Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires, with chaotic results.
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I still remember me and my friends picking this up in our local blockbusters (yes I know I’m old), the excitement we had that our friends mum was renting this for our sleepover (we were underage) that night was a childhood rush that I still remember. What followed was an introduction to a side of film I’d never experienced before, it was truly an awakening and one I still look back on fondly.
Watching the film was like opening up my mind to a whole new world. I knew about the world of Vampires but I’d never before seen them like this, suddenly they weren’t just shadows lurking in the dark, these animals, clever and also savage too. Plus they could be sexy too, that was a real scary moment of realisation, I was seduced and pulled in when ‘Satanico Pandemonium’ did her dance (who wasn’t?!) and it showed how a gullible moment could be taken advantage of.
I was too young to appreciate the absolute stellar casting of this film, with the likes of George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Michael Parks, John Saxon, John Hawkes,Greg Nicotero plus Robert Rodriguez directing. Just imagine that lineup being announced today, all on a budget of $19 million, that wouldn’t even get you Clooney nowadays!
Even now, 21 years later (yes it’s been that long), the film still holds up. It’s still so enjoyable to watch , the films special effects are still amazing and the attention to detail is incredible. It’s no wonder the film is still remembered so fondly by fans, even if it is just a giggle at the crotch gun. It took a dead and beaten sub genre and gave it new life, just look at what has followed it and you’ll see the influence.
“From Dusk Till Dawn” in my opinion is a must see film, go and watch it and remember how much fun it actually was.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
The famous line, “No thanks, I’ve already had a wife,” was improvised by George Clooney. Director Robert Rodriguez never intended it to be in the final cut, but after the studio included the line in a trailer, he felt obliged to include it in the film.
Green blood was used for the vampires to get the movie past the censors.
Salma Hayek has a real fear of snakes and had always refused to be near them. Naturally when she read the script, she knew her phobia would prevent her from taking the part. Robert Rodriguez conned her into thinking that Madonna was ready to nab the part instead so Hayek spent two months with therapists to overcome her fear.
Before George Clooney was cast, Tim Roth, John Travolta, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, and Christopher Walken were offered the role of Seth Gecko. All passed because of scheduling conflicts.
Quentin Tarantino was originally set to direct the movie, but decided not to direct so that he could focus more on the screenplay and his role as Richard Gecko.
Originally, the Titty Twister massacre and fight scenes were longer and lot more gorier with more deaths of both vampires and humans before they were cut for rating and pacing. Some workprint footage shows all the uncut scenes.
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.
The first script that Quentin Tarantino was paid to write, for the mere sum of $1,500. Special effects technician Robert Kurtzman asked him to write a screenplay based on his story in return for providing the ear-slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Salma Hayek did not have a choreographer for her dance. Director Robert Rodriguez just told her to feel the music and dance to it. Rodriguez would later use the same tactic with Jessica Alba in Sin City (2005).
Originally, Satanico Pandemonium was called Blonde Death. Quentin Tarantino decided to go for a Latino/Mexican star, so he used Salma Hayek after seeing her in Desperado (1995). The name Satanico Pandemonium came from the title of a gory Mexican horror movie (Satanico Pandemonium: La Sexorcista (1975)) that Tarantino had seen on the shelves of the video store he worked in.
Writer Trademark (Quentin Tarantino): [trunk shot]: When the opening credits finish and the Geckos retrieve their hostage, we look from the woman’s point of view from inside the trunk of the car up at the Geckos. This is, of course, the familiar type of angle Tarantino puts in all of his films.
If you look closely, when Cheech Marin is playing the Customs Agent, his name badge says, “Oscar Marin” which is Cheech’s real-life father’s name. His father was an LAPD officer.
According to the DVD featurettes, when Sex Machine is throwing around the other characters, Tom Savini actually punches many of the actors, including George Clooney.
The name of the movie is taken from the signs found on drive-ins. These signs indicate the length of the shows, which ran “from dusk till dawn”. The movie is full of references to midnight movies and films which were often intended for teenagers to watch late at night from their cars.
