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.