Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood

Note: It may be helpful to remind the reader that this review was written in 1996, when Dennis Miller was still funny, and before 9/11 broke his brain.

Bordello of Blood may sound a bit like From Dusk Till Dawn, but it’s more consistently funny. Sure, Dusk had Quentin Tarantino’s zesty dialogue and Robert Rodriguez’s ballistic direction, but Bordello has a great joker in its deck: Dennis Miller. Why did such a smart man want to do such a dumb movie? I don’t know, but the movie would be pretty sad without him. Miller is supposed to be Rafe Guttman, a cynical private eye whose office is above an old porno theater. But Dennis Miller can really only play one character, and that’s Dennis Miller — the snide, ironic fountain of pop-culture references. Picture Miller barging into a cheesy ’80s horror flick, and you’ll know why Bordello of Blood is oddly appealing.

The movie itself is unapologetic trash, like the HBO Tales from the Crypt series inspired by the notorious EC Comics of the ’50s. Wallowing cheerfully in its own sleaze, Bordello is sometimes fun, sometimes lame. It isn’t particularly well-directed (by Gilbert Adler) or written (Adler and A L Katz), and a subplot lampooning televangelists is tired, to say nothing of dated (are there even any televangelists left to skewer?). The agnostic Miller is retained by a pink-cheeked Christian soldier (Erika Eleniak) whose punk brother (Corey Feldman) has disappeared into a spooky mortuary. The place turns out to be a whorehouse run by vampire queen Lillith (Angie Everhart). Lillith and her hell-whores seduce men, drain them, and (I love this touch) sell their cars.

Horror buffs will check off the nods to The Lost Boys, Phantasm, Frankenhooker (gotta love those exploding vampire wenches), and The X-Files (“Let me advance a Duchovnian theory,” Miller cracks). There’s plenty of crimson to satisfy gorehounds, as well as copious T&A; it’s the sort of grisly sexist romp that, in junior high, I might have considered, like, totally awesome. I’m older now.

A friend of mine has a running joke: Whenever I see a movie featuring an attractive woman, he wants to know, “Is she naked?” In the interest of journalism, I must report that Angie Everhart is not naked (every other vampiress is, though), nor is she an actress. Her function here is to pout, wear form-fitting purple, and have a bad attitude. Dennis Miller, of course, is the king of bad attitude, and he deserved a wittier queen to spar with. Judging from some of the allegedly funny one-liners his castmates are saddled with, I’d guess that Miller ad-libbed most of his own barbs. Even when he’s in the thick of things, he’s off to the side goofing on the movie, like an obscene doodle in the margin of a textbook. Only this book has very little text.

Bordello of Blood isn’t much of a movie, though it suggests a new career for Miller, if he wants it: He could be a freelance ironist in other movie genres. Can you imagine him in a Western? Or a war movie: “Fuck, man, don’t show me a picture of your sweetheart back home, okay? That means you’re gonna get killed. Go find another foxhole.” Or Escape from L.A.: “Snake, babe, love the eyepatch. Nice big black target right there on your face, but hey — it’s a statement.”

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