Pulp Fiction Changed How Studios Saw Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn

Though "Reservoir Dogs" took the Sundance Film Festival by storm in January 1992, the Quentin Tarantino brand didn't explode until 1993. The internet was available in college dorm rooms during the early '90s, but the online world belonged to nerds who got lost in multi-user dungeons (MUDs) or conversed collegially (for the most part, I swear) on Usenet newsgroups like rec.arts.movies about all things cinematic.

Tarantino's most vocal adherents might've been on Usenet, but his rise was largely analog, and, given the filmmaker's old-school eschewal of digital technology (at least as far as his own work is concerned), I doubt he would've had it any other way. All I know is that in the fall of 1992 when I began my freshman year at Ohio University, no one had heard of Tarantino. And in the fall of 1993, there were oversized "Reservoir Dogs" posters adorning bedroom walls all over campus.

Warner Bros. stood to benefit from Tarantino's skyrocketing popularity when he wrote the screenplay for Tony Scott's "True Romance," but they had no idea how to market a verbose, character-actor-packed action film on the strength of its writer. But when "Pulp Fiction" won the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, the Tarantino takeover was a fait accompli. Rival studios knew what was coming, which meant Warner Bros. was in a much stronger position with the Tarantino-written and Oliver Stone-directed "Natural Born Killers." This was the palate-cleanser before Tarantino's sui generis grindhouse feast. And its commercial success, along with the blockbuster box-office performance of "Pulp Fiction," gave the filmmaker and his gonzo director buddy, Robert Rodriguez, carte blanche on a wildly gory genre hybrid.

A film made with house money

According to an EW retrospective from 2016, no one in Hollywood believed in Quentin Tarantino's script for "From Dusk Till Dawn." The film kicks off as an RV-bound, Tex-Mex riff on Jack Starrett's "Race with the Devil" before turning into a vampire-laden gorefest that defies description. The first act is in-the-pocket Tarantino: Vicious and plenty loquacious. When it dips south of the border, it becomes Robert Rodriguez's movie.

If any studio had the moxie to finance a Tarantino-Rodriguez horror movie mash-up, pre-"Pulp Fiction," it was Miramax. "Reservoir Dogs" was a cult-movie sensation, and Rodriguez had made good on his no-budget miracle "El Mariachi" with "Desperado." But as Rodriguez told EW, the border-driven tonal shift was a non-starter at the production company ... until it wasn't:

"We were young filmmakers, we were really testing the boundaries. People were going, 'This is all wrong; it's two movies in one.' After 'Pulp Fiction,' everybody wanted to make it, and they'd go, 'It's two movies in one; it's fantastic!'"

"From Dusk Till Dawn" isn't a classic, but it's an enormous amount of bloody fun that gave George Clooney his first bonafide theatrical success. Sadly, 27 years later, it might still be the best film Rodriguez has made. Maybe it's time for another two-in-one cinematic extravaganza.