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From Dusk Till Dawn: SE

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . R . PAL


Back in 1996, my wife and I fronted up to the local multiplex to see a film that marked the collaboration between two of our then favourite directors - Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Over the past year or so we’d seen and loved both Pulp Fiction and Desperado, and the prospect of two of Hollywood’s freshest young filmmakers combining their talents – in particular Tarantino’s razor-sharp dialogue united with Rodriguez’s skill for frenetic action sequences – had us pacing the foyer in anticipation. Suffice to say we weren’t disappointed, and the fruits of their labour – the self-confessed exploitation piece and B-film homage From Dusk Till Dawn remains one of our favourite films to this day.

One of the reasons that we enjoyed our initial screening so much was that we went in stag; we knew absolutely nothing about the film, and if you’re in the same boat right now, then I say to you – stop reading! Go out right now and hire this film. Do not look at the DVD cover. Do not watch the DVD menu intro, and just enjoy one of the wildest and most surprising rides in recent cinema history.

Long before Tarantino had made his breakthrough film Reservoir Dogs, he worked in a video store and honed his skills writing screenplays as a gun for hire. One such screenplay was a little horror exploitation piece written for legendary special effects house KNB and destined to be an ultra-low budget, straight-to-video horror film. That script was From Dusk Till Dawn. A few years later, Tarantino and Rodriguez met whilst writing Pulp Fiction and Desperado on the Columbia lot. When Quentin showed the script to Robert, he loved it and the rest, as they say, is history.

The plot is your standard crime-drama-black-comedy-vampire-slash-fest crossover piece. The Gecko brothers, Seth (George Clooney) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino), are a couple of mean motor scooters on the run from local law enforcement, the Texas Rangers and the FBI. After a daring jail escape and armed bank hold-up, the pair are making straight for the Mexican border and the sanctuary of El Ray. With the border within eyeshot, an opportunity to get across soon presents itself in the form of an ex-Baptist minister Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), his two kids Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu), and their sizeable motor home. Taking the three hostage, they are soon whisked across the border and are heading for a little strip-joint called the Titty Twister to lay low, drink the night away, and await Seth’s Mexican contact. But little do the brothers or their unfortunate hostages know, this little titty-bar isn’t all that it seems..

"How about it Jacob? Are you just a faithless preacher, or a mean, mother f*ckin’ servant of god?"

So what makes From Dusk Till Dawn so damned entertaining? Like both Tarantino's and Rodriguez's other films, it is filled with memorable scenes, dark humour and action set pieces, but most importantly it is populated with an outstanding ensemble cast. First and foremost is George Clooney who, in his big-screen debut, became an instant A-list star with this memorable performance. There is no doubt that Clooney, who literally oozes rattlesnake cool, helped make this movie as much as the movie helped make him. And Tarantino, despite his self-professed lack of acting talent, does manage to establish the all-important younger brother dynamic with Clooney. Surrounding these two is a top-notch supporting cast; in particular Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis. There aren’t many actors that can dominate Harvey Keitel on screen, but Clooney, cast for just this purpose, manages it admirably. Once the story heads south of the border, the production is populated with Rodriguez regulars including the delectable Salma Hayek (sporting a large albino snake), Danny Trejo, and Cheech Marin (playing no less than three roles) whose memorable pussy speech is a highlight of the film. A mention must also go to legendary effects makeup artist and some time actor Tom Savini who, as the whip-cracking biker ‘Sex Machine’, steals every single one of the later scenes he's in.

Look - all in all From Dusk Till Dawn is simply a fantastic, must-see film. Told with its tongue planted firmly in cheek, it draws on the pedigrees of its collaborators to create one of the best genre crossover films of all time. And if you’ve ever wondered at all about the fuss surrounding George Clooney, then just give this little number a spin. Even if he's never this good again, the evidence is here for all to see - damn is he one tough pecker!


Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Buena Vista’s anamorphic, Special Edition transfer of From Dusk Till Dawn is quite pleasing, despite being a bit of a mixed bag technically. Taken from a crystal clear print, the image is beautiful and sharp and displays a minimal amount aliasing. A wealth of detail is on display, both in bright light and in shadows, and this is just as well given that whole second half of the film takes place at night. Blacks are deep and solid, and although colours are bright and vivid, they do appear a touch oversaturated at times - too often skin tones look just a little rosy.

In terms of the digital compression, a number of problems are exhibited by the transfer to varying degrees. Firstly, a small amount of posterisation can be seen when the pre-title scene fades to black, and although this artefact does not reappear until the gang reach Mexico, it can then be seen in the rendering of some clouds of dust outside the Titty Twister. Macro-blocking is more of a problem, with a small, constant amount of pixelation to be seen in many of the darker, out of focus backgrounds. This pixelation also finds its way onto George Clooney’s face during several of his many extreme close-ups.

Edge enhancement is also somewhat of a problem, again affecting several scenes to varying degrees. Although not terrible intrusive on my 80cm TV, those of you with projectors are really going to notice this at times; and chances are you won’t be too impressed.

All in all, despite the few aforementioned problems, I was still reasonably impressed with Buena Vista’s presentation of From Dusk Till Dawn. Whilst it certainly isn’t quite up to the standard being displayed by, say, the Roadshows of this world, the bright, detailed and crystal clear image still managed to impress.


Whilst all six channels of From Dusk Till Dawn’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix are utilised by the soundtrack, the application of the extra 2.1 channels is sporadic; corresponding to the production’s alternating dialogue and effects/action sequences. Thankfully, Tarantino’s witty dialogue is continuously clear and distinct from the centre speaker, and whilst the audio transfer has no lip-sync issues, there does seem to be some quite sloppy looping work from time to time. When prominent dialogue is delivered, surround activity effectively ceases - only to crash in with a vengeance when the action ramps up again.

