Guilty Pleasure Multiplex
Let's go to the movies! I proudly present "Bordello of Blood"!
You know that one embarrassing film in your collection, the one that you hide away in hopes that no one will find out your “dirty little secret”? Ok, I’m not talking about that porno movie you bought last week, and shame on you if that’s what you thought.
Back on the subject, the movie that I’m going to talk about in this rousing rendition is a movie in my collection. Yeah, this is that embarrassing film. I keep it hidden in a video bin in my closet. No one knows I own this movie, and I don’t necessarily like to admit to owning it, because it is a little atypical. The guy at Suncoast Video in Baltimore (I was on vacation there when I bought it) was hitting on me…I think. I was sixteen. I think he just wanted to look at my boobs. Yeah, that was a little too much information. And, besides, I’ve left you in suspense long enough.
This riveting installment regards the 1996 horror schlock-fest better known as “Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood.” It was the second, and last installment of a planned trilogy of “Tales From the Crypt” movies. Obviously, we all know what happened to the third movie (and if you’re just joining us, it never happened). It is my belief that this movie was the equivalency of kicking a dead horse—the HBO series “Tales From the Crypt” took its last gasp in 1995, the same year “Tales From the Crypt Demon Knight” was released. In this film, the rotting corpse better known as “The Crypt Keeper” is playing a game with another dead body. He introduces a tale, and the introduction segues into this train wreck. Nah, that’s harsh. How about funeral hearse? Yeah, I like that.
I need to bring this review to a screeching halt for a second just to point out the names I only just noticed in the opening credits as I was documenting this "funeral hearse." Richard Donner?! Robert Zemeckis?! What the HELL was that?! They executive produced this trash fest? Whoah.
Ok, that was sufficient. I felt the need to point that out. Don't let it distract you from the rest of the article.
The film’s plot centers around the revival of a four-hundred year-old vampress named Lillith, whose heart is reconstructed by two adventurers after they find her coffin at one of the four corners of the earth. The two men do what anyone would do if they resurrected a centuries-old vampire—they make her the proprietor of a bordello that poses as a mortuary by day.
Local men, driven by their ever-raging hormones, begin disappearing in numbers. Kaleb, the younger, rebellious brother of straight-laced, Bible-thumping, employee-of-a-televangelist Katherine Verdoux (Erika Elaniak)goes missing within the first twenty minutes of the movie.
Katherine and Kaleb Verdoux - she's the responsible, religious sister; he's the rebellious, trouble-seeking younger brother.
After a police officer informs her that their caseload is too large to accommodate her missing brother, and must be placed on the back burner (probably behind tonight’s dinner--apparently they don’t miss meals, evident by the officer’s girth), Katherine hires Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller), a seedy private detective who overhears Katherine’s plight.
Why this guy is hanging around a police station is anyone’s guess, but he’s intrigued by her story. Would you be? Guttman is actually a nice guy; he just has an interesting way of showing it.
Rafe takes Katherine back to his “detective agency.” His “detective agency” is an old porno theater. Katherine is slightly annoyed with this stranger who is offering his services. His phone call is particularly interesting—it’s his ex-wife. He tells her that being married to her almost drove him to the brink of homosexuality, and reminds her that business has been “dreck.” Katherine, at this point, tries to make a run for it, but Rafe, the caring gent that he is, offers her a good deal, his “missing brother special.” She takes him up on his offer, and the hunt begins.
"Guttman Detective Agency. You've got Guttman."
Rafe goes to Kaleb’s haunt, a bar, where all the young men go. This is where he finds out from a bar patron about the “Cunningham Wake,” and decides he must check it out.
During the day, there’s a funeral (Rafe observes a group of pall bearers struggling under the weight of a heavy casket—“Wow, I guess she was a heavy weight”), and goes to find Katherine.
Rafe goes to Current World Ministries, which is where Katherine works. Her boss is televangelist Jimmy "JC" Current (Chris Sarandon). He is a guitar-playing, stereotypical Southern accent using, all-around annoying guy. Rafe refers to the church as "Superman's Dad's place on Krypton." Ironically, the Catholic Church in my town, currently under construction, is starting to look like this, without all the glass windows and such. There is a church in Central Jersey that REALLY resembles this one.
