From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #437

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Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: January 19, 1996
Sub-Genre: Exploitation/Vampire
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $19,000,000
Box Office: $25,800,000
Running Time: 108 minutes
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Gianni Nunnari, Meir Teper
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Special Effects: Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger
Story: Robert Kurtzman
Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro
Score: Graeme Revell
Editing: Robert Rodriguez
Studios: Dimension Films, A Band Apart, Los Hooligans
Distributor: Miramax Films
Stars: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Quentin Tarantino, Ernest Liu, Salma Hayek, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Michael Parks, Brenda Hillhouse, John Saxon, Marc Lawrence, Kelly Preston, John Hawkes, Greg Nicotero

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Suggested Audio Jukebox:

[1] Tito & Tarantula Cucarachas Enojadas

[2] The Blasters Dark Night

[3] Tito & Tarantula After Dark

 

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“All right, pussy, pussy, pussy! Come on in pussy lovers! Here at the Titty Twister we’re slashing pussy in half! Give us an offer on our vast selection of pussy, this is a pussy blow out! All right, we got white pussy, black pussy, Spanish pussy, yellow pussy, we got hot pussy, cold pussy, we got wet pussy, we got…[sniff]…smelly pussy, we got hairy pussy, bloody pussy, we got snappin’ pussy, we got silk pussy, velvet pussy, naugahyde pussy, we even got horse pussy, dog pussy, chicken pussy! Come on, you want pussy, come on in, pussy lovers! If we don’t got it, you don’t want it! Come on in, pussy lovers!”

Dagnabbit! And I really had my heart set on moleskin pussy. Come to think of it, I’m not entirely convinced that a Mexican strip joint in the middle of nowhere is the best place to grab that margerita anyhoots. Besides, that Chet Pussy fella looks strikingly similar to the border guard who almost blew our cover a few minutes back. Something stinks like sloppy quesadillas that have been left out in the blazing heat for too long. Speaking of which, I’m almost out of sunscreen. Perhaps I can purchase some Amber Solaire inside. Judging by the extensive pussy platter, I’d sure a little factor thirty can’t be that hard to lay your hands on. The Titty Twister has a certain ring to it but I prefer my titties untangled. Oh well, Carlos will be here at dawn so how bad could it be? I swear I’ve seen that chicano before you know. Conundrums! Conundrums! I guess one drink for the road couldn’t hurt.

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I still recall my first outing with the Gecko brothers. Somehow the midpoint twist had managed to remain ambiguous until that point, thus my jaw dropped faster than Kate’s cotton white panties after five-minutes alone with Richie. You see, Robert Rodriguez’ From Dusk Till Dawn has itself something of a doozy revelation and managed to split opinion into two distinct camps upon its release. Those of us still convulsing after Mia Wallace received her shot of adrenaline were enamored by the talkative entrée; whereas, anyone looking for a little otherworldly nocturnal pandemonium were more content once the hors d’ouevres arrived. Remember the word “pandemonium” Grueheads as I will be testing you later. As for Keeper, I fell into the former clique, and was happy as Crazy Larry slumming it with the brothers grim before all hell literally broke loose.

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One part pensive road movie and the other balls-to-the-wall supernatural splatterfest, From Dusk Till Dawn represents something of a glorious failure in my books. The transition is pretty much seamless as we swing wildly from one movie to entirely another, but I still came away feeling as though I had been rectally ravaged by a randy pack mule after my primary pitstop to The Titty Twister. Any disenchantment has long since been tempered by the fact that few movies stand up so well to subsequent viewings. However, El Wray always did fascinate me. This legendary lawless town would have been the ideal place for a pistol-toting wild west showdown. Ultimately, Chet’s comprehensive pussy roster just proved all too mouth-watering a proposition to pass up on.

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Quentin Tarantino was riding high after his Oscar success with Pulp Fiction and his screenwriting prowess was approaching the top of its game when he thrashed out his final draft of Robert Kurtzman’s story. Tarantino was already primed to direct but duties eventually fell to Rodriguez, after Quentin selected against overstretching himself as he was also planned to play a key role in the movie. It proved a canny decision as this falls short of his usual lofty standard. Having said that, have you ever heard the term “rollercoaster ride”? That was invented with films such as From Dusk Till Dawn in mind. For the best part of an hour we steadily ascend each track and, just before shit goes south, we can see El Wray if we pay close enough attention. Then for the big dipper and it’s hands-in-the-air dodge the vomit plummetsville all the way.

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“If you try to run, I’ve got six little friends and they can all run faster than you can”

What better place to start than the very beginning and our beloved vigilante Gecko brothers, bless ’em. They share almost everything like good bros should but possess certain idiosynchrasies, particularly younger hombre Richard (Tarantino). While Seth (George Clooney) is the suave, mildly quick tempered, sociapathic anti-hero type, his cross-to-bear is your more dorky, even-shorter-fused, sex offending, unhinged psychopath variety and evidently has some unresolved childhood trauma to contend with. Together, after a bank heist has left grave casualties, they enter into a hostage situation, finding a nice wholesome American family to take captive and comandeering their RV in a bid to make it across the border to pastures secure. While the Griswold family are battling the elements to reach the elusive Wally World, we make short stop-offs to a convenience store and low-rent motel just to reveal a little more about Richard’s quirky sidelines.

