EL MARIACHI / DESPERADO
If you like a lot of entertainment value in a very small package, then Columbia TriStar Home Video has the ideal DVD double feature for you. For only $39.95 you can own EL MARIACHI and its sequel DESPERADO, plus a bunch of bells and whistles.
EL MARIACHI is the $7,000 filmmaking miracle that launched the successful career of director Robert Rodriguez. As director Rodriguez explains on his highly informative audio commentary, EL MARIACHI was made in Mexico with the intention of taking it to the direct-to-video market. However the film proved so good, that it was picked up for theatrical distribution, then received a great deal of critical acclaim and ended up a winner at The Sundance Film Festival. The plot of EL MARIACHI concerns a young musician, who wants to carry on the family tradition of being a Mariachi. Wandering into a small Mexican town carrying his guitar case, El Mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) is mistaken for an escaped criminal who just happens to hide his guns in a guitar case. Very quickly, our guitar-playing hero finds himself targeted by every hired gun in the town. EL MARIACHI is an inspired film, with good performances, a fast paced story, wry humor and a surprising amount of action. Everything is well staged and Robert Rodriguez proves himself to be an inventive director, cameraman and editor.
So, what does a $7,000 movie look like on DVD? Well, to be honest, it looks like it cost a lot more than $7,000, but no one is going to confuse it with anything shot in Hollywood. Columbia TriStar has done well by the film, by offering it in a 1.66:1 Letterboxed transfer. The respectable looking transfer isn't enhanced for wide screen televisions, but it had to cost more than the film itself. EL MARIACHI has decent image quality; of course, the levels of sharpness and detail aren't what one is generally used to on DVD. However, you can see everything that the director wants you to see. While film grain is apparent throughout the presentation, the colors prove to be appealing. There are no problems with compression artifacts on the DVD.
The Dolby Digital Spanish monaural soundtrack has respectable fidelity and will take a fair amount of amplification. Portuguese and French language soundtracks are also provided on the DVD. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
The basic interactive menus provide the standard scene and language selection features, as well as access to extras. If you are interested in filmmaking, then listening to Robert Rodriguez's audio commentary is an absolute must. His commentary is almost equivalent to a "how to" course in filmmaking. Sticking with that "how to" theme is the disc's "10 Minute Film School" which is certain to appeal to moviemaking wannabes inside all of us. Other supplements include a theatrical trailer and BEDHEAD, Robert Rodriguez's award winning short film.
DESPERADO is a quasi-sequel/remake of EL MARIACHI that certified Robert Rodriguez as truly a gifted filmmaker who can do amazing things with very few Hollywood dollars. By Hollywood standards, DESPERADO is low budget film, yet Rodriguez works the same kind of $7,000 magic that he did on EL MARIACHI. DESPERADO looks like it cost over $30,000,000 to make, yet it's budget was less than a quarter of that amount.
Unlike EL MARIACHI, DESPERADO was filmed in English and a big name star took over the role of El Mariachi. Antonio Banderas is great as the former guitar player who is seeking revenge on the criminal responsible for killing the woman he loved. Instead of a guitar, his case now holds a small arsenal of weapons which he uses to dole out justice, while he searches for a criminal named Bucho. DESPERADO also stars the exquisitely beautiful Salma Hayek as Carolina; the woman who hides our injured hero from Bucho's well armed men. Whenever Hayek is on the screen, I know I find it impossible to take my eyes offer of her. Then again, I would probably pay $9 just to watch her read the telephone book for ninety minutes. DESPERADO also features enjoyable performances from Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi and Quentin Tarantino. Director Robert Rodriguez expertly incorporates dazzling camera work with terrific stunts and Hong Kong inspired gunplay to make DESPERADO an action genre classic. Rodriguez is also a terrific visual stylist, who combines tried and true cinematic technique with his own dramatic editing to create the films unforgettable imagery.
Since the early days of DVD, I counted Columbia TriStars original release of DESPERADO amongst my favorite discs. The 16:9 anamorphic enhanced presentation faithfully recreates the films 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and looks just super. DESPERADO is sharp, very nicely detailed and has terrific color reproduction. Flesh tones are especially well rendered, while the rest of the colors are fully saturated without a bit of chroma noise. Blacks are velvety and the image has marvelous contrast and shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is an absolute killer. Sound effects aggressively leap from every one of the discrete channels; the films climatic shootout remains amongst my favorite demo passages. Bass reproduction is solid, while the dialogue sounds very clear and natural. The films highly enjoyable music by Los Lobos is very well integrated into the mix. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been provided, along with Spanish and Portuguese language tracks. English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles have been encoded onto the disc.
The simple interactive menus offer the standard scene and language selection feature, plus access to the supplements. Again, Robert Rodriguez's audio commentary is not to be missed for the wealth of information he provides. Other supplements include Rodriguez's mini film school course entitled "10 More Minutes (Anatomy Of A Shootout)" and a theatrical trailer.
If you like your DVDs to combine kick-ass entertainment and great value in one neat package, then the EL MARIACHI / DESPERADO double feature is hard to beat. Absolutely recommended.
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