Today sees the release of two Halloween treats for genre fans thanks to Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight and Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood both debuting on Blu-ray for the first time in special editions. Being a huge fan of Tales From the Crypt its great to see these films get the patented Scream Factory treatment.
First up is Demon Knight the story of the mysterious drifter Frank Brayker (William Sadler) who is on the run from a man known only as The Collector (Billy Zane). When Brayker is cornered at a boarding house its up to him and the motley crew of inhabitants to keep The Collector from getting his hands on an ancient artifact that could decide the fate of the world. For those that haven’t seen this one I don’t want to spoil too much, except to say when The Collector doesn’t get what he wants he summons an army of demons to aid him in his task.
Demon Knight is a film that really surprised me the first time I saw it and still manages to impress me whenever I revisit it. This is thanks to not only its great story but also its ensemble cast consisting of Billy Zane, Jada Pinkett Smith, William Sadler, Charles Fleischer and Dick Miller. The film is not only very smart in how it builds its mythology; it’s also a lot of fun in its execution. This is all thanks to Zane who turns in an amazing performance that makes me think he missed his true calling in comedy. As The Collector he just drips charisma and makes it hard to root for Brayker, even if he is technically the good guy.
Next up is the sequel Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood, I have a complicated relationship with this film, because while I definitely dig the film; Demon Knight was a tough act to follow. It’s loosely tied into that film thanks to a brief reappearance of the artifact from the first film. Bordello as you could probably gather from the title is about a brothel run by vampires. Wise cracking detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) ends up taking on its inhabitants when he is hired by a beautiful woman to help find her missing delinquent brother (Corey Feldman). Rafe’s employer also just happens to be the assistant to a local televangelist, who we soon learn had a stake in bringing back Lilith, mother of all vampires to run the establishment.
I honestly have to admit I appreciate Bordello of Blood more now than when I first saw the film. It appears that’s the case for most who revisit the film now since it’s easier to separate it from Demon Knight. That said while it has its moments it still struggles with both story and performances. The concept here just didn’t feel as thought out and well executed as Demon Knight. While Miller definitely brings a lot of laughs to the film, the performances around him felt a bit uneven. The story, while entertaining, was very derivative didn’t bring anything new to this well tread sub-genre like its predecessor. Luckily thanks to Scream Factory all of this is finally explained in the special features.
Both films come with docs on the makings of and audio commentaries. Bordello has a commentary with the Co-writer/Producer and Demon Knight features 2 commentaries, an informative one with the director and another with the special effects artists on the film. Demon Knight’s doc clocks in at a little over 40-minutes and has interviews the director and most of the principal cast with a few great bits about production and the history of the Tales Film the Crypt film franchise. My favorite piece of trivia has to be that From Dusk Till Dawn was originally supposed the be a Tales From the Crypt film, at least until Tarantino priced the film out of the producer’s reach. There is also talk about another unnamed film that was almost a Tales From Crypt film, which is speculated by fans to be Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. The film was also originally supposed to be directed by Robert Zemeckis for the series and was later passed to Jackson, and released on it’s own by universal.
Along with sharing some insight into the production, they discuss the special effects, an alternate ending that didn’t work out and some funny anecdotes about how up until they were shooting Knight it wasn’t widely known Billy Zane was bald. There is also a brief Q&A at the Egyptian Theater included on the disc that occurred during a retrospective on the career of Dick Miller where Demon Knight was screened with the director Ernest Dickerson in attendance.
For Bordello of Blood you get a scathing 36-minute look at the making of the film, which in graphic detail spells out the problems with this production and its star Dennis Miller. Corey Feldman doesn’t hold back about dealing with his respective cast members in his interview which is intercut with other key players painting a grim picture of how the project started (the film was produced from a unproduced Zemekis script he wrote in college and purchased to keep him at Universal) to the film’s very troubled production where most of the budget was spent getting Miller to do the project leading to its very lean look. This featurette is worth the price of admission alone as you get a very rare look into everything that can go possible wrong with a feature film.
The strangest bit mentioned has to be Erika Eleniak discussing a lost subplot that was shot for her character, where Catherine was once a overweight porn star that went by the moniker Chubby O’Tool. You see her pick up a poster with that name in Rafe’s theater office, but hear nothing else of it for the rest of the film. Strangely enough the third film Tales from the Crypt Presents: Ritual never comes up in conversation, which thanks to Bordello’s poor performance sat for 5 years and was released without the Tales from the Crypt moniker. It was later re-branded for home video release.
For fans of Tales From the Crypt and completists like myself, you honestly HAVE to buy both. While Bordello is the weaker of the two films that Doc it’s paired with makes it worth the pickup. Both films are presented in HD transfers that had a high contrast with fair amount of grain that were very reminiscent of Scream Factory’s People Under the Stairs release, which is definitely a giant step up compared to their previous incarnations on DVD. While these are both great releases, only criticism would be that both films discuss deleted sequences or alternate footage on the commentaries and featurettes that are nowhere to be found on either disc. That would have been great to see, but it could have been lost.