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Happy 20th Anniversary ‘From Dusk Till Dawn!’

From Dusk Till Dawn Anniversary

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Robert Rodriguez’s now-classic vampire B-movie From Dusk Till Dawn was unleashed upon the world. The fact that it was a moderately successful January release is quit astounding. To celebrate the occasion, we thought we would take a look back at this badass movie, which has now been adapted into its own TV show for Rodriguez’s new(ish) El Rey Network.

Released on January 19th, 1996, From Dusk Till Dawn was met with mostly positive critical acclaim. It currently sits at a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is no small feat for a horror film released in January (just look at this year’s The Forest for one of the many sub-par January-released horror films). Hell, even Roger Ebert awarded the film three out of four stars.

It opened at the #1 spot with $10.2 million ($15.4 million in 2016 dollars) and went on to gross a total of $25.8 million domestically ($39 million in 2016 dollars). That is a small profit for a film with a budget of $19 million, and while that is not a spectacular gross, it’s still solid for an R-rated horror film released in a month that typically sees slower box office returns.

From Dusk Till Dawn is notable for pulling a bait-and-switch with audiences. Anyone who didn’t see the trailer (embedded below) probably walked into the film expecting a heist movie, and for the first hour or so of From Dusk Till Dawn, they would have gotten what the expected. The exact opposite is true for anyone who did see the trailer for the film. They would have walked in expecting a 2-hour vampire brawl. Needless to say that is not the film they went to see.

From Dusk Till Dawn has been criticized for unsuccessfully merging two movies into one disparate whole, but looking back on the film it actually works miraculously. One thing Robert Rodriguez is an expert at is surprising his audience, and From Dusk Till Dawn is probably his greatest achievement of that. One cannot discuss the surprised of From Dusk Till Dawn without mentioning Quentin Tarantino and his incredibly witty script. This was peak Tarantino season, since the film was released just a year and a half after Pulp Fiction.

To this day, it is still surprising to see now-famous stars like George Clooney (back in his E.R. days) and Juliette Lewis in this film. Joining them were Tarantino and Rodriguez staples Harvey Keitel and Danny Trejo, along with a slew of other casting choices that would make you do a double-take today (Cheech Marin, anyone?).

Speaking of unique casting, the true surprise in From Dusk Till Dawn is Salma Hayek’s appearance as Santánico Pandemonium. Her snake dance before morphing into her true vampire form is so iconic that you would be forgiven for thinking that she was a lead character in the film if you had never seen it before.

Not only did From Dusk Till Dawn spawn two direct-to-video sequels and a video game, but it also gave birth to From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series on March 11, 2014. The first season of that show was essentially the original 108-minute film stretched out into 10 hour-long episodes, and was met with lukewarm critical reception. The second season benefited from being able to act as a true sequel to the film and delve into unexplored territory. A third season is set to premiere later this year so it is clear that the series has provided El Rey Network with a decent amount of success.

It is a testament to the original film that we are here talking about it today and that it is still seeing creative properties borne from it. I would even argue that Rodriguez hasn’t been able to match it in terms of fun. Actually, I’m wrong. The Faculty, Sin City and Planet Terror are all very fun films, but I digress. Just forget I even wrote that. We’re here to commemorate From Dusk Till Dawn for providing 20 years of entertainment to horror fans everywhere. When did you first see From Dusk Till Dawn? Do you still enjoy the film or do you think it’s starting to show its age? Share your memories in the comments below and give the film a re-watch this week to celebrate its 20th anniversary!



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COMMENTS

20 Comments
  • PsychoMantis18

    One of RR’s only good films. Thanks QT.

  • James Allard

    That is Tito & The Tarantulas backing the Snake Dance. One of the best things about the film is the soundtrack. Among other things… and there is that dance she does.

  • lostboytexas

    Lowly Dog!!! This classic film deserves a much more detailed write-up. For example:

    1. EARL MCGRAW DIES, BUT LIVES ON ELSEWHERE

    The character Sheriff Earl McGraw, played by Michael Parks, is killed in the film’s opening. But he was resurrected for Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s collaboration Planet Terror.

    2. THE GECKO BROTHERS ENJOY SOME FAMILIAR BRANDS

    The Big Kahuna Burgers they eat are from a restaurant featured in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and the Chongo Beer in the bar is from Rodriguez’s Desperado.

    3. IT’S FULL OF FAMILIAR FACES FOR RODRIGUEZ AND TARANTINO

    Harvey Keitel appeared in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (and would lend his voice to an uncredited cameo in Inglourious Basterds). Danny Trejo has been in nine movies directed by Robert Rodriguez, while Cheech Marin has appeared in seven.

    4. IT WAS TARANTINO’S FIRST PAID WRITING GIG

    Tarantino wrote the script for $1,500.

    5. TARANTINO’S INVOLVEMENT PAID OFF DOWN THE LINE

    Tarantino wrote the From Dusk Till Dawn script as a way to showcase the talents of a special effects company called KNB. In return, KNB agreed to provide the special effects for the “ear scene” in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs free of charge.

