[box cover]

From Dusk Till Dawn

At the height of the mid-'90s Quentin Tarantino frenzy, Dimension Films, the horror division of Miramax, decided to shoot From Dusk Till Dawn, one of the actor-director-writer's early, unproduced screenplays — and ended up with one of the weirdest mixed bags of good and deeply bad ever committed to film. The weirdest, and perhaps even worst, thing about FDTD is that it starts out like Natural Born Killers but then halfway along turns into Fright Night. On the other hand, it has a sexy performance from Salma Hayek. On the third hand, it has terrible turns from Juliette Lewis and Harvey Keitel, among others. On the fourth hand, George Clooney, in his contemporary film debut (he did an earlier, pre-ER movie) showed that he had the wherewithal to be a major movie star, although such potential was deferred for a few more movies. On the left foot, thanks to the FDTD Collector's Edition DVD, the viewer learns way too much about the inner life, psyche, sexual preferences, and past of auteur tyro Tarantino. Even though the film was given over to QT's very public buddy Robert Rodriguez to direct, FDTD is still very much a Tarantino film. He originally wrote the script in 1990 for $1,500 on assignment from a special-effects guy named Bob Kurzman, composing it from Kurzman's outline. The leap from 1990 to 1996, when FDTD finally arrived, shows the rapidity of QT's rise. The story concerns bank robbers Seth Gecko (Clooney) and his brother Richard (QT), who are heading for Mexico with their loot. After blowing up a liquor store, the duo takes on some hostages — a preacher (Keitel) with a crisis of faith and his two kids. But when the crooks reach their rendezvous point, it turns out to be a seedy nightclub/truck-stop on the edge of ancient ruins that turns into a vampire orgy at night. The gang and a cast of irregulars (Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini) fight the vampires for the rest of the evening. Made for $20 million, FDTD earned $25 million upon release in the U.S., and it managed to inspire two sequels and a "making-of" documentary. And FDTD did not go unheralded by the industry — it won an MTV award for Clooney, and a Razzie for QT. The film shows off the filmmakers' love of cinema, or at least a certain kind of cinema (Kelly Preston, John Saxon, and Michael Parks have cameos), but behind the razzle-dazzle of Rodriguez's editing and camera work, the film feels awfully lazy, poorly thought out, and inconsistent. It's a must for QT fans, however, and the two-DVD set is packed, with both the film and the documentary about the film on each disc respectively, and supplements appear on each as well. Disc One has a letterboxed non-anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a fairly good source print bearing some minor artifacts, and the audio is in carefully mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 (the fight scenes in the bar for the most part come across the best). This first disc also features a commentary from the irrepressible Tarantino, who charts the journey and changes from script to film, and the somewhat intimidated Rodriguez, who dwells on technical issues (this is the same commentary that appeared on the previous Laserdisc, as are most of the other features). Also on hand are six minutes of outtakes and bloopers, and a short featurette called Hollywood Goes To Hell, consisting mostly of cast and crew interviews. Another documentary feature called The Art of Making the Movie is a look at the creation of four sequences, with commentary by Rodriguez and Greg Nicotero, and runs about 30 minutes. There are also about five minutes of deleted or alternate scenes, with commentary by Rodriguez, et al. Yet another documentary is On the Set a brief featurette with some location footage. The disc has the theatrical trailer, six TV commercials, and a Spanish TV ad; two music videos, from Tito and Tarantula ("After Dark") and ZZ Top ("She's Just Killing Me"); and a self-propelled stills gallery that lasts four minutes. Disc Two (which is actually Disc One, but that's another story) features Full-Tilt Boogie, the full-length diary of the film's production, directed by Sarah Kelly. It's an OK documentary, and it gets interesting when the set explodes over some union trouble. Cast and crew bios, DVD credits. Slim two-DVD keep-case with a flipping two-disc clasp.
—D.K. Holm

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