Film Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

DusktillDawn-bluraySYNOPSIS:

“Two fugitive brothers at gunpoint get an ex-minister and his two children to take them across the border into Mexico. They drive to a Mexican biker bar to rendezvous with other crooks. While at the bar, a few unusual things happen.” (courtesy IMDB)

REVIEW:

On the lam from the law, ruthless desperadoes Seth and Richie Gecko (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) coerce an ex-preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his kids (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) to smuggle them over the Mexican border where sanctuary awaits. Holing-up for the night at The Titty Twister, a sleazy stripperama ‘for bikers and truckers only’, the group are shocked to discover the barely-clad babes are more than willing to suck – blood, that is!

With Selma Hayek‘s sudden morph into reptilian vampire queen Satanico Pandemonium, this hard-edged crime caper undergoes a total transformation into a frenetic over-the-top orgy of dismemberment, decapitation, exploding heads and squishy bodily breakdowns, the likes of which have not been seen since Peter Jackson’s glorious Braindead (1992). We ain’t in Texas anymore!

Having chilled-out the crime thriller with his own brand of conceited cool, Quentin Tarantino’s term as a video store geek hit pay-dirt with his ebullient (and typically offensive) screenplay for From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), a pastiche of VHS schlockers like The Evil Dead (1981) and Vamp (1986), with the polished Panavision of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and The Getaway (1972). Joining forces with energetic filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, fresh from El Mariachi (1992) and Desperado (1995), the pair have fashioned an affectionately trashy, frequently hilarious and consistently gob-smacking love letter to the halcyon days of Grindhouse drive-in theatre, when tits and terror ruled!

Summarily exploiting, lampooning and re-inventing all the requisite ingredients of the vampire genre, from the bullet-hole sunbeams of Near Dark (1987) to the holy water pistols of The Lost Boys (1987), this thoroughly mean-spirited mongrel of gangster-thriller, road-movie and blood-sucking black comedy comes complete with a pedigree cast.

George Clooney is right near the beginning of his brilliant movie career, making the seamless transition from E.R. medic to hardened thug. George turns on the smoldering charisma in his first leading role, and an instant star is born. Yes, George appeared in such Hollywood dreck like Batman And Robin (1997) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), but then he takes all that lovely money and spends it on producing his own superior films and supporting promising new filmmakers. While Quentin Tarantino is convincingly creepy as the drooling sex fiend Richie (are you sure he’s acting?), it’s a shamelessly self-indulgent performance that dictates he’s better off behind the camera for the rest of his movie career.

The ever-dependable Harvey Keitel remains incredibly stone-faced throughout, while in an unexpected move, Juliette Lewis momentarily shrugs off her ‘scrag’ tag for ‘action heroine’. The supporting ensemble cast is an equally inspired roll call of drive-in stalwarts and Rodriguez regulars, including Cheech Marin in three separate roles (best is the Titty Twister’s p*ssy spruiker), blaxploitation veteran Fred Williamson, John Saxon, Danny Trejo, Selma Hayek and gore effects guru Tom Savini as a Harley-hugger named ‘Sex Machine’ with a killer codpiece, his first decent acting role since George Romero’s Knightriders (1981) opposite award-winner Ed Harris.

Unapologetically outrageous, overwhelmingly over-the-top, and an absolute hoot to boot, this post-drive-in salute to salsa splatter is pure B-movie heaven. The DVD I saw was a collector’s edition fully loaded with more extras than the Titty Twister has titties, making it an absolute must-have for fans. A thirteen-minute featurette called Hollywood Goes To Hell is a jokey, backslapping session and profile on versatile director Robert Rodriguez, including testimonials from Steve Buschemi and (of all people) Jennifer Beals. It also feeds the already gorged ego of Quentin Tarantino, whose motormouth audio commentary with Rodriguez is a further highlight.

The Art Of Making The Movie features behind-the-scenes footage of four sequences. The Opening, The Hostage, Titty Twister and Battle Three, all with Robert Rodriguez commentary. On The Set is collection of assorted clips and interesting anecdotes. For instance, Rodriguez reveals how an explosion burned down the Titty Twister set on the first day of shooting. But the real gold here is a five-minute collection of deleted scenes and alternate takes with optional commentary from Rodriguez and effects supervisor Greg Nicotero. Get ready to revel in some wild and crazy creature effects that didn’t make the final cut, together with lots of miscellaneous biting and bloodletting and additional gore effects trimmed to appease the ratings board. Look out for an outrageous tribute to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and some additional fun involving Selma Hayek: She doesn’t give head – she takes it! And it’s with that image in mind that I bid you a fond farewell till next time when I have the opportunity to inflict upon you the tortures of the damned from that dark, bottomless pit known as Hollywood for…Horror News! Toodles!

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) is now available on blu-ray per Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

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About Nigel Honeybone

Wee Willie"Nigel Honeybone's debut was as Hamlet's dead father, portraying him as a tall posh skeleton. This triumph was followed in Richard III, as the remains of a young prince which he interpreted as a tall posh skeleton. He began attracting starring roles. Henry VIII was scaled down to suit Honeybone's very personalised view of this famous king. Honeybone suggested that perhaps he really was quite skeletal, quite tall, and quite posh. MacBeth, Shylock and Othello followed, all played as tall, skeletal and posh, respectively. Considering his reputation for playing tall English skeletons, many believed that the real Honeybone inside to be something very different, like a squat hunchback perhaps. Interestingly enough, Honeybone did once play a squat hunchback, but it was as a tall posh skeleton. But he was propelled into the film world when, in Psycho (1960), he wore women's clothing for the very first time. The seed of an idea was planted and, after working with director Ed Wood for five years, he realised the unlimited possibilities of tall posh skeletons who dressed in women's clothing. He went on to wear women's clothing in thirteen major motion pictures, including the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Star Wars (1977), heartbreaking as the remains of Aunt Beru. With the onslaught of special effects came the demise of real actors in these sorts of roles. After modeling for CGI skeletons in Total Recall (1990) and Toys (1992), the only possible step forward for a tall posh skeleton was television, imparting his knowledge and expertise of the arts. As well as writing for the world's best genre news website HORROR NEWS, Nigel Honeybone is currently signed to star in a new series for television presenting the finest examples of B-grade horror. THE SCHLOCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is seen on Friday nights at 10.30pm on TVS Television Sydney, and where ever good Youtube downloads are available." (Fantales candy wrapper circa 2007)

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