His conclusion—Kaleb is at a whorehouse—a “house with whores.” Katherine decides she’s through with Rafe’s services, but he decides to investigate further, a path that takes him into the basement of the mortuary—a full-service brothel of buxom women.
1st Trip To the Mortuary - Rafe is denied access to the Cunningham Wake, so our smart hero sneaks around to the back of the big house. He climbs up a trellis and into a balcony door. He couldn't help but stop by a door, where Lillith is interviewing a potential employee. He continues to sneak around, but begins to hear someone coming, and hides behind a coffin. He either has his eyes closed because he is scared and awaiting his fate, OR he's trying to block out visual images of this movie. I think it's the former.
Living and half-undead men frolic around and “get stiff among the stiffs.”
Even this guy is getting some.
Fortunately, Rafe's second trip back to the mortuary/bordello is successful.
McCutcheon answers the front door to find Rafe and some weird looking guy (who is half-undead) at the door. He informs the gents that "there is only room for one more." Rafe, the noble gent he is, pushes past the guy to get in. He's not exactly there for the sex, he's there for...research. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Rafe manages to get in, so he gets to go into the bordello, via a very interesting coffin ride. Rafe encounters Tammy, a rookie vampress who is outwitted by our hero, the clever detective. This scene involves Tammy poking Rafe in the back of the neck with one of her perfectly manicured nails—the end result involves her drawing his blood.
I gotta mention at this point that Rafe, in true Dennis Miller form, keeps on rambling, only flinching at the sensation of her nail jabbing his neck.
Fun Fact: Dennis Miller is not really Jewish. He has said on several occassions on his HBO show, and in his stand-up act, that he is Catholic.
When told to take his clothes off, Rafe gets about as far as unbuttoning his shirt, revealing his religion with a Star of David on his neck (a clever scene that is edited from the Sci-Fi Channel’s broadcasts of this movie, but kept intact on the video). In all versions, Tammy tells Rafe to “keep his shirt on.” That’s some continuity. Why is she saying that? The scene concludes with Rafe strapping Tammy up to a medieval torture device meant for him, his escape, and the unknowing loss of his wallet.
Before he can escape, Rafe hears noises and fears being caught and hides in a coffin, where he makes a gruesome discovery...and a great facial expression.
As she is about to chastise her newest employee, Lillith tastes the blood on Tammy’s manicured nail, only to realize that this blood type is a rare type, which she hasn’t tasted since Ivan the Terrible. Wow. Rafe Guttman is connected to Ivan the Terrible through a blood type. Interesting. She decides that she must “have him.” Hence, she pays him a little visit. She only knows where he is because of the aforementioned lost wallet. That’s one item a decent stalker would need to possess.
The scene cuts to Rafe, who is now back at his rather sleazy detective agency. Upon taking a swig from a liquor bottle, he turns to find the ever-present Lillith standing there. The vampress introduces herself to our hero, who proceeds to bare her breasts and seduce him.
Our ever clever hero spontaneously turns her down by cracking wise, “I’m not gonna tell you that those aren’t the breasts of the century, but I’m just not digging the owner. So, will you put those away, please? You’re just not my type.” The scene that follows is one I have never had any interest in—I’m not fascinated with masturbation or Angie Everhart for that matter, so this scene has no real appeal. It involves her basically “hypnotizing” Rafe and asking him what kind of woman he likes: a cheerleader (“2-4-6-8, you can watch me masturbate!”) or Marilyn Monroe. The third type was Katherine, a purely good woman. Katherine returns to his “agency” to ask him for his services again, but, alas, discovers that he is with another woman…unwillingly, as he is “under her spell.”
Now, we know our hero is one step ahead of Lillith, and I commend him for this. Rafe’s not a dumb guy—he just happens to have one large, gaping discrepancy—his private investigator license expired several years earlier, and his renewal check bounced. Nice work, Rafe. So what happens next?
Rafe, accompanied by Katherine and the ever-present Officer Noonan (he was the officer at the beginning of the movie), attempts to reveal the mortuary’s hidden purpose, much to the disgust of Katherine and Officer Noonan. When his discoveries are covered up with fronts set up by Lillith, he is dragged out of the mortuary. Once again, nice work, Rafe.
