THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“FROM DUSK TILL DAWN”
written by Dominick Cappello
“All right, ramblers. Let’s get rambling…” The first collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. A cross between a gangster movie and a horror flick. Upon first viewing, one might forget that they are even watching a vampire movie since it takes a long time before the blood-sucking fiends arrive. George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino star as The Gecko Brothers, fugitive bank robbers heading towards the Mexican border. They get into a wild pre-title shootout at a convenience store. Just like the gangsters in “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and “Pulp Fiction” (1994), they are garbed in black suits. George Clooney as Seth is a ruthless bank robber. Quentin Tarantino as Richie is a mentally unbalanced sex offender.
Kelly Preston has a small roll as a newscaster interviewing an FBI agent played by John Saxon. No stranger to horror movies, John Saxon had also appeared in “Black Christmas” (1974) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). Harvey Keitel plays Jacob, a pastor who has lost his faith after the death of his wife. He is traveling with his daughter and adopted son in an RV. They are taken captive by The Geckos and they all cross the border together. Richie, being a pervert, leers at the daughter, played by Juliette Lewis. Cheech Marin plays three different roles throughout the movie. First, he works at the border crossing, then he is the barker outside of the Titty Twister, and he is also the drug dealer who appears at the end of the movie.
After some initial tension, George Clooney and Harvey Keitel develop an admiration for each other by the time they arrive at the Titty Twister, a seedy bar located south of the border. Stockholm syndrome perhaps? The Gecko Brothers kick the shit out of Cheech Marin before they go inside. Other patrons include Fred Williamson and Tom Savini. Tom Savini’s character is named Sex Machine. How awesome is that? He has some sort crotch pistol and he also uses a whip when all hell breaks loose. Of course, since this is a Robert Rodriguez film, you know that Danny Trejo is going to appear at some point. He plays the rude bartender, who at first refuses to serve George Clooney.
Only bikers and truck drivers are usually allowed at the Titty Twister. This rule will make more sense to the audience after the story shifts focus from crime to horror. The scene that this film is probably most famous for is Salma Hayek’s erotic dance sequence. Nice. Her character’s name is Santanico Pandemonium. This is the turning point of the movie. As soon as it is over (unless you rewind and watch it again) is when it finally becomes a horror movie. One hour and one minute into the movie. All of the employees of the Titty Twister are vampires. Not the euro-trash, cry for me, it’s sad to be immortal kind of vampires. Rather, these are demon-like, undead ghouls. When Salma Hayek turns, her appearance is serpentine. All of the patrons of the Titty Twister have been rounded up like cattle and the carnage ensues. This is why they target bikers and truck drivers. People who live life on the road and won’t be missed much. The vampires bleed green so to appease the censors. This reminds me of “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” (1987).
Salma Hayek is killed by a falling chandelier. Bummer. I know that her role was basically just a cameo and I’m quite grateful for her few minutes of screentime, but it was still sad to see her go. Juliette Lewis kills Cheech Marin with a cross. Every vampire movie has its own interpretation of the mythology, but this film sticks to the basics. Quentin Tarantino is bitten and transforms into a vampire. George Clooney has no choice but to mercifully kills his volatile brother. Also, they cannot escape the bar because it is surrounded by bats. Everyone who was killed in the fight will soon become vampires, so our protagonists stake them in their hearts. This when Sex Machine is bitten.
Seth urges Jacob to embrace his faith. To become a “Mean mother-fucking servant of God,” who can bless the tap water and turn it into holy water. As Fred Williamson tells intense war stories, Tom Savini transforms into a vampire. He attacks, biting both Fred Williamson and Harvey Keitel. Man, Sex Machine sure caused a lot of trouble. Just before he turns, Fred Williamson throws Tom Savini through the front door, allowing all of the vampire bats into the bar. Harvey Keitel knows that he will turn, but helps the others for as long as he can. They use weapons found in a storage room, collected from all of the unsuspecting victims who have visited the Titty Twister in the past. Sex Machine is decapitated with his own whip, then the adopted son dies the most horrible death in the movie, being bitten by his father, who has turned, and is then blown to pieces by condoms filled with holy water. Only in a Robert Rodriguez / Quentin Tarantino opus.
Drug dealers come to the rescue and sunlight reflects off of a disco ball, causing the remaining vampires in the Titty Twister to explode. After George Clooney and Juliette Lewis say their farewells, it is revealed that the Titty Twister is just the tip on an ancient pyramid. Though not a huge hit in 1996, this film does now have a bit of a cult following. George Clooney will likely never make another trashy movie like this, but it’s nice to see that a big star like him used to be slumming it.
– Dr. Jelly
Hey, I don’t even like vampire movies and this one was no exception. This movie doesn’t work as either a crime drama or as a fright flick. Oh, and by the way, just in case you didn’t know, Quentin Tarantino couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. Also, I’m I the only one tired of being subjected to his weird foot fetish? When most guys think of Salma Hayek, who’d care about her feet? Only Q.T. would obsess over that body part. I don’t think he was acting when he was perving on Juliette Lewis. If this guy wasn’t a renowned filmmaker, he’d probably be someone who you wouldn’t want living in your neighborhood.