Some of the body parts were from other films by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
George Clooney was picked partly because of his work on ER (1994). Quentin Tarantino liked the irony that Clooney had gone from saving people at the ER to playing a character who sends people to the ER.
Writer Trademark (Quentin Tarantino): Big Kahuna Burger: The fast food Seth bring into the hotel clearly has the “Big Kahuna Burger” logo on the side of the bag.
The band playing in the “Titty Twister” is Tito & Tarantula, featuring Robert Rodriguez; the lineup also features Oingo Boingo drummer Johnny ‘Vatos’ Hernandez.
Quentin Tarantino originally gave the script to makeup effects man Robert Kurtzman to direct. When he couldn’t commit, Tarantino showed the script to Robert Rodriguez, who eagerly signed on.
The exterior set for the Titty Twister burned down at one point. This caused great delays in filming. Other delays were caused by dust storms and the threat of union action because of shooting with a non-union crew.
Originally Quentin Tarantino pitched this to John Travolta the same time as he was preparing to film Pulp Fiction (1994). Travolta was not interested in working on a vampire movie and wanted to work on Pulp Fiction instead.
The character Scott Fuller wears a shirt that says “Precinct 13” on it in stencil lettering. It is a nod to Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), which used the same style lettering on it’s poster. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are both fans of John Carpenter’s films, and did this to pay homage to his work.
Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s Ezekiel monologue in Pulp Fiction (1994) was originally written for Harvey Keitel’s character in this film.
The Titty Twister set was built in a desert in California.
Richie’s broken glasses are a homage to the movie poster to Straw Dogs (1971).
The “Fuller” family are named after writer-director Samuel Fuller, one of the primary influences on Quentin Tarantino’s (and everybody’s) style of “pulp” cinema.
The characters of Sex Machine and Frost were originally written the other way around: Sex Machine was to be the muscular, scarred, leather-wearing biker while Frost was to be a more slender (yet deadly) individual.
Sex Machine’s use of a whip to combat vampires is a reference to the legendary Vampire Killer whip of The Belmonts in Castlevania (1986).
According to Quentin Tarantino, Renny Harlin and Tony Scott were the first directors who showed interest in directing the film.
Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi were approached to play Pete Bottoms but neither could fit it into their schedules.
Kelly Preston was offered the role of the “newscaster” after meeting Quentin Tarantino through her husband John Travolta while filming Pulp Fiction (1994).
Erik Estrada was lined up to play Carlos the gangster that Cheech Marin plays at the end.
In both the Titty Twister bar near the beginning, and near the end of the film when Seth Gecko meets with Carlos the gangster, he is offered a beer. He’s told by both the vampire bartender and Carlos that he/they have Mexican and domestic. Since they’re in Mexico that means all they have is Mexican beer.
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.
The car Seth and Richie drive in the beginning is a 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino) talk to each other once in the whole movie when Richie say’s to Jacob that “if he can borrow his ice bucket” throughout the rest of the movie he only talk’s to Seth (George Clooney).
Rammstein’s video for “Engel” is an homage to this movie.
Seth Gecko says the line “All right, Ramblers. Let’s get ramblin’!”, a quote from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Quentin Tarantino wrote the screenplay after winning the Oscar for Pulp Fiction (1994).
The gun that Seth uses is a 44. Astra Terminator with a three inch lug barrel with pachmayr grips.
Sex Machine’s crotch gun can be seen in Desperado (1995), when they search his case and the false top starts to lift.
At the beginning of the film, Pete Bottoms of Benny’s World of Liquor (played by John Hawkes) mentions to Seth Gecko (George Clooney) that he should “get a fucking’ Academy Award” for acting natural. Fifteen years later, Hawkes was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Winter’s Bone (2010).
Richie’s handgun is a nickeled Norinco M1911
The Titty Twister is based on Kurtz’ compound from Apocalypse Now (1979).
Fred Williamson plays a character who mentions he was in the Vietnam War in 1972. This is ironic considering that Fred’s first film appearance was in the movie MASH (1970). While that film was set during the Korean War, it’s said it was written for those with loved ones and for those serving in Vietnam as a form of comedic relief.
