From Dusk Till Dawn (2 Disc Collector's Edition) Review

The Film
After Tarantino took over the world with Pulp Fiction and Robert Rodriguez took over the low budget world with El Mariachi and Desperado, the two cult directors teamed up to produce one of the most original, entertaining and inspired B-movies of all time in From Dusk Till Dawn.

Two criminal brothers Seth and Richie Gecko (Clooney and Tarantino) are on the run after a bloody Texas Bank Robbery and a murderous destruction of an out-of-the-way convenience store. Stopping off at a motel, they run into a family consisting of Jakob (Harvey Keitel), a preacher, and his two teenage children, Kate and Scott (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu). Seth kidnaps the family and forces them to drive him and his brother across the border to Mexico. This is particularly necessary seeing that Richie has brutally murdered their previous hostage in their motel room. Upon passing through the border, Seth orders the group to stop off at the infamous Titty Twister bar in order to meet his contact, completely unaware that the bar is full of blood-sucking vampires! Trapped inside, the criminal siblings and the unfortunate kidnapped family must battle with a host of horrible characters in a fight for their life.

Never before has the phrase ' a film of two halves' carried such relevance. The first half of From Dusk Till Dawn is pure Tarantino, in situation, dialogue and direction. The second half becomes pure Rodriguez, with a heavy indulgence in visual gore and wacky horror. The film works perfectly well despite this disjointed approach, purely because the film is competently assured even though the plot is deliberately surreal and the action far fetched. Every performance is first rate. Clooney, in his first mainstream movie lead role, is wonderfully charismatic at playing a morally corrupt anti-hero. Keitel, as the subdued preacher and family man, turns in a nice refreshing understated performance. Tarantino, usually very bad at acting, is very acceptable at playing a geeky nerd bordering on the psychotic. Juliette Lewis is very convincing as an innocent daughter, and any role away from her usual white-trash typecast is welcome. Many cameos from cult stars also make the film very pleasurable for film buffs. Seventies blaxpoitation star Fred Williamson turns in a very believable performance as a Vietnam Vet obsessed with his war past, and Cheech Marin has three different devilish roles! Sexy Salma Hayek appears as a table-dancing vampire and although her performance is short in terms of length she still manages to ooze an abundance of eroticism. The monopoliser of FBI agent roles, John Saxon even appears as guess what!

What makes From Dusk Till Dawn so enjoyable to watch is the tremendous fun that can be sensed from the filmmakers themselves. Watching the extras featured on the DVD, you can really sense how much of a blast the cast and crew were having, and this is exemplified on screen. There is so much visual invention that the film becomes hysterically funny in just how excessively gory it is. Take for instance, a vampire lying on a pool table who has a wooden stake placed through his heart, he starts to slowly disintegrate and his eyeballs both shoot off into the table pockets!

From Dusk Till Dawn has its critics. Many people champion the serious first half over the deliberately stupid second half. Obviously, a film such as this has already garnered a cult following, and on its own terms, From Dusk Till Dawn is a tremendously entertaining vampire flick that has everything you could ask for. Just ignore the two awful and unrelated sequels that involved mostly none of the cast and crew.

Presented in flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (unlike the R1 counterpart), From Dusk Till Dawn exhibits fine natural arid visuals that still managed to possess a gritty, edgy feel without actually being gritty or dirty with regards to transfer. The colour tones are spot on and the transfer is surely the best in the world, considering it betters the laserdisc and the R1.

Presented solely in a 5.1 mix, From Dusk Till Dawn contains some excellent sound effects which are necessary for a horror movie, and both the soundtrack and the gory audio elements utilise the surround track superbly and all tracks are fully complemented.

Menu: The menu perfectly complements the film, containing kooky music and a murky red overtone that perfectly sets up the B-movie feel of From Dusk Till Dawn. The actual menu features a very amusing full-shot of the neon signs that adorn the 'Titty Twister' bar.

Packaging: A nicely illustrated three-way gatefold cardboard casing, complete with insert slots for the extra CD-ROM disc and a booklet, which contains brief production notes and chapter listings. The gatefold casing also is provided with an outer cardboard slide-on dust cover, which again looks nice, despite the question of damage resistant being raised due to the packaging's cardboard origins.