    6. CHEECH MARIN PLAYS THREE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS

    The Mexican border guard, the strip club doorman, and the gangster Carlos.

    7. IT’S GEORGE CLOONEY’S FIRST HOLLYWOOD FILM ROLE

    Tarantino pitched Clooney on the film after directing him in ER.

    8. JULIETTE LEWIS WAS CAST BECAUSE OF HER FRIENDSHIP WITH TARANTINO

    She previously appeared in the film Natural Born Killers, whose original screenplay was written by Quentin Tarantino (his draft would eventually be heavily revised and he ultimately received a “Story By” credit), and Tarantino liked her so much that he suggested she play Kate, a role which he admittedly underwrote in the From Dusk Till Dawn screenplay.

    9. THERE’S A GREAT HOMAGE TO RODRIGUEZ’S FAVORITE DIRECTOR

    The character Scott Fuller wears a t-shirt that reads “Precinct 13,” a nod to the film Assault on Precinct 13, the second film by John Carpenter.

    10. APOCALYPSE NOW INSPIRED THE STRIP CLUB

    Rodriguez modeled the exterior of the Titty Twister on Kurtz’s compound.

    11. SALMA HAYEK’S CHARACTER IS NAMED AFTER A MEXICAN HORROR MOVIE

    Tarantino’s script originally called her character “Blonde Death,” but after Hayek (a brunette) was cast, Tarantino changed it to “Satanico Pandemonium”—a Mexican horror movie he remembered from his time working at a video store.

    12. RODRIGUEZ AND TARANTINO CAST THEIR EXPLOITATION IDOLS

    Both filmmakers are on-the-record fans of exploitation movies, and they peppered the movie with their favorites. Tom Savini, who plays Sex Machine, is the legendary stuntman and special effects creator behind movies like Dawn of the Dead; Tom Saxon, who plays FBI Agent Chase, is an actor who appeared in Enter the Dragon and other films; and Fred Williamson, who plays Frost, was in many popular Blaxploitation movies in the ‘70s and the original movie inspiration for Inglourious Basterds.

    13. IT USED TO INCLUDE A FAMOUS TARANTINO SPEECH

    The infamous Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction was originally in Tarantino’s script for From Dusk Till Dawn. It was meant to be spoken by Harvey Keitel’s character as he fends off the vampires before being killed.

    Any one of those points above would make a movie a fucking classic! FDTD has all of them!

    • Biscoito18

      Thank you! Great movie facts 🙂

    • art123guy

      Great list, however it’s John Saxton who plays FBI Agent Chase, not Tom Saxon.

      • eli

        *John Saxon

        • art123guy

          *Groan* *Face palm* Dammit!!! Thought I took the ‘T’ out.

          • eli

            😉

        • Gadriel

          Where you read JOHN SAXON you should really read BAD ASS.

        • Dalt Wisney

          Just say “Roper” as you do a karate kick. John Saxon will always be Bruce Lee’s wingman.

  • eagleye

    Watched it last weekend. Still holds up. Classic-status.

  • Biscoito18

    Like this film since I was a child. Only have it on dvd though.

    • eli

      Same. If you pick up the Blu-Ray, I’ve heard the Canadian release is better than the U.S. release.

  • eli

    Santanico Pandemonium: Welcome to slavery.
    Seth: No, thanks. I’ve already had a wife.

  • concerned citizen

    Let me get this straight. You’re telling me I’m not good enough to drink…HERE?

  • Gadriel

    I actually remember the first time I saw the movie – I didn’t have a clue it was going to turn all Vamp on me.
    I watched it on vhs at a friends house one day (around 20 years ago), after a case (24 cans) of beer and some fantastic curry pizza (instead of using a typical Italian tomato sauce as a base, you use a Madras sauce – it’s fucking awesome!), and when it turned all “WELCOME TO SLAVERY” (or whatever) I was floored.
    Love the movie. The follow ups sucked (pun intended) though. Sadly.
    Even Bruce couldn’t save the 2nd one.

  • ZIPPY

    Great movie and awesome TV series.

  • TH3J4CK4L

    Would rather celebrate a 17th anniversary with John Carpenters vampires.

  • Marcia Mattern

    Are we forgetting that From Dusk Till Dawn is Robert Kurtzman’s original story!?!? I can’t believe the credit you give to the producer of a film and not the talent of the writer. I think that you should also consider the success and longenvity of the popularity of the movie to the acting skills of Clooney, Tarantino and Keitel as well as the incredible effects that were based on Kurtzman’s original concept.
    This article seems a bit slanted and I am extremely surprised!

  • Stormfront

    20 years later it is a classic cult movie.. Let’s face it . all the vamp movies watching Selma Hayek dance with a serpent with the foot dance.. memorable.. The movie Vamp with Grace Jones and Dust till Dawn.. two classic vampire cult movies..

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