOW, GHOULIES II, "Greaser Greg" in THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS THE MOVIE).  Story by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (BACK TO THE FUTURE Trilogy, USED CARS), and a special appearance by Whoopi Goldberg.  Screenplay by AL Katz (FREDDY'S NIGHTMARES, TALES FROM THE CRYPT) and Gilbert Adler (producer on TALES FROM THE CRYPT and SUPERMAN RETURNS) and directed by Adler.  Produced by Adler, Katz, Zemeckis, Richard Donner, Joel Silver, Walter Hill, and the rest of the TV Crypt gang.
Best One-liner:  "Trust me, quit while you're a 'head.'"  –The Cryptkeeper

The second film of its kind, TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: BORDELLO OF BLOOD mostly serves as a feature-length reminder why TALES FROM THE CRYPT episodes should not be feature length– but along the way there is ample guilty pleasure to be enjoyed.  In fact, I think I can identify at least seven things in BORDELLO OF BLOOD that, while perhaps not approaching the mantle of "greatness," approach some effortless mantle of "sublime stupidity."  Oh yeah.  BORDELLO OF BLOOD ain't afraid to get stupid.  Real stupid.


Welcome to Angie Everhart's acting school.  I hope you're taking notes!

Produced, written, and directed by a lot of the usual suspects from the TALES FROM THE CRYPT family, BORDELLO OF BLOOD is especially notable for having an original story by Robert Zemeckis and his longtime writing partner Bob Gale.  While Zemeckis has been a CRYPT producer and director from the very beginning of the series, this marks the first time he officially made a writing contribution of any kind.  A word of advice?  Don't expect BACK TO THE FUTURE!  Instead, expect a dim retread of the previous Gale-scripted and directed episode from 1993 called "House of Horror," whereupon fraternity pledges meet their doom in a haunted house-initiation gone wrong.  In BORDELLO OF BLOOD, however, it's dumb teens who visit a vampiric brothel on the outskirts of town.  After they're reported missing, private eye Dennis Miller (?!) is on the case, which ends up involving archeology and intrigue at a local megachurch.  It's corny, slight, and predictable, but here are those seven bits of sublime stupidity that keep TALES FROM THE CRYPT fans comin' back for more:

#1.  William Sadler as the Cryptkeeper's drinkin' buddy.  Also– he's a mummy.

You get the sense that William Sadler is always having a lot of fun, whether he's doing naked kung fu in DIE HARD 2 or playing Twister against Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY.  Technically the story kicks off as a wager between Sadler's mummy and ole' Crypty– apparently based on the quality of their stories, they sometimes cut each other to pieces for laughs or something?  (I think there's a "Cutting Cards" reference in there, too.)  This seems to exist solely for the payoff which I have catalogued under "Best One-Liner."

#2.  Bad boy Corey Feldman.  Look at him– so badass and ambiguously "90s subculture"

with his turquoise-eyeballed skull stud, his grunge jeans, leather jacket, and Bobby Briggs flannel.  He's got a TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT poster in his bedroom, too!  Regardless, this young ruffian's visit to the eponymous bordello is what kicks the plot into high gear.  Also, his (brief) presence here sorta feels like a nod to THE LOST BOYS.

Furthermore, his DEATH BECOMES HER-style demise and famous last words are poetry worthy of Lord Byron, or at least Beavis and Butthead:

"Oh shit!  This sucks! Uhhh..."


#3.  Crooked mega-pastor Chris Sarandon, wearing the worst tie of the 1990s and rocking out with his guitar like he's Chuck Berry.



This is actually what "makes" the movie, to whatever extent BORDELLO OF BLOOD can be "made."  He at first in league with the vampires (and not an actual vampire, like in the glorious FRIGHT NIGHT), helping lure young sinners to the Bordello of Blood.

Note the portrait of Sarandon on the wall behind Sarandon.

He also runs "The Lord's Shoppin' Network," wields a cross-shaped Jesus laser (which adheres to Chekhov's rule of Jesus lasers!), and pronounces laser like "lazzer."  All of this is pretty stupid, but all of this is also really good.

#4.  A rabid, demented supporting role from British character actor Aubrey Morris as an undertaker/pimp.

He knows exactly what movie he's in, and uses that as license to blaze bold and wondrous new trails in the annals of undertaker/pimpery.