"You know, Noonan, you don't wear irony too well. Why don't you leave that to the big boys?"
I'm serious, there were TWO bodies in this coffin! I should know, I hid in one of them...with a dead body!
I know. I just had to show those pictures again.
Back at Katherine’s home, Katherine and Rafe receive a distressed phone call from Kaleb. This sends our hero and his perpetual love interest to a dark, damp, deserted warehouse.
This movie favors damp, dark places. It is here that Kaleb is found looking rather dead (I mean, he is laying there unresponsive, after all). He then jumps up, startling our supposedly fearless hero and his love interest, sending them running.
GIRLY RUN ALERT! GIRLY RUN ALERT!
I love this scene—it just cracks me up to watch Mr. Miller run for his life. I have a feeling I could take him in a race. Thing is, I run like that too. Their attempt to escape from the undead Kaleb sends our hero swinging on a chain that crashes through a large window, and crashing onto Noonan’s police car, rendering him unconscious.
Noonan: It’s about f***ing time!
Rafe: I’ve gone to hell, and it’s worse than I thought. Noonan, where’s Katherine?
Our hero winds up in a hospital chained to his bed (obviously this is a medical hospital, but perhaps he is tied to the bed for his own “safety”—perhaps he was babbling something about vampires walking among us—that would justify being tied up).
A nurse arrives in the room, and good-old convenient Noonan follows her over to a curtained patient when she asks for help. When Noonan slumps to the floor, dead, Rafe is terrified to find that the nurse is a vampress. Notably, the vampress that tried to seduce him--Tammy. But, he knows he must kill her.
“I used to love her…then I had to kill her…” (this is merely added in for effect--it never actually was played in the movie)
Jabbing her in the forehead with an intravenous line doesn’t work, so he does what anyone would do in his precarious situation--he runs her into a sun-filtered window with a medicine cart. “Tell me, Tammy, why do vampires hate sunlight?” As she begins to fry from the sun, Rafe does the run again…
…and hides behind his bed, as vampress Tammy explodes.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG ALERT!
Sorry to disturb your beauty sleep, but I needed to throw in another one of my classicly bad expressions...
"I'm trying to rest. I knew I should have asked for that private room."
Rafe then leaves the hospital (not sure if he escapes or is released—like I said, I think if he was babbling stuff about vampires running amok, he wouldn’t get released any time soon), and attempts to send the vampresses to their eternal sleep. Can he do it? Do you have another twenty-five minutes or so of sanity to spare? Sure you do—you don’t want to miss the film’s bloody finish.
The movie climaxes (excuse my pun) with a duel to the death between living man, living woman, and undead vampire vixen. Plus, it contains a really good scene involving Super Soakers filled with Holy Water and the appropriate song “Ballroom Blitz.”
Rafe: It's Holy Water!
Reverend Current: This will take care of the others, but you'll have to cut Lillith's heart into four pieces!
Rafe: Some girls just require a little special treatment.
Rafe: Ready padre?
"Don't go soft on me--they're vampires--send them to Hell."
Judging by my explanation, you would expect this movie to be bad…and it is. But, it’s a ridiculously fun kind of bad. Dennis Miller truly delivers, and “deliver” is a rather generous term—it seems he’s the only one who is delivering, even though he is essentially a lackluster actor in a ridiculous movie. In a role written obviously with him in mind, this is the perfect vehicle for his abilities. Even his facial expressions are funny in a bad way—after seeing this movie again for the umpteenth time, I wanted to know where I can “learn to act the Dennis Miller way.”
Do they offer classes in how to make bad faces? I’m a natural!
Don’t get me wrong; the concept of this movie is a blast—elaborate sex/torture contraptions, a coffin slide that sends horny young men to the brothel below, and an incredibly elaborate scene involving Super Soakers that is memorable (and the most redeeming scene) among viewers. If you forget just about everything else in this movie, you’ll remember the Super Soaker scene forever. Let’s just say that I now have “Ballroom Blitz” on my iPod because of this movie. I think of this scene everytime I listen to the song--how's that for impact?