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“I’ll be a lap dog of Satan”

Former pastor Jacob (Harvey Kietel) has misplaced his faith after the almighty snatched his wife away in an automobile accident, thus decides on taking teenage daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) and adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu) on a morale-boosting road trip to relocate his inner chi. After passing John Ryder on Route 66 without braking, thus dodging a bullet, Jacob is likely feeling somewhat smug. That is until he books them into motel hell and Richie’s medication begins to wear off. We’re never entirely sure as to whether necrophilia is one of little bro’s vices but it is irrelevent anyway once primed-for-the-deflowering sex kitten Lewis comes flashing the same cheek dimples and waving the same lashes which had Max Cady laying doing extra stomach crunches.

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“Richie, would you do me a favor and eat my pussy for me… please?”

What is a man of such limited resolve and questionable moral fiber supposed to do? Alas for Richard, he is cock-blocked before he can claim himself a slice of warm cherry pie and Seth’s voice of reason provides the perfect foil for his brother’s petulant mind state during these early exchanges. In my opinion, Tarantino is never better than when playing a demented rapist, which is possibly why he spends more time behind the lens. He plays the looser cannon remarkably well and with all the gusto of a boy with toys. The dynamic between the bickering blood brothers is off-the-chart and, if Richard represents unease in the camp of sanity, then Seth is coolness personified. I swear, for three-years straight, I wanted his serpentine neck tattoo.

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“I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard”

Clooney is an absolute godsend and, the decision by Rodriguez to cast him, beyond shrewd as his performance ensures that he ranks amongst the great all-time movie anti-heroes. He was still better known as Dr Doug Ross from E.R. until cut this break and has since gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most prestigious A-listers. I consider him to be a brilliant actor but, Three Kings aside, struggle to recall a time when he has sold his character quite so effortlessly as he does here. What is particularly enthralling is that he really ain’t all that heinous. Take Richie out of the equation and he can actually prove somewhat agreeable. The balance is on-the-money and he veers closer to dusk than dawn for the most part, thus pocketing himself ultimate bad boy kudos.

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Of all the characters, it is Jacob who undergoes the greatest pilgrimage. He needs this; for too long he has simply towed the line and what has been his reward? A dead wife and some night terrors. It isn’t long before he strays from the path of righteousness and his metamorphosis into makeshift Van Helsing is complete by the time the freaks come out. For the most part, Keitel is playing against type, watching on as other hellraisers tear shit up and letting them have their kicks, quoting the good lord from time to time to keep himself in the God squad. However, there is only so much that a man of the cloth can take, before he goes all Bad Lieutanant. Thankfully, he keeps his trousers hoiked, choosing instead to kick some undead ass in the name of Jehovah.

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“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be “Spot”. Welcome to slavery”

Okay Grueheads, it’s quiz time. Remember buzz word “pandemonium” from earlier? Well what do you think it has in common with our next act Santanico Pandemonium? Answers on a postcard to Lucky Little Serpent, Hot Mamasville. That’s right, Richard appears to be approaching some decidedly deep and choppy waters here. If it have been a straight choice between being afforded Seth’s tribal neck paint and guzzling Ms Pandemonium’s Whiskey-tinged toes then I’d be with Richie I’m afraid. Having my jugular ripped out by creatures of the night feels like scant fee and I fully endorse Tarantino’s thought process as a little harmless footsies is clearly paramount to driving the story on. Meanwhile, Hayek oozes forbidden fantasy and you would never guess that she harbors an intense fear of snakes.

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Actually, this’ll tickle your Don Rickles. She was all set to decline Rodriguez’ offer, on account of her paralyzing phobia, until he stymied her into thinking that Madonna was going to take her role. Before you could say “don’t cry for me”, she snapped it back up, spending two months with therapists to conquer her reasonably logical jitters. She leads our guests a merry dance before the shit is flung and ceiling fans set to oscillate. From hereon in, we are firmly in campy horror territory, and introduced to a couple more tough hombres to shore up the numbers. I’m speaking of the amusingly named Frost (Fred Williamson) and alloy-junk maniac himself Sex Machine (Tom Savini).

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Although doomed to remain fringe players, these two unsaintly patrons provide no end of slapstick pratfall. As annoyed as we may be that our serenity has been soundly obliterated, it’s tough not being won over by Savini’s chrome blowpipe and Williamson’s winning grin.

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The bodies hit the floor faster than Jacob can place his bookmark in Psalms and it all gets mighty messy pronto. It has been nearly two decades since I first had the pleasure of hanging out at The Twitty Twister and I’m long since over any disappointment over it pulling the rug from under my feet. Regardless of its faltering trajectory, From Dusk Till Dawn is a blast from olá to adiós. Now, about those pussies Chet, do you happen to have any in faux-leather?

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Let’s see what we have here shall we? Exploding peepers, cascading crimson tides, decapitations, dismemberments, eviscerations, human surplus guitars, go-go dancing serpent twirlers, a bucket full of profanity, and a little making out with bare feet, just for Quentin. I think that’s all bases firmly covered.

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Read Planet Terror Appraisal

Read Death Proof Appraisal

Read Vamp Appraisal

Read When Dusk Met Dawn

 

Keeper of the Crimson Quill

Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015

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