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20/20 Filmsight - Film Criticism by David O'Connell

Film Criticism by David O'Connell

Tales From the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood

October 22nd 2010 05:19
by Matt Shea
Angie Everhart Bordello of Blood

A funny thing happened in the mid 90s. Postmodernism, that coy, subversive movement invested in reflexivity and fragmentation, met the internet. Suddenly art, literature and perhaps the whole western world as we knew it seemed anchorless, organised into a collage of reappropriated imagery and tangled ideas.

Film and postmodernism have long been bedfellows. As early as the French New Wave, characterisation and narrative were being bent towards a more abstract logic, and many claim Sergio Leoneís Once Upon a Time in the West as the first truly postmodern film. But the rise of directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez in conjunction with the fledgling information superhighway led to a dramatic uptake of the post modern onscreen.

Horror was a spearhead, and in 1996 two films were released that would reorganise the genre by the meta playbook. First there was Wes Cravenís career-resuscitating Scream, which did so much winking at the audience it pulled itself apart, and then there was From Dusk Till Dawn, the Rodriguez-Tarantino schizoid-smash that made no sense, but audiences seemed to love anyway. Neither was a necessarily great film, but they wrote the postmodern script for ten years worth of blood and guts.

Itís funny then to be presented with a flick from 1996 that very much looks the other way. Bordello of Blood feels ancient. Itís so indebted to the late 80s and early 90s that it probably shouldnít be on DVD. VHS would be much more appropriate, if only to provide the kind of media that perishes under persistent pausing.

Bordello of Blood is a fleshy film. There is more bodywork floating about here than an episode of Pimp My Ride. If youíre one of those who likes breasts and buttocks with their fangs then this is probably the perfect film for a night home alone. Not that you should expect anything like, say, True Blood. Bordello trades on humour rather than drama, its idea of tension being whether or not Erika Eleniak takes her clothes off. Thankfully, itís fairly serious about being funny.

At the centre of the plot is washed-up PI (are there any who arenít?) Rafe Guttmann (comedian Dennis Miller), whoís been hired by Katherine Verdoux (Eleniak) to find her missing brother, Caleb (Corey Feldman). Caleb was last seen heading off to a titillating bordello on the edge of town, where it seems owner Madam Lillith (Angie Everhart) and her buxom wenches want more than just your business. Cue Miller stacking wisecracks as he keeps ducking and diving the nefarious vampires who not only want to keep their taste in men a secret, but make Rafe the main meal.

Youíre probably not going to be recommending this to your friends, but Bordello is that rare beast thatís actually a little smarter than it makes out. Miller is the key Ė the guy manages to slip along the line between obnoxious and likable without so much as breaking a sweat. The delivery of the one-liners is priceless and heís not quite as physically undercooked as you might think. Itís his charm that lifts the whole exercise above cheap smut.

Thankfully, the support is of reasonable quality too. Eleniak made her name in modelling (and as Pamela Andersonís forerunner on Baywatch) but is a workable actress. Likewise Angie Everhart, whose talent for self-deprecation largely papers over the holes in her technique. The real diamond in the rough, however, is Chris Sarandon playing a dodgy preacher. Sarandon is underrated and Bordello provides a nice reminder of his talent.

As if to underline how little quality work was going around in 1996, Bordello of Blood possesses some more than worthy technical credits. Kevin Yagher takes top prize with his makeup and creature design, but some nice support is provided through the special effects duo of Tim Storvick and John T. Van Vliet. If this film was made in 2010 it wouldnít look nearly as good.

Al Katz and Gilbert Adlerís screenplay gets the essentials right even if it is seriously frayed around the edges. The biggest error is the continual sidelining of Guttmann, the character driving the film often not seen for extended tracts of action. There are also whole subplots hinted at but not followed up on. Adler double-shifted and took up the direction, managing nothing more than a workmanlike job, but he at least knew how to let his players have fun.

At 86 minutes, Bordello of Blood is probably ten too long, and the film isnít exactly a beacon of political correctness, but to take offence would be like being blue at a ten year oldís dick drawings. In a sense, itís the most harmless, forgettable and yet strangely likable film Iíve seen all year.

I say: Not a film to see if youíre trying to impress your date, but thereís more to enjoy here than just acres of flesh.

See it for: Dennis Miller is key. The Crypt Keeper, however, should have probably been left in his box.

*This image is from

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4 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by David O'Connell

October 22nd 2010 05:28
Ah Matt, I probably shouldn't be admitting this but I've actually seen this film at least a couple of times, maybe four. Damn funny it was at the time. Pisser actually. Miller as you say is the chief reason. A little sad now given the state of the some of the players I guess but if ever there was a guilty pleasure this is it! Everheart gives one of the best screen tongue kisses ever, only later matched by Natasha Henstridge!!

Comment by Matt Shea

October 22nd 2010 05:35
I don't think you'll be the only one feeling guilty, Dave. I took a punt on this and I'm glad I did - it does have some very funny moments. Ah Species! Now there's a film that needs a revisit.

Comment by JohnDoe

November 29th 2010 18:37
A guilty pleasure for sure Matt,

Bordello is a good time that happily wallows in its own tackiness for the better.

Comment by Matt Shea

November 30th 2010 00:47
Absolutely JD! You'd feel funny recommending it to someone, but it's ridiculously likable at the same time. Thanks for stopping by.

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