It’s easy to forget in a world where Quentin Tarantino is committed to making westerns and winning Academy Awards for Django Unchained, that he previously dabbled into the world of horror pretty hardcore. After winning his first Academy Award and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with Pulp Fiction, Tarantino went to work on another collaboration with his friend and fellow filmmaker Robert Rodriguez – the horror movie, From Dusk Till Dawn. The film was Tarantino’s first “writing assignment,” as its based on a story by special effects wizard Robert Kurtzman and not one of Tarantino’s wholly original screenplays.
From Dusk Till Dawn is not only a love letter by Rodriguez and Tarantino to vampire films from across cinema, but it’s filled to the brim with references to their own previous works and it didn’t end with the 1996 film. Now that the film has transitioned into a TV series on Rodriguez’s own El Rey Network, we want to uncover the past of the franchise, it’s connection to other films, and the forgotten corners that it went to.
The first character that appears on screen in the film is none other than Michael Parks as Earl McGraw. Though he only makes it a few minutes into the film before taking a bullet to the head, Parks has made multiple appearances as the character, including in Kill Bill, Planet Terror, and Death Proof. He’s played by former “Miami Vice” star Don Johnson in the TV series.
One of Clooney’s first lines of dialogue in the film is when he tells the other characters in the liquor store to “be cool,” a line repeated more than once in Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction.
The film’s Director of Photography, Guillermo Navarro, previously worked with Rodriguez on Desperado and his segment of Four Rooms and would go on to shoot Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown. Navarro also previously worked as the director of photography on Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 vampire film Cronos.
Though the movie isn’t directed by Tarantino, it does feature one of his trademark “Trunk shots,” as seen in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and others.
One of Tarantino’s longtime collaborators, Keitel appeared in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction before From Dusk Till Dawn. He would go on to provide a voice in Tarantino’s war film Inglorious Basterds.
The year before From Dusk Till Dawn, Lewis starred alongside Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers, which was originally scripted by Tarantino.
One of the many cameos in the film comes in the form of Newscaster Kelly Houge as played by Kelly Preston, wife of Pulp Fiction star John Travolta. In her brief appearance, Preston’s character interviews FBI Agent Stanley Chase as played by Enter the Dragon and A Nightmare on Elm Street actor John Saxon.
Big Kahuna Burger
Another Tarantino trademark, the Hawaiian burger restaurant chain that debuted in Pulp Fiction makes another appearance in From Dusk Till Dawn. It also appears in the television series.
The Carpenter Connection
Ernest Liu’s character Scott Fuller wears a shirt that reads “Precinct 13,” a reference to the John Carpenter film Assault on Precinct 13.
“Lets get ramblin’”
A line of dialogue that Clooney has before the Gecko Brothers and the Fullers leave for Mexico echoes a similar line that Joe Cabot says in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Let’s get rambling is also the name of the 4th episode of Season 1.
The many faces of Cheech Marin
A frequent collaborator of Robert Rodriguez’s, comedian Cheech Marin appears in three different roles in the film, as Border Guard, the barker Chet outside the club, and the gangster Carlos.
One of the many appearances by industry legends in the film is Tom Savini as Sex Machine, a doubly whammy of a reference as his codpiece revolver also made a brief appearance in Desperado the year before. Sex machine is played by Jake Busey in the series
A character that Savini’s Sex Machine steals a beer from is played by none other than effects titan Greg Nicotero, current executive producer on “The Walking Dead.”
Tito & Tarantula
The house band for the Titty Twister bar is Tito & Tarantula, friends of director Robert Rodriguez who contributed three songs to the film’s soundtrack. The song was remade by Rodriguez’s band Chingon for the TV series.
Salma Hayek’s character in the film is given the name Satanico Pandemonium, a reference to a Mexican horror film a “nunsploitation” film from 1975.
Another cult actor that appears in the film is former Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs football player Fred Williamson. Williamson plays Frost in the film, and is most noted for his roles in Blaxploitation cinema including Black Caeser and Hammer, among others. He also starred in the original “The Inglorious Bastards,” the title for which Tarantino would use for his own 2009 film.
Long before he named his network “El Rey,” Robert Rodriguez has been using this name in a number of projects including From Dusk Till Dawn as the destination the Gecko Brothers are hoping to arrive at. The name later reappeared in Planet Terror as Freddy Rodriguez’s character’s name.
In the original trailer for From Dusk Till Dawn, it closes on a title card that reads “Vampires No Interviews,” a reference to the 1994 adaptation Interview with the Vampire released the year before.
Full Tilt Boogie
A feature-length documentary on the making of From Dusk Till Dawn was shot during the production of the film.
Though From Dusk Till Dawn was overlooked at the Academy Awards, it did go on to win a few other trophies including the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Best Breakthrough Performance for George Clooney at the MTV Movie Awards.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
Three years after the first film came the direct-to-video sequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. Though a sequel to the movie, the famous trucker-biker-vampire bar is still in operation and in fact has Danny Trejo as its bartender once again, though this time he plays “Razor Eddie” not “Razor Charlie.” The film sees a group of thieves whose appetite for cash is overtaken by a thirst for blood. It features a number of notable genre actors, including Robert Patrick, Raymond Cruz, Tiffani Thiessen, Bruce Campbell, and Michael Parks’ son James Parks as Deputy Edgar McGraw, a role he would later reprise in Kill Bill and Death Proof. The film was co-written and directed by Evil Dead II scribe, Scott Spiegel, and produced by Rodriguez, Tarantino, and Lawrence Bender.
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter
The next year, a prequel film titled From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter was released, telling the origin of Salma Hayek’s Santanico Pandemonium, played by Ara Celi. Michael Parks also appears in the film, though as actual American author Ambrose Bierce and not Earl McGraw. Danny Trejo also appears in the film, making him the only actor to appear in all three, reprising his role of Razor Charlie from the first movie. “Hangman’s Daughter” was directed by P. J. Pesce, who would go on to direct the direct-to-video sequel to The Lost Boys in 2008. It features a script by Machete scribe Álvaro Rodríguez, who came up with the story with Robert Rodríguez.
From Dusk Till Dawn the video game
In 2001, a video game was developed by Cryo Interactive, functioning as a sequel to the original film and seeing Seth Gecko in prison for the murders his brother committed. While incarcerated, vampires infiltrate the prison to attack him. You can check out its trailer, featuring some slight references to the original film, below.
The second season premiere of “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” will arrive on Tuesday, August 25 on the El Rey Network!