#5.  Whoopi Goldberg?!

What's going on here?  She's around for about six seconds– long enough to pop up out of a hospital bed after a vampire battle and deliver the above rib-tickler.  Interestingly enough, this is not Whoopi's first TALES FROM THE CRYPT association– she also co-starred with James Remar and Vanity in the Tobe Hooper episode "Dead Wait" and even appeared as herself in the wraparound segment:

If I wrote the questions for JEOPARDY, you could bet that this would show up eventually.

#6.  A-movie (RETURN OF THE JEDI, WILLOW, THE DOORS), B-movie (GHOULIES II, TROLL, THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS) and C-movie (DOLLMAN VS. DEMONIC TOYS, RAGEWAR, MONSTER HIGH) legend Phil Fondacaro...  as Indiana Jones?!

He plays a vampire archeologist (I can't believe I just typed that) who becomes mixed up in a lot of Angie Everhart/Chris Sarandon intrigue.  This doesn't quite fit as sublime stupidity, as I must really tip my hat to their casting a little person in a role that doesn't necessarily call for one- how often does a guy like Phil Fondacaro get to play a straightforward "role," with no (troll/elf/alien/Ewok) qualification?

#7.  Dennis Miller and Chris Sarandon blast legions of vampire hookers into bloody goo-splosions with holy-water-filled Super Soakers to the resounding rock n' roll glory of The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz."


Amen!

In the end, I'll give this two and a half stars.  I think I'm too close to it and I can't tell if I've inflated the rating or lowballed it.  Perhaps I'll let history be the judge.

–Sean Gill

6 comments:

Mike B. said...

Looks kinda fun! I don't have much to add here since I haven't seen this one yet. I will, however, say that I can think of no finer usage of the "question mark/exclamation point in parentheses" in grammatical history than following the phrase "private eye Dennis Miller," that was great! While I'm here, maybe you can answer this question for me. I have never given Tales From the Crypt, the series, a real shot (we weren't rich folk, so growing up I only caught bits of it at friends' houses and such), and I think I'm sort of holding off on it because I don't know whether I'd be stepping into a treasure trove of Creepshow-eque hoots and haunts, or if I would be setting myself up for a big letdown. Which is more likely?

Sean Gill said...

Mike,

Very glad you asked this question. And the answer is YES YES, UNRESERVEDLY YES. I didn't watch ole' Crypty when I was a kid, either, outside of a random episode or two at a friend's place, and then later when they were (heavily edited) in syndication. So about five or six years ago, I began at the beginning and watched all of 'em through. It's a treasure trove of character actors, washed-up celebs, trashy writing, morbid gags, and jaw-dropping/exploding/rotting practical effects.

The series begins well, really hits its stride from seasons 2-4, remains fun from 5-6, and then drops off the quality cliff for season 7 (which was shot in England and often feels like a different series entirely), but there are at least 30 or 40 episodes that I would give my highest marks. Schwarzenegger directs an episode, Kyle MacLachlan gets to play a psycho, Ironside shows up in TWO separate ones, there is plenty of insanity involving Bobcat Goldthwait, Tim Curry plays multiple roles in one episode a la THE NUTTY PROFESSOR but it's somehow brilliant, Joe Pesci finally gets to star in a horror movie, and they even resurrect Humphrey Bogart from the dead. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

So obviously you can tell where I stand on the matter, but let me know what happens if and when you start checkin' em out!

Mike B. said...

That's what I was hoping to hear, thanks a bunch! I'll get on it ASAP!

Buck Atwater said...

Chris Sarandon is great in this.

If I could make a request, or if you ever get the chance, I'd love to see you do a review of Collision Course. A little known Jay Leno/Pat Morita (!) buddy cop movie with Chris Sarandon as the villain. The climax with Morita's jump through a car windshield has to be witnessed.

Bonus points for Tom Noonan as a heavy, and featuring Ernie Hudson, Randall "Tex" Cobb, and Death Wish IV's Soon-tec Oh!

Sean Gill said...

Buck,

Oh yeah, you can never underestimate the national treasure that is Chris Sarandon. I have put COLLISION COURSE in my Netflix queue– it sounds like the sort of insanity that's right up my alley- thanks for the rec!

Anonymous said...

All these years and I still want to know who that hot, blonde dude was that Lilith ripped the heart out of.