Cult Classic: From Dusk Till Dawn
Featuring Salma Hayek, vampires and George Clooney in one of his most unhinged roles, From Dusk Till Dawn is a delight that deserved to be sampled once more.
Before Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino got a little self-indulgent with their Grindhouse double bill, they treated us to one of the biggest cult classics of the 1990s - From Dusk Till Dawn.
As one of the biggest TV heartthrobs of the decade on ER, George Clooney's performance as one half of the murderous Gecko brothers was perhaps the biggest shock for audiences when the film hit cinemas in 1996, but those who hadn’t followed the film’s pre-release material were in for quite an even bigger surprise.
The genius of From Dusk Till Dawn is that like Grindhouse, audiences receive two movies for the price of one, although in this case it's actually all part of the same film – a criminals on the lam thriller for the first hour and a schlocky dark vampire comedy the next. 16 years later, its unique structure feels fresher than ever, while Salma Hayek has lost none of her tantalising appeal in the film’s staggeringly sexy table dance scene.
Clooney and Tarantino play the respective Geckos brothers Seth and Richie, wanted by the FBI and soon finding themselves resorting to kidnapping a family and their RV to get across the Mexican border. There a safe house is waiting, as is a trucker and biker-frequented strip bar known as the Titty Twister.
What follows is one of the sexiest movie scenes in recent memory, as a beautiful Salma Hayek - humourously named Santanico Pandemonium - performs a scantily-clad table dance while a snake is draped across her. Vampires, criminals on the run and Salma Hayek looking her very best – what more could you ask for?
An interesting factoid about that scene, easily the film’s most memorable - is that audiences nearly came close to seeing Madonna in her role instead - or at least that's what Salma thought.
The actress has a fear of snakes and knew that her phobia would hamper her chances in winning the role. Director Robert Rodriguez actually tricked her into thinking that Madonna was about to win the part, so the actress spent two months with therapists to be ready for the scene. Yes, Rodriguez is slightly evil for doing that but were it Madonna in that scene, we doubt we could tell where the snake's skin ends and her's begins.
Like all quirky cult classics, From Dusk Till Dawn was met with a subdued and largely confused reception, grossing just $25 million from a $20 million budget. Considering that most films need to gross at least double their production budget, the movie was a relative flop, though it did later inspire two quite simply terrible direct-to-video follow-ups.
Perhaps our favourite barrage of criticism the film originally received, however, comes from the San Francisco Chronicle, which wrote at the time: ' If it's not one of the worst films of 1996 it will have been one miserable year". Considering that Striptease was released the same year, that’s pretty harsh.
Thankfully though, From Dusk Till Dawn’s riotous reputation persists two decades later – and that's not just because of Salma Hayek.
For more cult films, check out the Jameson Cult Film Club.