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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Release Date: October 28th, 2008 Movie Release Year: 1996

From Dusk Till Dawn (Canadian Import)

Overview -
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region A locked
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French
Special Features:
Release Date:
October 28th, 2008

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


I have a hard time believing that 'From Dusk Till Dawn' didn't have any sequences with Quentin Tarantino behind the camera calling the shots. Always have. The Robert Rodriguez flick, based on his outline of the story, was adapted for the screen by the recent Academy Award winner, and features a number of his trademark shots. The film, which starts out as a fugitives on the run story that quickly turns into a supernatural splatterhouse, acts as a meshing of the styles of the two fan favorite helmers, and the result is a memorable, if uneven little actioner that has a great sense of humor, plenty of guts and gore, and some great, memorable characters, featuring the breakthrough performance of Hollywood staple George Clooney.

The story of a pair of brothers (Clooney and Tarantino as Jacob and Richard Gecko) on the wrong side of the law, seeking asylum in El Rey, Mexico, 'From Dusk Till Dawn' may very well be one of the best constructed genre defying flicks ever. We have the story of the men on the lam, who could not be any more different if they were from different parents. We have the police efforts to stop them, and the family (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu) who accidentally cross paths with the Gecko brothers and prove to be the catalyst they needed to make their way across the border away from the US Agents hunting them down after their murder spree and bank robbery. There's the element of black comedy in the way that all five of the major characters interact, on their micro-road trip to lands below the border.

And then there's vampires, strippers, and a battle between survivalists and the demonic forces seeking to feed on their bodies and steal their cargo. The twist in the story couldn't be more out of the blue if it were a random outbreak of zombies in the works of Shakespeare (though they do fit in 'Pride & Prejudice'), as the film makes a sharp turn and a massive detour. The grass isn't always greener on the other side, I suppose you could say. Especially not in the sandy, dirty Mexican underground.

'From Dusk Till Dawn' was my first exposure to Rodriguez's filmography, and due to the clever uniqueness, it made me seek out the works of the director who, much like Tarantino, made films that obviously appealed to him, critics be damned. A year removed from 'Desperado,' and featuring a few of the same faces (like Cheech Marin, an almost baby faced Danny Trejo, and the gorgeous Salma Hayek), Rodriguez made what may be his most forgotten mainstream non-children's film (yeah, we're not counting those damned 'Spy Kids' flicks), an unforgiving, unrelenting two toned romp that doesn't fall short of entertaining. It's a fascinating, bizarre work, to be sure.

Say what you will about Clooney, he proved here that he could handle the role of the leading man, even if he didn't get top billing, losing out to the grizzled Keitel playing the pastor who lost his faith. Clooney may not have been the first (or sixth) choice to play the part of Seth Gecko, but the thief/killer with a conscience (at least compared to his brother) fit him perfectly, as his dominating voice is perfect for barking orders and taking charge, while Tarantino makes the psychopathic Richard seem like more of a layered character than a one note dick. Keitel could bring a paper bag to life, so it's obvious that he acts the part of the rock in the film, while Lewis (and her career) seemed to peak here, that final interesting hurrah following 'Natural Born Killers,' 'Cape Fear', and 'Kalifornia,' before seemingly slumming it in forgettable or bit roles for the better part of a decade.

'From Dusk Till Dawn' is to B cinema what the 'Grindhouse' films were to their respective film sub-culture, with a few stars (including makeup genius Tom Savini and Fred Williamson) and numerous references making this a fitting, interesting homage. It's full of interesting kills, action and excitement, witty dialogue, believable, fleshed out and realized characters, and, lest we forget, a certain bar south of the border named after a certain maneuver sure to land one in a sexual harassment or assault case, chock full of hard characters, harder monsters, and plenty of eye candy. As the film stops, so that we can see Hayek's prolonged provocative dancing, right before the shit hits the fan, we have a film that ran the gamut, hitting that hot and sweaty sex appeal in a memorable sequence featuring the world's luckiest snake.

Tarantino and Rodriguez's collaboration may start to lose steam once the vampire onslaught begins, and becomes dependent on some silly contrivances, but there's no denying the fun to be had here. 'From Dusk Till Dawn' is a film that wants to get you as invested as possible in the story prior to the moment the bar appears, and tries its best to keep its hooks in you when it does the Kansas City Shuffle. It's sure to lose some, including those who weren't fully into the characters, but if you go into this film expecting some savage, nasty undead slaughtering, you'll be fine and dandy.

The Disc: Vital Stats

The Alliance release of 'From Dusk Till Dawn' has been out on Blu-ray for a few years now, but it seemed forgotten, until a little birdy named Nate Boss spread the word about the disgraceful domestic Blu-ray release recently excreted by Echo Bridge. As the little birdy made very clear, the domestic release is a monumental turd, especially when compared to the Alliance version. The Alliance release is Region A locked, but for those unaware, Canadian discs will all play in USA players, so no worries there. The BD25 disc has no pre-menu content...and no menu, either. The packaging may upset some, primarily due to the bilingual (read: ugly) spine, but at least there isn't a photo from the wrong film on the back.

