Friday August 16, 1996
What it lacks in irony and suspense, Gilbert Adler's "Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood" makes up for in whimsy and cheeky self-assurance. The second feature to emerge from the long-running HBO horror show is a bawdy romp into vampire mythology, an empty-headed joyride into a crypt that resembles a costume party orgy. This is the version of "Dracula" that Bram Stoker would have written with the collaboration of Mel Brooks and the Marquis de Sade over drinks at Hooters.
Written, directed and produced by veterans of the TV show, "Bordello of Blood" stars Dennis Miller as a hustling private eye who volunteers to find the missing brother (Corey Feldman) of a beautiful televangelist's assistant (Erika Eleniak) and ends up in the Southern California branch of a Transylvanian cathouse.
Miller wrote most of his own dialogue, meaning he wrote all of his cerebral wisecracks, and he's never been funnier. His condescending tone, displayed on his weekly HBO comedy/commentary show, can be wearisome. But his targets here--vampires, stuffy butlers, phony evangelists--keep him a safe distance from politics and he has a great time just goofing around.
What Miller's Rafe Guttman walks into is one of the strangest alliances since Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary went into business together. A deal has been struck between the televangelist Rev. Current (Chris Sarandon) and Lilith (the very relaxed supermodel Angie Everhart), who runs the vampire brothel across town.
The reverend's emissaries send moral derelicts to Lilith, she and her unclad undead feast on their blood. It's a matter of sin consuming sin.
The dark humor, and the introduction by the decrepit cryptkeeper, is the only thing that "Bordello of Blood" shares with the "Crypt" series. There's no ironic payoff for someone committing dreadful acts of deceit or betrayal, and not so much as a shudder of fear. There are typical shots of horror gore, internal organs exposed, brains splattered. But it's all done with such gleeful silliness even the actors have trouble keeping straight faces.
In fact, Miller doesn't even try. He roams through this thing as if it were a glorified set on "Saturday Night Live" and he were playing to a live audience. He's been moving toward a film career since his brief supporting role in "Disclosure," and he's done well. But his strength is in performing his own, uniquely verbal style of writing, and the offhand lines he gave himself for "Bordello" show that strength at its best.
Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood, 1996. R, for horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity and strong language. A Tales From the Crypt presentation, released by Universal Pictures. Produced and directed by Gilbert Adler. Screenplay Adler, A L Katz, with uncredited dialogue by Miller. Editor Stephen Lovejoy. Cinematographer Tom Priestley. Production designer Gregory Melton. Executive music producer Michael Kamen. Costume designer Trish Keating. Dennis Miller as Rafe Guttman. Erika Eleniak as Katherine Verdoux. Angie Everhart as Lilith. Chris Sarandon as Reverent Current. Corey Feldman as Caleb Verdoux.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun