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Laramie Movie Scope:
Dusk to Dawn

A demented film with a split personality

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 22, 1996 -- “Dusk 'til Dawn” is a fairly slickly-made movie, but if it was being described by a veterinarian it would be called one sick puppy.

The film, written by famed director Quentin Tarantino, also starred Tarantino as one of two violent crooks, Richard Gecko, on the run to Mexico. The other crook is his brother, Seth Gecko, played by “ER” star George Clooney.

The two brothers, with a briefcase full of stolen bank loot, kidnap a preacher, Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his two children and force them to accompany them to Mexico, where they end up in a seedy bar full of vampires.

There is really two films here and the first one, the tale of the two brothers shooting their way to the border, kidnapping, raping and killing, is much scarier than the second one, about the battle in the vampire bar. It also has a more leisurely pace and more interesting dialogue.

What was even scarier for me was the audience reaction to the first part of the film. The film plays murder for laughs and some people actually laughed at a murder victim burning to death.

Tarantino is convincing as the sicker of the two brothers. He seems unable to distinguish between his delusions and reality and he seems none too bright. Clooney seems to have a real screen presence and he may have a successful career ahead of him in films. Keitel is as solid as usual, as the preacher who questions his own faith. Juliette Lewis plays his daughter, a similar character to the one she played in “Cape Fear.”

Cheech Marin plays three different characters in the film, a border guard, a criminal and a vampire.

The last part of the film is a pretty standard horror story, similar to “Demon Night,” where the humans do battle with the supernatural. That part of the film benefits from veteran action actor Fred Williamson and others who perform well in the extended fight scenes. The fight scenes are elaborate and well-staged by action director Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi” and “Desperado”).

If your kids want to see this film (and what kid doesn't) you should know it sets a record for foul language. The F word is used about 200 times I guess. A word that starts with P, used to describe a female private part is used over 30 times by Cheech Marin in a speech lasting only a couple of minutes in the film (I read that somebody actually counted it and it was used 35 times). There are also numerous bare breasts during an extended topless dancing scene.

There are, no doubt, people who will say they thought this film was really funny, even the scenes where people, not vampires, are being killed. If you meet such a person, just smile and back away slowly and hope he doesn't have a gun.

While it is true this film is deeply sick and vile in a very disturbing way, it is also well-crafted and it does work pretty well as entertainment. There is even an attempt, albeit a weak attempt, at a Christian message in the film. But I'm not here to pass moral judgment on the film, just to give you my opinion on its entertainment value, and that, believe it or not, is a respectable B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)