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.

Dungeon Classics #19: Desperado

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

Desperado (1995, USA | Mexico)

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida
Running Time: 104 mins.

He not only plays, he can shoot too… Antonio Banderas is the mariachi turned gunslinger in this sequel to Texan filmmaker Robert Rodriquez’s 1992 debut El Mariachi. Rather than the 7.000 dollars he had for his debut film, he now had 7 million bucks and spent the money well on some serious acting talent and loads of shootouts and explosions. Banderas is full of rage and passion as the tortured Mariachi; there is so much fire in his performance. And he has great chemistry with Hayek’s touching bookstore owner Carolina. Rodriquez also added some comedic talent to the supporting cast, like Steve Buscemi who’s unforgettable in the movie’s perfect opening scene. Rodriquez completed his ‘Mexico’ trilogy in 2003 with Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but this one is the most fun. A year later, Rodriquez and many cast members (Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, Quentin Tarantino and Danny Trejo) came together again for From Dusk Till Dawn.

 

 

 

The Book of Boba Fett – a Postmodern Mashup

This week, the final episode aired of The Book of Boba Fett, an action bonanza featuring the biggest laser gun battle Star Wars has ever seen. It’s directed by Robert Rodriquez, who shows he is still a true action cannoneer.

The series initially got a luke(skywalker)warm reception, but during the second half the reviews improved. Not coincidentally, this was after the Mandalorian showed up and took central stage for an entire episode. And this reveals the show’s weakness, namely the title character. Who ever said Boba Fett, who barely had any lines in the original movies, was an interesting enough character to give his own television show? The Mandalorian on the other hand is great; he’s mysterious, a badass, can crack a joke once in a whole and follows a strict code of honor. Therefore his show is widely considered as the most successful Star Wars production under Disney since the acquisition from Lucasfilm in 2012.

The Mandalorian – like TBoBB developed by actor-director Jon Favreau – was loosely based on the classic Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub, about an assassin traveling through feudal Japan with his infant boy. The boy in The Mandalorian was Baby Yoda, an instant audience favorite. The Book of Boba Fett is based on another classic: The Godfather. Boba Fett, after surviving being swallowed by the Sarlacc and taken prisoner by the Tusken Raiders, moves to Tatooine to take over the crime syndicate previously ruled by Jabba the Hutt. Unfortunately, Boba is closer to Fredo than Vito, Michael or Sonny Corleone. He is just not particularly intelligent or cunning and it’s hard at times to figure out what’s even driving him at all. And frankly, Temuera Morrison is not the most versatile actor in the world. Why would he be suitable for a lead role?

So far the bad news, because TBoBB certainly has its merits. The supporting characters are excellent for one thing. The first one is called Fennec Shand (portrayed by Ming-Na Wen), a female assassin who partners up with Boba. She’s an interesting character and has good chemistry with Boba/Temuera. Second, the already mentioned Mandalorian shows up and the same applies for Baby Yoda (Grogu) and Luke Skywalker (the post Return of the Jedi-version). Finally, Cad Bane arrives in style in episode 6 and I can truthfully say that this one of those genuinely terrific bad guys Star Wars is known for. So thumbs up for that.

Another reason to watch: the amazing set pieces. This is pure Star Wars cinema quality. It’s incredible what they can do nowadays in cinema let alone television. It looks and smells and feels 100% like Star Wars. What might also persuade movie lovers is the tons of references, both visually and verbally, to classic cult movies. To Star Wars itself obviously (Wookies really do pull arms out of sockets), spaghetti westerns, Robert Rodriquez-references, The Godfather (‘it is the smart move’, ‘my offer is this: nothing’), The Untouchables, Lone Wolf and Cub, and probably many more I missed or forgot. You really get the feeling that you’re watching a show made by people who didn’t have an original concept to go on, but do love movies and had a huge budget to spend, so they threw in all this stuff from the classics.

Therefore, though obviously not as great as The Mandalorian, it still provides plenty of bang for your spacebucks.