Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991) poster

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991)


USA. 1991.


Director/Screenplay – Dean Tschetter, Story – Tom Tully, Producers – James A. Baffico, Laurence Barbera & Beverly Penberthy, Photography – Peter Reniers, Music – Michael Melvoin, Additional Music – Kevin E. Maloney, Visual Effects – Fantasy II, Makeup Effects – Tom Savini, Production Design – Natalie Wilvers. Production Company – Saratoga Films.


Jake Dengell (Detective Sweeney Birdwell), Joe Sharkey (Detective Joe Blocker), Susann Fletcher (Deedee Taylor), Beverly Penberthy (Erna Birdwell), Jane Esther Hamilton (Grace), Shawn Elliott (Jackie Cairo), Don Brockett (Police Chief ‘Buzz Saw’ Ryan), Pat Logan (Lobar), Debra Gordon (Mavis the Wet Hooker)


Pittsburgh detectives Sweeney Birdwell and Joe Blocker investigate a series of murders where prostitutes are killed and various organs have been removed. Blocker has a sensitive stomach for gore and keeps throwing up at crime scenes. Blocker’s wife was one of the victims of a similar spree of killings in Las Vegas, while he also knew many of the victims and afterwards suffered a mental breakdown. The only clue they find is that the killer wore a fez and a link to Vegas underworld figure of Joe Cairo. Detective Taylor, who headed the Vegas investigation, asks for a plane ticket to join them but proves to be Taylor’s now-grown daughter Deedee who has a number of clues to the identity of the killer.

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh comes with one of the great Deliberately Ridiculous Titles. Indeed it came out at a time when low-budget films of the late 1980s/early 1990s were embracing absurd titles as a way of selling films on the thinking that the novelty alone will get people to watch it.

The title creates some immediate suggestions about what the film is going to be. Your first impression from the ‘bloodsucking pharaohs’ part is that it is going to be a Mummy Film but this turns out not to be the case. Your second impression is that it is going to be a homage to Blood Feast (1963), the first Splatter Film, which featured an Egyptian caterer slaughtering victims to collect their body parts as a sacrifice to the goddess Ishtar. There had been a Blood Feast homage only a few years before this with the hilarious Blood Diner (1987).

Joe Sharkey, Susann Fletcher and Jake Dengell in Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991)
Investigating detectives – (l to r) Joe Sharkey, Susann Fletcher and Jake Dengell

However, when it telescopes down to it, Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh turns out to be no more than a fairly ordinary Police Procedural. There are no pharaohs – at most, we get a singular Egyptian serial killer and that is the sum of it. Director Dean Tschetter does aim for a Horror Comedy vein but then most of time ends up repeating the same gags over and over – detective Joe Sharkey throwing up at the sight of blood, people constantly mentioning he had sex problems, the ongoing B-plot about fellow detective Joe Dengell’s chain-smoking wife (co-producer Beverly Penberthy) who joins a course that employs extreme methods to get her to quit. None of this ever emerges with the gonzo horror comedy tone that the title sets you up to expect. Now if it had approached the madcap absurdity of Blood Diner, we might have had a film worth watching.

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh was the one and only feature film directed by Dean Tschetter who has elsewhere worked in the industry as a production designer and art director. The major name on the credits is that of Tom Savini, who became a cult figure during the 1980s for his makeup effects on films like Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980).

Trailer here

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