'El Mariachi/Desperado' on DVD Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'El Mariachi/Desperado' on DVD

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If you're interested in film-making documentaries that take a sneaky look 'behind the scenes', then you'll be interested in some of the latest films that have been released on DVD. Unlike other formats, say, video for example, DVD allows for multiple sound tracks. So in the case of film director Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi and Desperado, now available in a DVD formatted, two-movie pack, you get the director's voice providing a retrospective commentary over the top of the actual films themselves.

El Mariachi

El Mariachi was Rodriguez's first feature film and has a fascinating production history1. Briefly, he shot the movie for only $7000 in Mexico, intending to sell it to the Spanish language home video market for a profit, which he could then use to make a sequel. His grand plan was that he'd make three movies in this manner, which would give him the training he'd need for bigger budget features, then use them as a showreel to get jobs in Hollywood. But when he showed El Mariachi at festivals, people were so impressed that they were clamouring to make deals. Columbia Pictures ended up buying the rights to El Mariachi and gave it a theatrical release, spending vastly more than $7000 in the process. The sequel Rodriguez had originally hoped would be his next low budget film became Desperado.

The commentary he has recorded for the DVD is extremely informative. Speaking very quickly in order to impart as much information as possible, he points out all the tricks he used to keep his costs down. Candidly, he points out many continuity errors which were a result of his cost-cutting techniques. Frankly though, because the film moves so fast, it's unlikely people would notice these mistakes.


Desperado cost 1000 times as much as El Mariachi and it shows. But incredibly, at $7,000,000 it was still a very low-budget movie2. So, all the techniques he used in El Mariachi were put to use on Desperado. Endearingly, halfway through the commentary for Desperado he confesses that he hadn't had time to complete his notes for the commentary, so the last part of the commentary is improvised, but it's none the worse for that.

Apart from the two commentaries, the disc contains trailers for both films, Rodriguez's short film Bedhead - a quirky black and white comedy he filmed using his family as actors - and Ten Minute Film School - a superb illustration of how El Mariachi could be made so cheaply. Using original unedited footage, it shows how, if you know exactly what you want to achieve, you can shoot just the film you need quickly and cheaply.

If you're at all interested in film-making, the El Mariachi/Desperado DVD is a revelation. Oh, yes - the films are quite entertaining, too.

1Rodriguez's book, Rebel without a Crew, which outlines the history of the film, comes highly recommended.2At the time it was made, a typical action movie would have cost over $30m.

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