From Dusk Till Dawn bloodily burst into theaters on January 19, 1996. The collaboration between writer-actor Quentin Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez immediately grabbed audiences by the throat and splattered forth a gory great time that’s raged on through the decades via sequels, a TV spin-off, a video game, and an enduring cult that only continues to spread… like vampirism itself!
In honor of FDTD’s 20th anniversary, here are 20 facts, figures, and fang-tastic inside stories behind the hair-raisingly horrific bloodsucker black comedy.
1. Quentin Tarantino adapted the From Dusk Till Dawn screenplay from a story by special effects expert Robert Kurtzman. It was in exchange for Kurtzman creating the ear-removal scene in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.
2. After pumping out Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, and Natural Born Killers on spec, From Dusk Till Dawn was the first screenplay that Quentin Tarantino got paid to write. He received the princely sum of $1,500.
3. FTTD’s total onscreen body count is a whopping 122.
4. From Dusk Till Dawn provided a crucial opportunity for both Tarantino and Rodriguez. For QT, it was a way of finally following up the culturally game-changing impact of Pulp Fiction (1994) without having to attempt to “top” that masterwork. For RR, From Dusk Till Dawn put him in the Hollywood big league after he broke through with the microbudget El Mariachi (1992) and its mainstream follow-up, Desperado (1995).
5. George Clooney signed on to star in FDTD after Quentin Tarantino directed a 1995 episode of the actor’s NBC hit, ER.
8. Salma Hayek’s bloodsucking stripper character, Santanico Pandemonium, is named after a particularly loco Mexican horror flick. It’s alternate title is La Sexorcista.
9. Salma nearly passed on portraying serpent-draped undead sexbomb Satanico due to the actress’s paralyzing fear of snakes. Rodriguez convinced Salma to take the part after telling her Madonna was really coming after him to play the role.
10. Danny Trejo, who plays the vampire bartender in FDTD, is a living, brawling, tattooed trademark of Robert Rodriguez films. He also appears in the director’s Desperado (1995), Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), Planet Terror (2007), Machete (2010), Machete Kills (2013), and the Spy Kids movies.
11. Another filmmaking signature in FDTD is Michael Parks as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. After the lawman character gets killed by George Clooney and QT as the Gecko Brothers, he still manages to turn up in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and both features in the 2007 Tarantino-Rodriguez collaboration, Grindhouse—Planet Terror and Death Proof.
12. Among the other cult movie icons who play roles in From Dusk Till Dawn are pro footballer turned blaxploitation star and filmmaker Fred Williamson as Vietnam vet Frost; horror movie makeup and special effects genius Tom Savini as Sex Machine; and John Saxon, who co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and played Heather Langenkamp’s cop Dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street, as FBI Agent Chase.
13. Tito and Tarantula, the vampire band that plays the Titty Twister, is a Chicano stoner rock group formed in 1992 by underground music figure Tito Larriva. T+T previously contributed songs to Rodriguez’s Desperado. Tito’s first group, the Plugz, were L.A. punk legends whose breakneck cover of La Bamba appears in the 1984 cult mind-blower, Repo Man. The Plugz also performed “Electrify Me,” the theme song for avant-garde adult filmmaker Gregory Dark’s 1983 X-rated midnight movie, New Wave Hookers.
14. FDTD make-up artist Greg Nicotero, who cameos as a long-haired biker from whom Sex Machine swipes a beer, now oversees the effects on AMC’s The Walking Dead.
15. The reason for the vampire’s blood being green in FDTD was because red gushes of that volcanic scope would have gotten the movie an NC-17 rating. That’s also why some of Kill Bill’s massive swordfights occur in black-and-white.
17. Texas Blood Money opens with cult stars Bruce Campbell and Tiffani Amber Thiessen succumbing to swarm of vampire bats.
18. The Hangman’s Daughter is a prequel set in the early 1900s in which Brazilian film icon Sonia Braga stars as the queen of a vampire cult.
19. Cryo Interactive released a From Dusk Till Dawn video game in 2001.
20. From Disk Till Dawn: The Series debuted in 2014 on Robert Rodriguez’s El Ray network, an English-language channel aimed at Latin audiences. The show has had two successful seasons and has been picked up for a third next year.