Published Oct 20, 2015During the extremely candid and occasionally hilarious "Making of" documentary included with the Blu-ray release of Bordello of Blood, Corey Feldman, A.L. Katz and Angie Everhart describe some of the obstacles and politics they faced while shooting this — the last Tales from the Crypt movie — in Vancouver.
When the bawdy comedy went into production, the titular HBO anthology series was reaching its final season, and the first Crypt movie, Demon Knight, had fared moderately well at the box office. Two more movies had already been planned (the third being what would become Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn), so the assumption was that this spinoff franchise would establish a loyal audience — chiefly, fans of horror and fans of the series. The problem is that Bordello wasn't chosen because of a strong script or any belief that it would be a good film.
Universal was concerned that Robert Zemeckis would jump ship to set up house at Spielberg's newly developed Dreamworks, so in an effort to keep him, they agreed to produce a student script he wrote while in film school, handing it off to producer-writer A.L. Katz and writer-director Gilbert Adler to polish up. And, as noted by Katz in the Blu-ray supplements, the script was very out-dated and really didn't fit the Crypt brand at all, having a very uninspired take on vampire lore and very little about it that even attempted to be scary.
Even more problematic was that all of their casting choices were nixed in favour of studio suggestions. At the time, Sylvester Stallone was filming Assassins with Richard Donner and asked the studio to put his girlfriend at the time, Angie Everhart, in the lead villain role despite having no acting experience outside of a tiny role in Last Action Hero. The studio also decided to blow three-quarters of the budget on hiring Dennis Miller, who wasn't an actor and really had no interest in being in a movie that he felt was beneath him. They also cast Erica Eleniak as a stripper — being known for her roles in Baywatch and Under Siege — only to wind up having to re-write her part a day before production when she refused to do anything that might undermine her credibility as a legitimate actress.
As Corey Feldman describes it, the feeling on set was toxic. Eleniak hid in her trailer for the entire production and wouldn't rehearse or discuss her scenes with other actors, and Dennis Miller often asked to be blocked, meaning that other actors playing off him would have to shoot their scenes with a script supervisor. He also had a tendency to change his lines at the last minute, often cutting key plot points necessary for the film to make any sense. The irony was that the only lead enthusiastic about the project was Everhart, whom everyone assumed would be a problem given how she'd landed the role.
The end result went as expected. Bordello of Blood is, at best, a campy, somewhat incoherent, excuse for an audience of male viewers to look at an endless array of bare bosoms and bottoms. Since the plot finds Katherine (Eleniak) reluctantly hiring sleazebag P.I. Rafe Guttman (Miller) to find her missing brother (Feldman) after a trip to a funeral home that moonlights as a bordello goes awry, there's an abundance of opportunity to gratuitously exploit dozens of naked vampire hookers.
And though there's absolutely nothing scary about the matter-of-fact manner in which the various hookers ham-fistedly eat their victims, there are some amusingly crude one-liners, like "How would you like to take a skin train down to tuna town?" It's just unfortunate that this sense of humour is so inconsistent and often eschewed in favour of clumsy exposition or bizarre sequences that find vampire Queen Lilith (Everhart) occasionally seeking out Rafe because of his rare, tasty blood (something that quickly becomes almost irrelevant).
While the production was surely a nightmare and the script didn't have a great deal of wit or complexity, another issue with Bordello is its aesthetic and tone. Gilbert Adler, despite having first-hand experience with the series, wasn't a feature film director, a fact that's obvious while watching this gaudy, flatly lit and frankly ugly production. Some tension could have been generated from early kills or mid-movie chase scenes if there had been any sort of stylization or stillness, allowing a scene to build to a scare, but it's all handled with the same utilitarian television aesthetic that merely exacerbates the cheap sets and rudimentary approach to storytelling.
It's no surprise that Bordello tanked at the box office and ultimately killed the franchise. Tales from the Crypt was known for its twist endings, morality parables and askew sensibility; this feature shared none of those traits, and wouldn't be recognizable as a part of the series without the presence of the Cryptkeeper bookending the film.
A commentary track is also included with the Blu-ray, as are some vintage trailers.