I figured I could also set aside a small “aside” to discuss the way our hero runs. Remember how I said I could take this guy in a race? This is the kind of run that gets people killed in movies. But, since he’s the hero, and first listed in the credits, he can’t die any time soon.
The cast is a largely nameless group of supporting actors hailing from Canada (where the movie was filmed) that mainly derives their work from Canadian film companies and television. The presence of it’s star/hero Dennis Miller, along with Erika Elaniak, Chris Sarandon (who I swear his only claim to fame is having been married thirty years ago to Susan Sarandon), and the fact that it re-unleashed Corey Feldman on unsuspecting viewers, is what holds it up.
And really, the acting isn’t that great. Angie Everhart, a professional supermodel, is awful in this movie. She can’t act, and it’s obvious her beauty is the only thing that can redeem her otherwise unlikable character. But, despite this, would you mess with her? Erika Elaniak is not any better—she’s still famous for starring on “Baywatch” and a few “Lifetime” movies. Her acting is okay, it’s not the greatest ability put forth. Corey Feldman—ok, I loved Corey Feldman in his eighties kiddie movies, but he scares me in this one. Vampire Kaleb is too creepy to bear.
Dennis Miller is the biggest bright spot in this dark movie—the factor that many were happy with, this writer included. As I said, his facial expressions are funny bad, but his character, though skuzzy to start, becomes a nice, likable guy. I’d want Rafe’s services if I had a missing loved one, or an interesting case. I’d pay him good money to save the day.
This movie is also extremely drawn out during the first twenty minutes. A good rule of thumb—if you’re going to put the lead character’s name as first billing, it helps to SHOW HIM WITHIN THE FIRST FEW MINUTES! I can’t emphasize this enough—it took twenty minutes for Dennis Miller to even show up, yet he’s listed first in the credits. And the “Lillith comes back to life” scene is only watch able once—its lasts ten minutes and is going nowhere. Patience of steel will keep you seated during this part—otherwise, fast-forward the video, hit skip on the DVD, or take a (long) bathroom break if it is on TV. You need to see it only once to understand the back-story. After that, cut to the scene in Katherine’s bedroom where she argues with Kaleb. Or, you can skip this if you heard Dennis Miller was in it, and that’s your motivation for watching this bad movie. I still watch this scene. That leaves about an hour or so left in the film. Trust me, he’s in plenty of scenes thereafter.
I’m not going to tell you this movie is for everyone—its not. I wouldn’t even recommend it to most (okay, not any) girls. It’s at times extremely vulgar and gory. Naked boobs and Angie Everhart’s “2-4-6-8! You can watch me masturbate!” scene is quite excessive by my standards (obviously not too excessive if I’ve seen this movie more than once—and live to write a review about it).
Is this movie trashy? You bet. Does it have too much nudity than is comfortable? Yes. Is the acting bad? You bet your bippy. Is it fun? Oh, you better believe it! I laughed a lot during this movie, and it was quite fun, though vulgar and excessive at times. I’m a huge Dennis Miller fan, so he was a driving force that attracted me to this movie. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have wasted my time or my ten dollars to buy this video (yes, that’s right—ten dollars).
Speaking of wasting time, if you have ninety minutes to kill, and want to see a really unconventional movie, this is a good bet. You’ll laugh, you’ll say “huh,” and you will want to buy a Super Soaker.
“2-4-6-8! You can watch me—“
Okay, speaking of excessive, that is overdoing it.
I guess I could at least do the honorable thing and show you the box. This is one of two video boxes (I think this was the alternate--the video store had a different video box...which threw me off when I made this rather unnecessary purchase. For the curious, that's my water glass in the foreground of the picture (which I took on my desk).
I would love to suggest some more web pages to guide you on this movie, but since I don't speak Russian (honestly, one of the only pages I found was in Russian!), I couldn't exactly recommend it...besides, there weren't enough pictures of Dennis Miller. Consider this the most extensive collection of photos you'll find on the web for "Bordello of Blood."
And for now, boys and ghouls, the author bids you a frightful night!! Yes, I know the Cryptkeeper never said that, but this creepy author said it.
Screencaps courtesy of my digital camera. Images taken from "Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood." Copyright 1996 Universal/MCA Home Video.
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