I guess that Q.T. was doing his old buddy John Travolta a favor by casting his talentless wife, Kelly Preston, as a reporter. When Q.T. first reached out to John Travolta, it was for this movie and not “Pulp Fiction” (1994). John Travolta wanted nothing to do with a shitty vampire movie, but evidently it was good enough for his wife. It’s so damn annoying having to watch George Clooney pretend to be a tough guy. I’m sorry, I just cannot suspend my disbelief enough for that horseshit. George Clooney is just some pampered Hollywood pretty-boy. Don’t try and reinvent him as an outlaw type. Where’s Michael Madsen? A legit badass when you need him? Oh, and did I mention that Quentin Tarantino is a horrible actor? Even with his BFF, director Robert Rodriguez, trying like hell to make him seem cool.
One hour and one minute into the movie is when the fucking vampires finally show up. Well, it’s about freaking time. Why the hell did they make us wait so damn long for the monsters to show up in a horror movie? Did they think that they were being clever? I’m all for a suspense, but if they actually did a better job of integrating the film’s horror aspects with the story of the fugitive Gecko Brothers, then this would be a classic of the genre and not some lousy, hobbled together mess.
Why the hell is Salma Hayek on the poster for this movie!? She’s barely even in it!? Talk about false advertising!? I want to smack somebody. Why does every vampire movie and zombie movie need to have the exact same scene where a member of the group is infected and they try to hide it from the others? We’ve seen that shit so many times. I’m sick of it. Both Tom Savini and Fred Williamson were wasted in this movie. Their characters were completely under-developed. Oh, and what are the rules in this movie? When Fred Williamson is bitten, he turns into a vampire within seconds. When Harvey Keitel is bitten, he lasted another half hour before turning. That doesn’t make any sense. Like I’ve said before, a horror flick needs to adhere to its own reality. This one didn’t.
But, do you know what this film’s greatest sin is? When director Joel Schumacher, history’s greatest monster, saw the poster for this movie, he drew Batman’s cowl onto George Clooney’s face. He liked how it looked and that is how George Clooney was cast in “Batman & Robin” (1997) as Bruce Wayne / Batman. You’ve got to be kidding me! If you’re one of the lucky ones who never saw that movie, trust me when I tell you that Mr. Clooney totally phoned it in as The Dark Knight.
Now, I will never review “From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money” (1999) and I don’t recommend that anyone else does, but I will have to call this franchise out once again for its flagrant false advertising. Every time this movie played on cable, back when cable was relevant, it was said to star Mr. Bruce Campbell. The one and only. Okay, I can dig it. That’s what this guy does great. Cheesy horror flicks. But, then what happens? He’s killed five minutes into the movie. The fuck? What’s with this franchise? Stop advertising people making cameos as the stars of the movie. Oh, and did I mention that Quentin Tarantino is a horrible actor?
– Dr. Frisbee
The opening scene with Michael Parks is so badass that filmmaker Kevin Smith once played it in his home theater with volume cranked all the way up and the neighbors called the cops on him, thinking that there was a hostage situation inside of his house. Kevin Smith has since directed Michael Parks in “Red State” (2011) and “Tusk” (2014). Michael Parks also reprised his role as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, despite being killed off, in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (2003) and “Grindhouse” (2007).
You know, there’s not really much of a resemblance between George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. It seems that one of The Gecko Brothers got all of the good looks. I won’t say which one. You can figure that out for yourself. Still, they played off each other well despite the fact that Quentin Tarantino isn’t the strongest actor. A well played scene is when Seth Gecko returns to the motel and discovers that his brother Richie has raped and murdered their hostage. You believe that they are brothers and that Seth loves Richie despite being appalled by his heinous actions.
As with most movies like this, there are plenty of fun little Easter eggs. The kid is wearing a Precinct 13 t-shirt. I can only assume that was an homage to John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” (1976). Both Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have admitted to being huge admirers of John Carpenter. The Gecko Brothers are on their way to the town of El Rey. That was the name of the main character in “Planet Terror” (2007) and the name of the TV network Robert Rodriguez launched in 2013. This is the same network that airs “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” (2014).
Tom Savini plays the character known as Sex Machine. Mr. Savini is a special make-up effects creator; a legend, who has worked on such classic horror films as “Dawn of the Dead” (1978) and “Friday the 13th” (1980). He also acted in “Dawn of the Dead,” playing Blades. Blades wore a leather biker jacket, similar to Sex Machine. In fact, it may have been the exact same jacket. Greg Nicotero, another famed special make-up effects creator, also makes a cameo. Sex Machine steals his beer. Robert Rodriguez cast Tom Savini again as an assassin in “Machete” (2010).
Highlights in this movie for me include Harvey Keitel turning a shotgun into a cross. A truly kick-ass weapon. They also fill a water gun with holy water. That has to be an homage to “The Lost Boys” (1987). Sex Machine references Peter Cushing. A nod to the great Hammer Films. The characters debate whether or not silver works on vampires or if it’s only for werewolves. For the record, yes, silver does work on vampires. Shame on anyone who didn’t know that. After Sex Machine is decapitated, he turns into some sort of giant vampire rat. Wow. That was definitely something that you would not see in a pansy vampire movie like “Twilight” (2008). At the end of the movie, you see all of the trucks piled up in the canyon behind the Titty Twister. A graveyard of sorts. This lets the audience know that these vampires have been active for quite some time.
There were two direct-to-video sequels, “From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money” (1999) and “From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter” (2000). Neither of which are too acclaimed. There is also the aforementioned TV series running on the El Rey network. Oh, and even anyone’s keeping track, Salma Hayek also played a stripper in Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” (1999). It’s very important that we document all of the occasions that one of the most beautiful women in the world strips down to her bra and panties for posterities sake.
– Dr. Rochester