It may seem hard to believe, but a certain vampire thriller road movie is marking its 20th anniversary this week. That’s right: 1996 schlock-fest From Dusk Till Dawn is celebrating a full two decades of bizarre midway plot transition infamy.
An early team-up between nerd-king filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the movie shocked audiences by shifting from tense hostage flick to gory horror bloodbath halfway through, and is an unashamedly goofy onslaught of snappy one-liners, gun-wielding codpieces, and baffled George Clooney expressions.
To wish a very happy birthday to this gleeful slice of B-movie inspired mayhem, we’ve rounded up 20 weird and wonderful things you (probably) didn’t know about the film:
1. It was Tarantino’s first paid script
Back in 1990 the young aspiring screenwriter and director was paid just $1,500 to pen the first draft of the film. By the time the final movie came out six years later, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction had made him the darling of the alternative American filmmaking scene.
2. Tarantino’s favourite fictional lawman makes his first appearance
Earl McGraw is his name, and being a badass is his game. Though he may get a swift death at the hands of Tarantino’s utterly crazy gunman, the same Texas Ranger who pops up in the shop early on returned in Kill Bill (investigating the wedding massacre) and both Grindhouse segments.
3. There’s a neat little nod to Pulp Fiction
When Clooney’s less psychotic sibling, Seth, returns to the hotel with some fast food snacks, eagle eyed viewers may notice that lunch has been picked up from a rather familiar-sounding joint. We hear they make some tasty burgers.
4. It has a ‘trunk shot’
Tarantino may not have directed it, but his trademark touches are still felt throughout. The infamous ‘looking up at actors from inside a car boot’ shot – also seen in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and Kill Bill: Vol 1 – is present here.
5. It predicted an Oscar nomination
“Under the circumstances I think I should get a f***ing Academy Award for how natural I’m acting” says the convenience store clerk near the beginning, played by John Hawkes. Fifteen years after the film’s release, Hawkes received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his turn in Winter’s Bone.
6. This was Juliette Lewis’s second Tarantino-created role
Her first being as Mallory in Natural Born Killers, for which the dark, witty word-play master received a story credit.
7. Seth could have been very different
Actors as varied as Christopher Walken, John Travolta and Steve Buscemi were all approached regarding the role. Imagine how interesting each of those different interpretations would have been.
8. Clooney’s casting had a certain irony
Tarantino is said to have enjoyed the fact that a man then best-known for starring as a doctor in ER, was going to be playing a character who puts people in the ER.
9. Tarantino was nominated for a Razzie
The Golden Raspberry Awards, effectively the anti-Oscars of this world, saw fit to give our Quentin a Worst Supporting Actor nod for his role as Richie Gecko. With hindsight, this seems pretty harsh.
10. The Titty Twister was actually built for real
Yep. That’s right. They actually constructed the entire club set out in the Californian desert. Presumably so they wouldn’t have to deal with the inconvenience of a real-life bar owner tearing their hair out while their establishment got smashed apart, drenched in blood and burned to the ground.
11. The Titty Twister house band are a serious outfit
The band who play during Salma Hayek’s memorable dance scene are Californian rockers Tito & Tarantula, also featuring talented guitarist Rodriguez himself and Oingo Boingo drummer John ‘Vatos’ Hernandez. The song, ‘After Dark’, ended up being the opening track on their debut album.
12. Salma Hayek had a chronic phobia of snakes
The actress’s memorable dance with an 11-foot serpent around her neck is even more impressive when you consider that she suffered from a genuine fear of snakes – something she had to overcome by spending months in therapy (including hypnosis sessions) prior to the shoot.
13. Frost is a blaxploitation legend
The whip-wielding badass is portrayed by Fred Williamson, whose noted movies throughout the ’70s included Black Caesar, Hell Up In Harlem, and a certain Spaghetti war flick called ‘The Inglorious Bastards’. We wonder where Tarantino got his inspiration?
14. Sex Machine is a legendary make-up artist
The man with the fully-loaded crotch is none other than renowned effects whizz Tom Savini, the man behind the gore in classic horror flicks such as Dawn Of The Dead and the original Friday The 13th. Savini has had a varied career as a supporting film actor too – with his role here a clear nod to his assorted B-movie glories.
15. Other make-up icons got in on the action too
Oscar-winning make-up whizz Howard Berger and his prolific Hollywood effects pal Greg Nicotero both have cameos as vampires who tangle with Savini – a real-life mentor of the talented pair.
16. Rodriguez Jr. also got a cameo
According to reports, Robert Rodriguez got some of the sound effects for the weird vampire dog-rat thing by distorting the baby gargles of his then infant son, Rocket.
17. The total body count is 122
Almost seems low for a Tarantino/Rodriguez movie, doesn’t it?
18. Improvisation accidentally paid off
According to reports, this famous one-liner was an off the cuff piece of ad lib from Clooney, and one which Rodriguez was originally not going to include in the final cut. But then it somehow wound up in the first trailer, and he felt obliged to leave it in.
19. It spawned a video game
Released in 2001, the PC action title had you playing as Seth, desperately trying to battle your way out of a prison ship overrun with vampires. Its mediocre reception and uninspired gameplay are just two of the reasons you probably didn’t know it existed.
20. And two straight-to-video sequels
Perhaps unsurprisingly given that the second movie was a rubbish re-tread and the third – ‘The Hangman’s Daughter’ – a bizarre historical Western take, both were panned by critics. However a new TV series, with Rodriguez back at the helm, has successfully run for two seasons and was recently renewed for a third. The Dusk Till Dawn wagon rolls on…