Double Bill #04: Jackie Brown & Out of Sight

Both based on novels by the famous crime author Elmore Leonard and made roughly around the same time (Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino in 1997 and Out of Sight by Steven Soderbergh in 1998), the movies have a lot in common. They are both light hearted crime stories with not so much violence, especially compared to Tarantino’s other movies. They also both feature a romantic story about a love that doesn’t entirely come to fruition. Stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) tries to bond with bond bailsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), but despite him being in awe of her, he doesn’t go for it for somewhat mysterious reasons. US Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) and convicted bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney) fall in love after he holds her hostage in the trunk of a car after a jailbreak, but because of their chosen professions, they cannot be together. Both movies also revolve around a big score (a half a million in cash and five million worth of uncut diamonds) that several parties try to get their hands on. And in both cases, the relative ‘good guys’ prevail and the badder (and stupider) ones meet their demise. As can be expected from the fantastic writer Leonard, the characters are top notch and the dialogues are both smart and funny. One character crosses over from one story to the next; Ray Nicolette, and Tarantino and Soderbergh cleverly casted the same actor for the role: Michael Keaton. Out of Sight also features quite a few actors from Pulp Fiction, which was one of the defining movies of the era: Ving Rhames, Paul Calderon and – in a surprise appearance at the end: Samuel L. Jackson. The better movie of the two? Jackie Brown for the brilliant screen adaptation by Tarantino and the unforgettable performances of Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro as stupid criminal duo Ordell Robie and Louis Gara. Not to forget a superb Grier and Forster! But both movies are great and together form an ideal double feature.

Full Tilt Boogie: The Making of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’

After Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez both had personal success with Pulp Fiction and Desperado, in 1996 they announced their collaboration on a horror movie, called From Dusk Till Dawn.

Tarantino wrote the script and would play one of the lead roles and Rodriguez would direct. The horror-part was saved for the second half of the film, a strategy inspired by Stephen King, explains Tarantino. “First you let the audience get to know the characters, like them, and then you put them through hell.”

“Many horrors deliver too soon”, says Rodriguez in Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary about the movie’s production released a year after the film in 1997. “There are no clues that the vampires will show up, so the audience members – like the characters – are totally surprised. All of a sudden they’re just there.”

Full Tilt Boogie spends a lot of time interviewing the people that normally don’t get attention; the assistant directors, the personal assistants, the drivers, the best boys, the gaffers, the special effects people, the stunt guys, the caterers… Even the extras get their few minutes of fame. Like Bob Ruth who was also in Pulp Fiction (“I was the coffeeshop manager; ‘I am not a hero’”).

What’s interesting is that while for the creative team (writer, director, cinematographer) it is all about the creative process, for most of the others it is just a job. Sure, they all like movies, but they could easily switch to another industry if it would pay better. They are all mostly concerned with getting overtime paid and complaining about the food, the accommodation and millions of other things.

Still, if you are gonna work on a film then From Dusk Till Dawn is a good choice. It has hot new directors and a hot new star (George Clooney in his first big movie film role after many successful years in television) and lots of groovy special effects and stunts. There were also a lot of parties obviously.

But there were problems as well like sand storms, permits, extreme heat and the union going after the 18 million dollar independent film. Not because there were complaints from workers, but – according to the makers – because of the success of Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender. And because Rodriguez did almost everything himself. The unions weren’t used to that.

Full Tilt Boogie is ultimately a disappointing documentary, because you learn surprisingly little about the filmmakers. I would rather listen to Tarantino and Rodriguez talking for 90 minutes than watch a lot of film people that don’t have a lot to say about the beauty of the medium.

Dungeon Classics #20: From Dusk Till Dawn

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996, USA | Mexico)

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel
Running Time: 108 mins.

The early nineties saw the rise of filmmakers and friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez (they both debuted in 1992). They collaborated a number of times, but From Dusk Till Dawn is probably the greatest success in terms of cult appeal. Tarantino wrote the script and plays one of the lead roles and Rodriquez directed and edited the movie. The result is a cult classic. The first half is like watching a Tarantino neo-western crime movie. The dialogue is pure Tarantino and thus essential stuff for the cinema obsessive. The cast is excellent with Clooney in a formidable lead role as ruthless criminal Seth Gecko. The dynamic with his crazy, rapist brother Richard (played by Tarantino) ensures many extremely funny moments. During the second half, From Dusk Till Dawn surprisingly turns into a horror movie. A vampire flick to be more precise. It surely is thrilling, though not as good as the terrific first half. But some great supporting parts (by a.o. Fred Williamson and Tom Savini) add to the bloody fun.