Video Review


"We're having a bikini contest...and you just won."

The early bird got the worm. I made no secret in my review for the domestic release of 'From Dusk Till Dawn' that I heavily favored the Canadian import, which was released over two years earlier. I gave a few hints as to what I liked about it, but here's the straight dope on why Alliance proved to be the better of two evils...and why Echo Bridge needs to be thrashed so thoroughly that the hate lobbed at them actually gets to the people who matter.

The 1080p/AVC MEPG-4 encode at 1.78:1 (from 1.85:1) on this release is pretty damn good. Compared to the American release, it's likely to earn sainthood. It's not perfect, and in the time between when I last viewed this film, I've noticed a few more errors, and have seen more than a few more impressive discs. I'm still soundly in the corner of this release, though.

The Alliance release has a fair sprinkling of dirt, no question, in what may be the biggest issue with the disc. It's never heavy, it's just damn near constant. There's also some slight noise, a few vertical lines (in the hotel scene with Tarantino and Lewis), a couple ugly shots due to the explosion and disintegration effects, and some light artifacting, which is particularly noticeable (again) in Clooney's black jacket, as well as the shot where the trunk is opened.

All that said, contrast levels are solid, there's nary a soft shot to be found in the mix, edges seem natural, grain is unimpeded, and black levels don't crush. In fact, blacks show great clarity and detail levels! Clarity and sharpness are constant, close up or not, save for a few hard focus shots, which will forever have some level of blurriness to them. Picture depth is constant and pretty damn impressive. Skin tones, ah skin tones, this time around, they make the characters look like humans instead of Oompa Loompas with bad spray on tans, like they were rejects from that stupid Jersey show. Hair is finely detailed, constantly leaping off heads, while even stubble and sweat shine and catch the eye. Pores? Pores galores! Whites aren't busy, and colors are bold, without any banding issues.

I cannot lower the score for the video due to the heavy edge enhancement in the video news segment, as that sequence is meant to look terrible... and it still looks better than the domestic release in many instances. The rest of the film looks far from it, here. There is no comparing. There is no question, no doubt. Canada wins the war, this time. Echo Bridge, take your ball and go home. You just got trumped by the most notoriously poor Blu-ray distributor, and their release has years on yours, years where quality has improved noticeably. In the kingdom of the blind distributors, the one eyed Canuck is king.

Audio Review


"Hey monkey man! Anything you gotta say to them, say to me first!"

The Alliance release of 'From Dusk Till Dawn' has a misprint in the audio tech specs on the cover. This is no DTS 5.1 track. Instead, the default track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, and there is a French dub with the same lossless prowess. There are also Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for both language, and subtitles for both, as well. Take that, Echo Bridge.

Of course, the inclusion of subtitles isn't the only reason this release has a leg up on the competition. The lossless track has power, lots and lots of power. Scenes in the domestic release that lacked huevos have suddenly found their little friends here. Dialogue is clean, dynamics are accurate (though there is a stunted line reading with Clooney's yelling in the opening shootout that is far too soft, compared to the peaks of the scene), and range is pretty much left unchecked, free to hit the highs and lows at its will. Volume spikes are dramatic at times, so watch out! The movement through channels is seamless and believable, while localized effects are believable, rather than forced. Rear activity isn't overly strong, and the scenes in the Titty Twister aren't as lively as they appear on screen, but it was nice to have random dialogue coming from all angles in these sequences.

Gunfire? Not only does it have a pop, this time it has a roar, as well. The shootout in Benny's is phenomenal, powerful as hell, unforgiving and unrelenting, balls to the wall kick ass. The LFE isn't overwhelming, as it mostly accentuates moments, but it is an ever present, albeit light at times, factor in the sound mix. Explosions have thunder and the soundtrack has legs. Prioritization is not an issue, as the elements never overpower each other, and the important parts all come through perfectly. This track is fantastic, and while it isn't non-stop demo material, it is definitely top tier.

Special Features



Final Thoughts

Fans have been waiting for a good release of 'From Dusk Till Dawn' on Blu-ray...they just didn't know it already existed, courtesy of our neighbors up North. I'm not a fan of Alliance...heck, I quasi-hate them for their sloppiness and regular errors...but their 2008 release of the Tarantino/Rodriguez tag team film may be one of the best releases they ever made. The video isn't sparkling, but it's solid, and is still a thousand miles ahead of the Echo Bridge release? The audio? Near reference, not a weak willed wussy. Collectors, grab an empty three disc case, and throw your two discs from the special edition DVD inside it, alongside this Canadian release. It's the only way you'll see all those goodies together for some time.

This is a recommended import!