One of the great things about DVD is the huge amount of storage potential offered by the format. Taking advantage of this, one of Hollywood’s premiere up and coming directors decided to offer two of his films on one disc.
El Mariachi and Desperado
Directors: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, Bill Borden, & Carlos Gallardo
Writers: Robert Rodriguez
Features: Interactive Menus, Robert Rodriguez's short film Bedhead, Theatrical Trailer, Director's Commentary, Widescreen 1.66:1, Widescreen 1.85:1, ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Surround [CC], FRENCH: Dolby Digital Stereo, PORTUGUESE: Dolby Digital Stereo, SPANISH: Dolby Digital Stereo, SUBTITLES English, Spanish, Portuguese
El Mariachi - Antonio Banderas
Carolina - Salma Hayek
Bucho - Joaquim de Almeida
Short Bartender - Cheech Marin
Buscemi - Steve Buscemi
One of the great things about DVD is the huge amount of storage potential offered by the format. Taking advantage of this, one of Hollywood’s premiere up and coming directors decided to offer two of his films on one disc. El Mariachi and Desperado. Each film is presented on an individual side of the disc, with El Mariachi on side A and Desperado on side B. There are a few extras as well, and an audio commentary for each film from director Robert Rodriguez.
El Mariachi is the tale of a lone mariachi (traveling minstrel) who comes to a small town looking for work. In a classic case of mistaken identity, the mariachi is mistaken for a hit man who happens to be in the same town, and who happens to carry his arsenal of guns in a guitar case.
It seems that this small town is the safe haven for a drug cartel, and that the mariachi has stumbled into the middle of a bitter war between two factions. He finds a safe haven in a bar run by a woman, and of course the mariachi and the woman fall in love.
The movie clips along at a very good pace, and is well acted, directed and edited. The sound quality is OK, easily better than can be expected given the production budget (more on that later), and the picture is bright and clear, if not extraordinary. The cinematography is quite simple, and the camera angles are interesting, but not amazing (once again, a factor of budget, not filmmaker’s skill).
It should also be mentioned that El Mariachi is presented in its original Spanish language format, with English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles available. The film is at its core an action movie, so the dialogue is not very important. It’s still worth making sure the English subtitles are turned on, though. One odd thing, if your player is set to default to English (like mine is, obviously), when you first start the movie the audio commentary track will play (as it is the only English track on the disc). It’s an odd quirk, and easy to fix, but worth mentioning.
Desperado is a pseudo-sequel to El Mariachi, this time starring Antonio Banderas as the mariachi, and Salma Hayek as a bookstore owner he gets a woody for. The production budget was obviously a lot higher, so the film has a more expensive look to it. All at once it’s fun to watch, but doesn’t hold the emotional impact of the prior film. Well worth seeing, but not the achievement El Mariachi was.
Extras on the disc are pretty good. Both movies have an audio commentary with Robert Rodriguez (where he does everything he can to avoid the “dead air” syndrome on so many DVDs).
Side A of the disc gets the better of the extras, with Rodriguez’ original short film, Bedhead, presented in its entirety (and it's a very good short film at that!), the aforementioned commentary track, and Rodriguez’ ten minute film school. The Ten Minute Film School is a great idea, and uses clips from El Mariachi to show how Rodriguez managed to shoot a very coherent action movie on a micro-budget of $7,000 (you read that right, $7,000!). If you’re interested in film making, this disc’s purchase price is worth it for this information alone.
Side B’s extras are a little lighter, being comprised of a commentary track and another short film making feature called “Ten More Minutes: Anatomy of a Shoot-out”. This time, the director goes into the details of how a specific action sequence was shot (and contains some great “video story boards” which Rodriguez used to block out the scene). This little documentary was interesting, but not nearly as good as the original “Ten Minutes” as provided on Side A of the disc.
All in all, both these movies are well worth seeing, and the extras make the disc purchase very valuable to low budget filmmakers. It’s also interesting to listen to Rodriguez talk about the differences in low budget versus high budget film making It’s worth noting that Rodriguez has made several features now (including From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and The Faculty), and has yet to exceed his budget. A rarity in Hollywood film making these days, and it shows that he knows how to get bang for the buck. Rodriguez is a real talent, and I look forward to his future projects.
Contributing Editor: www.dvdfuture.com