During the action sequences, great use is made of the front and surround channels, with Rodriguez’s characteristic, contemporary Mexican-rock-fusion score thumping from all directions. Channel separation across the front and into the surrounds is also good, with ricochets, screams and foley effects emanating from various corners of the room. There are several directional effects, specifically movement from the rear to the front channels, and the swirling flight of attacking vampire bats fills the living room. The results are a broad and immersive soundstage that really places you in the thick of the action.

The subwoofer is also used to great effect throughout the production. During the quieter moments, Rodriguez makes dramatic use of low-end sound to ominously convey overpowering lust; mostly felt by Richie when he considers those of the fairer sex, but also conveying the blood-lust of one Satanico Pandamonium (Salma Hayek). During the action sequences the subwoofer really hits high gear, with all manner of growling and exploding critters, gunshots, and bursts of flame - you name it, it’s got a deep low-end baby!

Overall, suffice to say that From Dusk Till Dawn gives you enough bang for your buck to make you glad you shelled out all that money on audio equipment.


Opening with nicely animated, non-anamorphic menus, Buena Vista’s release of From Dusk Till Dawn certainly earns the mantle of ‘Special Edition’; providing fans with a great selection of extras.

The undisputed jewel in this disc’s crown is the audio commentary from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino - the only one I have ever seen that begins with a disclaimer! Although recorded some years ago for the film’s laserdisc release, this is one of the most enjoyable commentaries I have ever heard. There’s no doubt these two good friends had a blast making the film and had just as much fun recording the commentary – they laugh (often hysterically) at their own anecdotes, talk over the top of each other, and are still going strong when the credits come to an end. Tarantino and his legendary motor-mouth tends to monopolise proceedings, and therefore the script features large in the discussion. However, they do touch on other aspects such as casting, the sets, Rodriguez’s directorial decisions and so on. If you currently own the original release of From Dusk Till Dawn, then this is the extra that will get you digging back into your wallet for this Special Edition.

“They eat the child actor alive, alright... you don’t see that everyday at the movies. That doesn’t happen in Camp Nowhere, that doesn’t happen in Cable Guy. They don’t eat the child alive in Twister.” -- Quentin Tarantino

If you have heard Rodriguez’s wonderful technical commentaries on the El Mariachi/Desperado double feature release, then you may be a little disappointed with the lack of technical detail from him in the feature commentary. Fear not! Also included are some great behind-the-scenes segments entitled The Art of Making the Movie that each feature a technical commentary from Rodriguez. Great for anyone with an interest in filmmaking, four of the film’s key scenes are featured – the opening liquor store shootout, the hostage scene where the family becomes involved, the Titty Twister intro scene, and the final battle. Although I would have loved to hear the full-length commentary from Rodriguez (some questions about the production still remain unanswered), these surprisingly long segments provide a satisfying amount of technical information.

A quite reasonable featurette entitled Hollywood Goes to Hell (13min 30sec) is also included, whose full-frame presentation is filled to the brim with interviews from Rodriguez, Tarantino, cast and crew. Starting with a discusion of the working relationship between these two moviemakers, it moves on to all other aspects of the production, from special effects artists, the production schedule, and casting decisions. Filled with amusing and interesting anecdotes, the interviews are interspersed with footage from on the set, and snippets from the movie. Certainly one of the better featurettes I’ve seen on DVD.

Six minutes of non-anamorphic widescreen outtakes provide a plethora of muffed lines to keep you amused, supplied mostly by George Clooney; and boy doesn’t he get angry with himself! These are complimented by five and a half minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes, that also feature a commentary from Rodriguez and KNR effects guru Greg Nicotero. These are some special takes and some extra scenes that Robert just couldn’t leave on the cutting room floor. If that wasn’t enough, there’s yet another two and a half minute sequence of behind the scenes footage entitled on the set that features the external Titty Twister set being burned down.

Two music videos are also provided, the first being Tito and Tarantula with their song After Dark that plays over Salma Hayek’s famous satanic snake dance. The video, being full-frame, is basically the exact same footage from the film, cut with a little more of the band playing and a few other snippets from the film. The second video is the ZZ Top song She’s Just Killing Me starring George Clooney in Seth Gecko black and Salma Hayek in a slinky red dress – grrowl!, and also features the hairy ones playing in the Titty Twister.

Ninety seven stills taken from on-set are included in a substantial photo gallery, the obligatory theatrical trailer (full-frame and featuring that stupid voiceover guy) is also included, and some text cast and crew bios use up the last of the available bytes.

As I said, here's a great collection of extras for you fans out there, but one that leaves me with only one question for Buena Vista - where rightly the f*ck, is our copy of Full Tilt Boogie? - for it is this exclusion (that indeed ships with the region 1 and 2 releases) that fans of this fantastic film have been waiting all these years to collect! It seems yet another case of us plebs out in the colonies being well and truly screwed over.


OK, there’s no doubt that From Dusk Till Dawn is no Citizen Kane, but for fans of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino it's certainly one hell of an enjoyable film. Filled with sly nods to the pair’s previous films, and sporting a wonderful cast, this is one wild ride from start to finish. In the words of one Seth Gecko – ”Now that’s what I call a f*ckin show!”

Buena Vista’s Special Edition release, whilst shafting our region as compared to regions 1 and 2, certainly gives fans a few hours of enjoyable extras to troll through. Enjoy.

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      And I quote...
    "In the words of one Seth Gecko – ‘Now that’s what I call a f*ckin show!’"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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