Compared to the bare-bones release two years ago, the reissue of From Dusk Till Dawn could compare to Christmas coming early, with virtually every extra a fan of the film could want appearing over two discs.

Full Tilt Boogie: A fabulous extra that would render the DVD a must-buy on its inclusion alone. Released as a film in its own right, 'Full Tilt Boogie' is a ninety-six minute film that documented every aspect of the making of From Dusk Till Dawn. This isn't the usual PR fare, but is instead a documentary that is extremely fascinating, and covers everything that doesn't usually feature in making of's, such as interviews with the grips, and interviews with George Clooney's assistant. Scenes of the stars performing karaoke at a bar and Fred Williamson doing a serious interview in full vampire makeup are just two of the many highlights. A fabulous extra, and right up there with the 'Fear Of God' documentary.

Commentary With Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino: This commentary is surely one of the greatest to ever grace a DVD. Taken straight from the Laserdisc version and featuring the only commentary containing Tarantino on DVD, the commentary is a fascinating and extremely humourous conversation between the two filmmakers. Various in-jokes, anecdotes, gossip and exclusive information are delivered at a frenetic pace, and Tarantino even jokes that they should have made the film longer because at the end they still have so much to say! Tarantino sometimes dominates Rodriguez, who is slightly more chilled out than his hyperactive colleague, but even so, the track is a scream. This commentary is a flagship for others to follow, and is a collector's item alone for the inclusion of Tarantino.

Outtakes: A six minute roll of outtakes of actors essentially screwing up their lines. In particular, George Clooney seems prone to making the odd mistake with his dialogue and appears quite humourless when the situation arises. Even so, the outtakes are quite fascinating to watch and there is a graphically violent 'accident' occurring with Mr. Tarantino and a chair at the conclusion. Presented in 4:3.

Hollywood Goes To Hell: A thirteen minute featurette promoting the film, which is actually more interesting than the usual dross that accompanies inferior DVD releases. All of the key players are interviewed, and some ground that isn't covered in Full Tilt Boogie is covered here.

Music Videos: Two music videos are featured. Tito & Tarantula perform 'After Dark', a very seductive number featuring the talents mostly of Salma Hayek table dancing in the video. This song is better than the other video featured, ZZ Top's 'She's Just Killing Me', which features specially created shots of George Clooney on motorcycles. These music videos are a nice retreat from anyone 'filmed' out due to the abundance of extras.

Original Theatrical Trailer: A very vibrant and snappy trailer that correctly presents From Dusk Till Dawn as a film that contains action, black humour, violence and gore whilst still being a hybrid of a Tarantino/Rodriguez movie.

Sneek Peaks: Trailers for other Buena Vista releases Unbreakable and Leon.

Stills Gallery: A four-minute collage of stills from behind the scenes accompanied by music. The only problem with this is the lack of user interface.

The Art Of Making The Movie: Four short segments featuring commentary from Rodriguez on his approach to making them. The sequences are 'The Opening', 'The Hostage', 'Titty Twister' and 'Rat Man And Battle 3'. Although most ground is covered elsewhere, it is nice to have Rodriguez alone commentating on his directing without the distraction of Tarantino.

Deleted Scenes And Alternate Takes: A five minute roll of deleted stuff and alternate takes with commentary from Rodriguez and makeup artist Greg Nicotero. It's a shame the scenes aren't divided into sections, but even so, the five minute featurette is fascinating and very gory.

On The Set: A strange extra but still nice to have, 'On The Set' is a two minute collection of footage from the set with a slight commentary from Rodriguez.

Cast Bios: Biographies of the ten main stars of the film.

Crew Bios: Biographies of the main crew members involved.

A tremendously enjoyable film on a world-class DVD, From Dusk Till Dawn is a perfect DVD release, and the R2 version is so far the best in the world. Stunning extras, stunning transfer and audio quality and a great horror/Tarantino/Rodriguez film. What more could you ask for? The first batch of releases also include for your money a demo of the computer game recently released as well, as if you needed any other reason to rush out and buy it.

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