Juliette Lewis was cast because of her friendship with Quentin Tarantino. She previously appeared in Natural Born Killers (1994), whose original screenplay was written by Tarantino (his draft would eventually be heavily revised and he ultimately received a “Story By” credit), and Tarantino liked her so much that he suggested she play Kate.
The film employed a non-union production crew, which is unusual for a production with a budget above $15 million.
William Sadler was cast as FBI Agent Stanley Chase.
This marks the first time in a film scripted by Quentin Tarantino and that Harvey Keitel co-stars with him that they’re on opposite sides of the law. In Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994) they were both criminals; in this film, Tarantino is a criminal and Keitel is a former preacher, although he still wears the clothes and a hat. Incidentally they both wear glasses in this film.
When they make it past the border, a hub cap can be seen rolling off from the four door car behind the RV.
Frost’s name is never said aloud during the movie.
Greg Nicotero has served as makeup artist on almost all of the films of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Outside of this partnership, he has won two Emmys for his work on The Walking Dead (2010).
When the Geckos and Fullers are drinking at the Titty Twister, you can see a neon Chango beer sign behind Seth (George Clooney). Chango is the beer served at the Mexican dive bar in the film Desperado, directed by Robert Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino also has a small role in that film and his character is served the same beer. Furthermore, the bartender that serves Tarantino’s character Chango beer, is played by Cheech Marin.
The shotgun that Jacob uses at the end with is a Winchester Model 1912 with a Butler Creek tactical synthetic loop fore-grip.
In the screenplay, Frost was supposed to face of Razor Charlie with the pool cue and Sex Machine was supposed to hurl vampires onto the legs of a table to kill them. In the finished film, their actions are reversed.
In the screenplay, Santanico Pandemonium was supposed to dance to a recording of “Down in Mexico” by the Coasters. In the film, Rodriguez used “After Dark” by Tito & Tarantula, who plays the house-band in the film. Tarantino later reused the idea of a dance to “Down in Mexico” in Death Proof (2007).
Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro have co-starred in a few films together. De Niro co-starred with Juliette Lewis in Cape Fear (1991), so Lewis has co-starred with both of them.
Greg Nicotero: The long haired biker that Tom Savini’s character steals the beer from is the makeup effects supervisor. His character makes a further appearance in a deleted scene where in he is brutally murdered by Santanico Pandemonium when she sits on his lap (in human form) and seduces him into a false sense of security. Then a second vampiric snake-like mouth erupts from her own and bites his head off in an explicit fashion.
Howard Berger: The trucker vampire that bites Sex Machine (Tom Savini) is the make-up supervisor.
Lawrence Bender: the film’s executive producer is sitting at the first booth at the diner where we first see Jacob, Kate and Scott.
Robert Rodriguez: [Trejo] Tattooed tough guy Danny Trejo also appears in Rodriguez’ Desperado (1995), Spy Kids (2001), Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003), Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), Planet Terror (2007), Grindhouse (2007), and Machete (2010). In all these movies except for “Once Upon” (where he plays “Cucuy”), his character had a “knife” name: Navajas in “Desperado” (navajas is Spanish for “folding knives”, which his character used as throwing weapons), Razor Charlie, Isador “Machete” Cortez in the “Spy Kids” pictures, and another Machete in the connected films “Planet Terror,” “Grindhouse” and “Machete.”
Some of the growling noises of the vampire dog that Sex Machine turns into were provided by Robert Rodriguez’s baby son Rocket Rodriguez who was just learning to talk.
In the original script, Quentin Tarantino made all the Fullers and the Geckos survive the ordeal.
Even though the character of Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) is killed in this film, Parks played the role again in the films Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Death Proof (2007), and Planet Terror (2007).
Writer Trademark (Quentin Tarantino): Bare Feet: Tarantino’s character Richard often finds himself involved with womens’ feet. Richard is seen obsessing over Kate’s feet when he holds her at gunpoint in the RV, He drinks the alcohol spilling from Satanico Pandemonium’s foot, and even tells the hostage to take off her shoes before she gets into the bed with him, even though he is still wearing his.
When Seth threatens Jacob at the beginning he threatens to “shoot him in the face”, ironically at the end when Jacob becomes a vampire his son Scott kills him by shooting /blowing his head off.