Release Date(s)1996 (October 20, 2015)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
After the success of Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight, Universal wanted to follow through on the next chapter. Originally intended to be the first film in the series, Bordello of Blood was released in 1996, only a year after its predecessor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of sequel or outcome that everyone was hoping for.
Early on in development, the script for Bordello of Blood was being passed around as a potential contender for the series. It was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale and was a script that the two had written many years prior their success with Back to the Future. The story goes that Zemeckis wanted to jump the Tales from the Crypt producing ship and hop on over to Dreamworks, and the only thing that would keep him from leaving was to put the script for Bordello of Blood into production (and I suspect a bigger salary, but that’s all hearsay). Universal agreed and contracted director Gilbert Adler, who had helmed many episodes of the TV series.
This time around, the cast wasn’t quite as illustrious or interesting. It included Dennis Miller in the lead with Angie Everhart, Erika Eleniak, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, and Chris Sarandon. The story is a simple: an ancient Madame vampire (Everhart) is resurrected from a long sleep and opens a vampire brothel in a local funeral home. Once in business, many people begin to go missing, including the brother (Feldman) of a religious lady named Katherine (Eleniak). Private eye Rafe (Miller) is hired to find her missing brother and soon all hell breaks loose as Rafe, Katherine, and a vengeful Reverend (Sarandon) gain access into the brothel. Meanwhile, the Madame and her undead whores are out to get them.
Unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes stories about the actual making of Bordello of Blood are more interesting than the movie itself. Don’t get me wrong though. When this movie came out, I was very excited for it because I had loved Demon Knight and wanted more Tales from the Crypt movies. There’s a lot of good stuff in the movie, including many of the special effects and the wisecracks from Miller. It’s just not as strong a movie as Demon Knight. And before the internet came along, most people had no way of knowing that a movie had a troubled production history. I do remember feeling like there was something off about the movie, but knowing what I know about it now, I can understand why. Nobody feels 100% in the moment, especially Dennis Miller, who was purportedly very difficult to work with and unsupportive of the project during and after.
Despite itself, Bordello of Blood is a fun movie. It’s not the best in the Tales from the Crypt series, but it’s miles above the third semi-unofficial sequel Ritual, which was a finished film that the Tales from the Crypt brand was grafted onto (really, that one shouldn’t even count). Seeing the Rotten Tomatoes score for Bordello of Blood is a little disappointing. I don’t think that the movie is quite as bad as people remember it being, and for that reason alone, folks should give it another shot. Sure there are plenty of eye-rolling moments, especially Everhart’s one liners (which is not her fault, by the way... she didn’t write it), but it’s worth a couple of watches... especially to see William Sadler as a mummy.
The transfer for Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of the movie is very much akin to the one found on the Demon Knight Blu-ray. It’s a strong presentation that isn’t quite perfect, but is faithful to the original source. Grain levels are a little bit smoother by comparison, but everything is quite sharp. The color palette is strong as well with very natural skin tones. Black levels are quite deep with very good shadow detail, and both brightness and contrast levels are quite satisfying. There are some minor film artifacts left behind, but not much more than some black speckling. There have also been no digital enhancements made. For the audio, you get two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both tracks do a nice job, but the 5.1 track is more satisfactory. Dialogue is very clean and clear, while sound effects and score have a nice boost in the surrounding speakers. Ambience and low frequency activity is also surprisingly good. It’s an excellent presentation, overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
Usually I will never say this, but for this release, you definitely want to pick it up for the extras. The making-of documentary Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood, goes into quite a bit of detail about the aforementioned behind-the-scenes problems, including some very candid comments during interviews with most of the main cast and crew. This documentary is worth the price of admission alone. There’s also an audio commentary with co-writer and producer A.L. Katz, a U.S. home video promo, a still gallery, and the movie’s original theatrical trailer.
Despite it being a troubled production and not received well initially, I think Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood is a very enjoyable movie. It’s been a maligned movie for many years, mainly because it doesn’t live up its predecessor, but I think giving it a fresh spin will likely surprise many of the folks who derided it initially. Scream Factory’s release of it, especially the documentary that comes with it, is likely to shine a more favorable light on it that genre fans will certainly appreciate, if not love. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons