Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 1999 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 12th, 2011
A must-see thrill ride!
Whatever one might say about Robert Rodriguez as a filmmaker, one thing is impossible to deny: the man knows how to get paid. Unlike other creators who are willing to sell their work to the highest bidder, Rodriguez does things right. Rather than just cranking out sequel after sequel, he uses each film in a series as a chance to test something out. For instance, his work on the Spy Kids franchise allowed him to perfect his work with digital effects so he could make Sin City. Based on this method, I'm guessing that From Dusk Till Dawn 3 got made so Rodriguez could work with his cousin, Alvaro Rodriguez, who co-wrote the film. It must have worked out because the Rodriguez cousins would team up again for the acclaimed Machete. Sadly, aside from a few clever moments, there's nothing in The Hangman's Daughter that's anywhere near as compelling as Machete, even if fans will appreciate this solid Blu-ray release.
It's the dawn of the twentieth century, and in the West, outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) escapes the gallows and kidnaps the hangman's daughter Esmeralda (Ara Celi, American Beauty). He then meets up with his gang to rob a stagecoach that's also carrying author Ambrose Bierce (Michael Parks, Grindhouse). The good guys and bad guys alike end up seeking shelter at "The Devil's Nipple," a brothel. Of course what they see as a humble inn is really the home of a den of vampires, and chaos ensues.
Two things made the original From Dusk Till Dawn great. The first was the sheer surprise of it. Back in 1996 no one knew what to expect from a collaboration between Tarantino, Rodriguez, and that George Clooney guy. Even those of us in the know who recognized names like Tom Savini and Robert Kurtzman in the credits weren't quite sure what to expect. Expectations were further confounded when the story seemed to be a kind of kidnap/heist film hybrid, with Harvey Keitel playing a meek, likeable father figure. Then boom, vampires and gore and crazy killing. I don't know about the regular audiences who came to see their favorite TV heartthrob, but genre fans ate this stuff up. From Salma Hayek's enticing dance to the weird crotch gun, there were plenty of exploitation touches to go around.
From Dusk Till Dawn 3 can't hope to live up to that level of surprise, largely because it's essentially a remake of the first film. We've got banditos, a kidnapping, some unhappy people, all of whom are holed up in a bar filled with vampires. Sure, there are a few nice moments here and there -- the inclusion of real-life figure Ambrose Bierce is one -- but we've seen this before, and with Rodriguez at the helm, we've seen it better. Without the level of surprise, the film has to rely more on execution, and while there's nothing wrong with the blood and guts on display here, they don't have the bite of the first flick.
The second thing that From Dusk Till Dawn had going for it was the sheer number of great names and/or faces that populated the film. I don't know how many favors Rodriguez and Tarantino burned and/or earned making that film, but in addition to the already mentioned actors, we had Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Juliette Lewis, Fred Williamson, Michael Parks, and John Saxon. Even if you didn't get into the vampire-heist hybrid, there was always somebody interesting on the screen to watch, and playing "name that actor" was always a viable option.
We don't really get that option with The Hangman's Daughter. Sure, Michael Parks and Danny Trejo put in appearances, as does Rebecca Gayheart, but without the smorgasbord of exploitation talent, this just ends up reminding audiences how good the first film was. The performances that are here are fine, but it's just too difficult to compete with the talent in the earlier film.
I don't want to paint a dire portrait of The Hangman's Daughter. It's a serviceable little action horror flick that takes a timeworn premise and adds its own small filigrees. It's a great thing to catch on late-night cable or as part of an exploitation marathon.
On Blu-ray, the film looks surprisingly strong for a low-budget feature. Color saturation is impressive, black levels are solid, and grain is appropriate in this AVC encoded transfer. There is some noise here and there, and a few shots lack detail, but overall this is a good transfer. Similarly, the DTS-HD surround track booms appropriately while still leaving the dialogue well balanced. The only extra is a short introduction of the film by Robert Rodriguez from the film's premiere.
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter is a decent, though totally unnecessary, horror flick. Fans of the franchise will appreciate the decent tech specs on this release, though most audiences will want to give this so-so film a pass.
Totally unnecessary, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R