Vampires have always been a staple of the industry, but for every great vampire film like FRIGHT NIGHT, NEAR DARK and LOST BOYS, you get terrible ones like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and TWILIGHT.  When Robert Rodriguez (DESPERADO (1995), PLANET TERROR (2007), MACHETE (2010)) and Quentin Tarantino (PULP FICTION (1994), SIN CITY (2005), THE HATEFUL EIGHT(2015)) teamed up for 1996’s crime/horror/black comedy/grindhouse film FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, they tapped into the natural aggression and bloody aftermath that many vampire films had lacked over the years.  The film tells the story of two bank robbers: “ On the run from a bank robbery that left several police officers dead, Seth Gecko and his paranoid, loose-cannon brother, Richard, hightail it to the Mexican border. Kidnapping preacher Jacob Fuller and his kids, the criminals sneak across the border in the family’s RV and hole up in a topless bar. Unfortunately, the bar also happens to be home base for a gang of vampires, and the brothers and their hostages have to fight their way out.” The film was so clever in its market approach that it never mentioned the fact that it was a vampire film and played off of the success of both Rodriguez and Tarantino’s previous films, making you think that it was just another action/shoot ’em up style of thriller. In my opinion, this is really the film that started the trend in trying to reproduce that ’70s grindhouse style of film making and everything that encompassed them.

The script was the first script that Quentin Tarantino was paid to write. Special effects technician Robert Kurtzman asked him to write the screenplay based on his story in return for providing the ear-slicing scene in Tarantino’s crime drama film RESERVOIR DOGS (1992).  The film has many of his familiar trademarks, right down to the Big Kahuna Burgers and witty, yet stylish dialouge.  Again, going in to see this film, you think you are getting a crime drama and the film plays to the numbers in that fashion, but once you get to the bar and see what is really going on, you are taken on a tour that is a force on nature, not only in its gritty acting but also as a technical FX force that vampire films have been scrambling to replicate ever since. Taking vampires out of the gothic mold and making them more modern with an interesting back story really helps to separate this from the normal blood-sucking story, as well as making two of the main characters dubious and criminal in their intentions.  Not to be lost in all of this is the fantastic soundtrack that heavily features Tito & Tarantula, who have done music for the majority of Rodriguez’ films as well as a cast of actors and actresses that must be seen to be believed…

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Tim Roth, John Travolta, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, and Christopher Walken were offered the role of Seth Gecko (all had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts) before George Clooney (GRIZZLY II: THE CONCERT (1983), RETURN TO HORROR HIGH (1987), RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1988)) took the role. Also included in the star-studded cast are Quentin Tarantino (RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), PULP FICTION (1994), GRINDHOUSE (2007)), Cheech Marin (UP IN SMOKE (1978), GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989), PLANET TERROR (2007)), Harvey Keitel (DARK SHADOWS (TV Series, 1966), SATURN 3 (1980), RED DRAGON (2002)), Juliette Lewis (MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN (1988), STRANGE DAYS (1995), COLD CREEK MANOR (2003)), Tom Savini (DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), THE PROWLER (1981), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II (1986)), Fred Williamson (BLACK CEASAR (1973), 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (1982), VEGAS VAMPIRES (2007)) and Salma Hayek (DESPERADO (1995), THE FACULTY (1998), CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT (2009)). Special attention should be payed to the FX artists as well that included Wayne Toth (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988), HALLOWEEN (2007), THE LORDS OF SALEM (2012)), Greg Nicotero (EVIL DEAD II (1987), MISERY (1990), SCREAM (1996)), Robert Kurtzman (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986), ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992), WISHMASTER (1997)) and a host of others…

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In an interview conducted by Kat Hughes for The Hollywood News (6/22/16 for www.thehollywoodnews.com), Robert Rodriguez talks about how the movie was expanded into a TV series: “No, in fact I’m staring at the matte painting from the end of the movie right now – it’s in my office. It’s the very last shot with the temple. I remember putting that temple in the shot, it wasn’t in the script, but I wanted to leave the audience with a cool mythology that they could think about, but I didn’t ever think I’d be able to revisit it and finish that story. Then I got this television network and I wanted to do a TV series and it was just a natural thought process to go after this property, continue what I started so long ago, twenty years ago. It’s been one of the greatest gifts that we could’ve given ourselves way back then, planting that seed. Now we can really dig into and turn it to now we’re in our third season. It’s really exciting. I’m glad I did that back then. You do something that you think is just going to be a one-off movie like I did back then and instead it turns out to basically be your career.” *1

Rodriguez goes further about the script being Tarantino’s and how they progressed the film from a movie to a TV series in an interview conducted by Fred Topel for Craveonline.com (4/4/14): “No, we both control the rights to it so nobody could ever make it. There’d been interest before, people who wanted to turn it into a series of movies but if neither one of us are going to be involved that much, who knows what the quality would be like? The intentions are good, networks are weird, if somebody takes it to a network the rules they would apply on them, notes would be given and who knows what it would get watered down to? So we never really were that interested in letting anyone do it, but when El Rey network came about, that seemed like the perfect way because I had the final say in that. I could really make sure it was done at a quality level that we’re all comfortable with. He just granted me the rights. He thought it was a cool idea. He wanted to see it. He’s busy working on his own stuff but was into it and liked the idea that we’re going to take it and use it for El Rey. He was a big fan of the whole idea of El Rey ever since I told him about it the first time several years ago. I just had carte blanche to take it. He loved the whole concept of how I was going to go retell it in a different way, have the whole season take place from dusk till dawn and be on a clock like that.”*2

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FUN FACT #1: In 2001, prolific French video game developer Cryo (also known as Cryo Interactive Entertainment) released on PC “From Dusk Till Dawn”, their action/horror third person shooter tie-in video game that was very loosely based on this movie. The game immediately fell into obscurity. The plot was set after the events on the movie and followed Seth Gecko, who’s arrested and sent to a tanker-turned-high-security-prison that’s anchored near the coast. When vampires and their familiar leader attack the prison, Seth gets a chance to try to escape but also be a hero and save several survivors he runs into and solve a puzzle or two, all while gunning down bloodsuckers on his way to freedom. *3

20th Anniversary celebration: From Dusk Till Dawn

FUN FACT #2: There was a special makeup effect in which one of the stripper-vampires has her stomach open into a large mouth. She shoves a bar attendant’s head into the large mouth, and bites it off. The effect was so graphic that writer/actor Quentin Tarantino didn’t even want to see it. The scene can be accessed in the deleted scenes section on the special edition DVD.*3

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“Because I am the Dedman, and you are not!”

Michael “Dedman” Jones

  1. Exclusive Interview with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez
  2. Exclusive Interview: Robert Rodriguez on ‘From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series’
  3. IMDB Page

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