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Pleasure of the Flesh ... and Blood

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 16, 1996

Triple the length of its cable television inspiration, "Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood" is triple the gore, triple the naked women, but not, alas, triple the fun. Comic takes on vampires have been done better, less bloodily and with more clothing, but always without the benefit of a wildly popular franchise like this HBO series.

"Bordello of Blood" is the second feature spinoff from the series (following "Demon Knight") and was directed by Gilbert Adler, who co-wrote the script from an original idea by the usually funny Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Like the ultimately banned 1950s comic books that inspired the cable series -- and only cable could allow for the excess violence, pandering nudity and jubilant irreverence that were the mark of William M. Gaines's originals -- these movies start over the top and stay that way.

"Bordello" opens with two preludes, one in a South American rain forest where height-challenged Vincent (Phil Fondacaro) uncovers a buried treasure that turns out to be the ghoul of his dreams and his helper's worst nightmare. Enter the Crypt Keeper (with the familiar cackle-overs by John Kassir), who engages in a duel of deadly one-liners with Mummy Deadest (William Sadler).

And then it's back to the story, which involves (in no particular order): ravenous red-haired Lilith (supermodel Angie Everhart in a solid comic turn as the most evil of all vampires, one whose theme song could be "I've gotta have hearts, lots and lots and lots of hearts"); rock-and-roll televangelist Jimmy Current (Chris Sarandon), whose World Ministries are suspiciously Bakkerlike; Current's beautiful and trusted aide, Katherine (Erika Eleniak); and wisecracking gumshoe Rafe Guffman (Dennis Miller), usually without clients, never without repartee.

You can take Miller out of his HBO series, but you clearly can't take the HBO out of Miller, even when he says things like "I feel like I'm in a bad `Tales From the Crypt' episode." It's when he says things like "Old-time religion and sex just don't mix, unless you're a Catholic priest" or "Be gentle, I used to be a virgin" that you realize Miller's simply doing his stand-up on the run. He also remains familiarly off-kilter: Stepping out of a gaudily decorated basement filled with horny and half-naked dancing girls, Rafe is asked to guess where he's just been. "Larry Flynt's id?"

This Penthouse Pet detective is hired by Katherine when her metal-head brother Caleb (long-in-the-tooth Corey Feldman) disappears after being invited to a wake at a mortuary where someone is turning tricks in its basement. You'd think customers would notice those marks on the hookers' necks aren't exactly hickeys, but these customers are not always bright and they're clearly distracted since the staff looks like a particularly healthy chapter of Bosoms `R' Us.

Eventually, dastardly schemes and secret relationships are uncovered and there's the de rigueur-mortis ending that is not an ending (horror genre fans would probably be more shocked at a proper ending). It's all pretty silly and stupid. And, horror still being very much a man's world, there's a Supersoaker-and-holy-water shootout finale in which naked vampire hookers are F/X-ed right out of existence, accompanied by Sweet's overly loud "Ballroom Blitz."

Oh, the horror, the horror.

Tales From the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood is rated R and contains mucho nudity and gore.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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