FULL TILT BOOGIER
The 1996 Robert Rodriguez-helmed vampire western From Dusk Till Dawn crossed Natural Born Killers and Night of the Living Dead with mixed results. After a supercharged opening 45 minutes which played like a down-and-dirty B-movie road thriller, the latter half of the film became a uninspired gross-out gore-fest. Even die hard Quentin Tarantino fans probably aren't exactly clamoring for a 'making of' From Dusk Till Dawn, as it's now two-and-a-half years after the Miramax release grossed $25 million in its theatrical run. However, Sarah Kelly's documentary is useful as a behind-the-scenes look at genre filmmaking on location, from the ground up, and, as such, should be worthwhile viewing by any young, aspiring would-be Tarantinos or Rodriguezes.
Full Tilt Boogie opens with the From Dusk Till Dawn trailer and proceeds to detail the film's 10-week shoot, which included eight weeks on a soundstage and two weeks in the 100-plus-degree heat of Barstow, California. After a wry opening sequence in which the camera follows Clooney and Tarantino strutting their way to the set to the tune of 'Stayin' Alive,' Kelly profiles a variety of below- and above-the-line talent, from the grips to craft services to assistant directors to the stars' personal assistants, such as Amy Cohen, who quips that she hates going to Taco Bell for Clooney but points out that the upside is 'George makes all the money and I get all the perks.' We also eavesdrop on Tarantino telling an attentive crew audience that one of their members made the shortsighted decision to have the film's producers provide just two kegs of beer for a party when they were willing to pay for three. Well, then, off with his (or her) head.
Kelly's doc is most effective portraying the crew's often thankless day-to-day life, such as when she shoots an exhausted busload riding back to their hotel at 10:30 p.m. after a day which began at five a.m. and featured notably poor food, by all accounts. Cold beer, always available in good supply, is the holy grail at the end of each marathon day. There's a brief discussion of set romances, where it's noted that it doesn't hurt that there's a topless bar on set. And the 'best male butt' contest is a hot item, which is won by the key makeup/hair guy. A 'beyond the call of duty award' should have gone to unflappable production designer Cecilia Montiel, whose crew braves weeks of excessive heat and then suffers calamities like an explosion which gets out of control and burns the Titty Twister set, and a sudden dust storm occurrence. The film lags only when detailing producer Lawrence Bender's ongoing battle with the IATSE union, who threaten to shut down the production. Kelly takes her crew to Miami to find IATSE leader Lyle Trachtenberg, but his unwillingness to talk on camera is anticlimactic.
The film's stars certainly look like they're having a good time. Clooney is seen flirting and clowning around, and is clearly enjoying his transition from TV star to movie leading man. Juliette Lewis offers the no-bull wisdom that 'acting is lying, plain and simple,' and we get to see the actress belt out karaoke at a pub to the delight of locals and the assembled cast. One's QT-that's Quentin Tolerance-is surely tested here, but a nice antidote to his indie majesty's exuberant but occasionally smug chatter is Rodriguez, who has little to say to the camera and is mainly filmed strumming his guitar, thinking about the next take. Harvey Keitel declined to participate in Kelly's film, but he allowed Tarantino a brief interview in which he ruminates existentially on the nature of acting. And Fred Williamson expounds upon a clip of his 1976 production No Way Back. Sadly, there's no sign of Salma Hayek, who's memorable dance with a snake was a clear highlight of From Dusk Till Dawn.