El Mariachi/Desperado

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) El Mariachi:
Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) El Mariachi:
Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City
Year Released El Mariachi:
Commentary Tracks El Mariachi:
Yes, 1 - Robert Rodriguez (Director)
Yes, 1 - Robert Rodriguez (Director)
Running Time El Mariachi:
78:12 minutes
100:17 minutes 
Other Extras El Mariachi:
Featurette - The Ten Minute Film School (14 mins)
Filmographies - Cast and Crew
Short Film - Bedhead (10 mins)
Featurette - Ten More Minutes: An Anatomy of a Shootout (10 mins)
Filmographies - Cast and Crew
Music Videos, 2 - Los Lobos with Antonio Banderas Morena De Mi Corazon and Tito & Tarantula Back To The House That Love Built
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Robert Rodriguez

Columbia TriStar
Starring El Mariachi:
Carlos Gallardo
Consuelo Gomez
Peter Marquardt
Antonio Banderas
Joaquim De Almeida
Salma Hayek
Steve Buscemi
Cheech Marin
Quentin Tarantino
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music El Mariachi:
Marc Trujillo, Alvaro Rodriguez, Chris Knudson, Cecilio Rodriguez and Eric Guthrie
Los Lobos
Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio El Mariachi:
Dolby Digital El Mariachi:
16x9 Enhancement El Mariachi:
Soundtrack Languages El Mariachi:
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s) 
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio El Mariachi:
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles El Mariachi:
as above except delete
Spanish (!)
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    This DVD will go down in history as probably the only one that exists as a flipper without getting negative comments as a result. Of course, it would have been much better as an RSDL because it would have fit anyway. El Mariachi is the story of (funnily enough) a Mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) who travels into a remote town in search of work. After being turned away from one bar and lamenting the manner in which the combination of technology and music is robbing the Mexican people of their culture (a statement I applauded, myself), he finds himself being mistaken for Azul (Reinol Martinez), a man who happens to carry a massive arsenal around in a rather battered guitar case. Soon, every hired gun working for Moco (Peter Marquardt), against whom Azul has sworn revenge, is after the Mariachi. This, not unnaturally, makes for some fun action sequences and a surprisingly compelling romantic subplot with Domino (Consuelo Gomez) as a sweet Mexican bar owner who befriends the Mariachi in spite of her initial distrust. All in all, the film works well and belies its microscopic budget.

    Desperado picks up a little while later. The Mariachi (now played by Antonio Banderas), after having witnessed the murder of his woman and losing his ability to play the guitar, is walking the streets. Bitter, and thirsty for revenge, he wanders into a town that looks exactly the same [it was shot in the same place], but Rodriguez never specifies any time or location so that's all fine. Along for the ride are the Mariachi's trusted partner (Steve Buscemi) and a new lover in the form of Salma Hayek, who is still in my opinion one of the single most overrated actors I have ever seen. Thankfully, her part in the film is quite minimal in terms of plot impact, but by the time the film is over, I was sorely wishing Navajas would rise from the dead to stick a few throwing knives in her. If I were the Mariachi, in fact, I would have thanked her for her surgical efforts by beating her to death. A terrible case of miscasting and poorly conceived lines, in any case. Cheech Marin puts in a great performance as a bartender loyal to local drug lord Bucho (Joaquim De Almeida). However, in this film the show is truly stolen by the knife-throwing Navajas (Danny Trejo, the Spanish Empire's answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger). This is a film where the saying "actions speak louder than words" really becomes true.

Transfer Quality

Video - El Mariachi

    I can't spot a thing wrong with this film, and I have overly acute eyesight according to one doctor. Of course, that might have something to do with having a brain that runs like a Ferrari in detail-collecting-and-storing terms, but there isn't a single artefact that can't be attributed to the minuscule budget the film was shot on. I'm not going to get into aspect ratios as I know nothing about them or identifying them, and thus I have to trust the packaging to contain accurate information in this regard. However, I will say that the few scenic shots benefit quite well from the digital treatment.

Video - Desperado

    There is one moderate MPEG artefact that you really can't miss in this presentation of the film. As the Mariachi walks along the bar to stop a patron from causing trouble, his outline blends and blurs into the lights on the wall behind him. Annoying, sure, but given that the rest of the film is almost perfectly faultless, I wouldn't sweat it. You may notice the occasional film-to-video spot in some frames of either film, but I've yet to see a pre-1998 DVD that doesn't contain the occasional artefact of this kind.

    As I mentioned, this disc is a flipper. While it is probably the only flipper in existence that justifies its existence as a flipper, it is a fingerprint magnet, and will need constant cleaning. I advise keeping a Chux handy whenever you plan on viewing either film on this disc.

Audio - El Mariachi

    The audio on this film is presented in Stereo (not to be confused with Dolby Surround 2.0) with a choice of two languages - Spanish or German. It would have been nice to have a soundtrack dubbed in English, given that all the languages on this film are dubbed, but I guess we can't be picky. Some of the sound effects are terrible, but what do you expect for seven grand? In a clever move, Rodriguez defeats all lip synching problems by cutting to a different shot every time the speech becomes out of step with the movement of a character's lips. Although Carlos Gallardo's hand movements are way out of sync with the notes and rhythms he is supposed to be playing (I'm speaking as an actual musician here), Rodriguez's work on the audio portion of this film deserves a medal, given what he had to work with.

Audio - Desperado

    The audio on this film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, which really does the butt-kicking gunshots and (especially) the knife-impact sounds real justice. Again, we are presented with a choice of two languages - this time English or German. Curiously enough, subtitles for the people of the country where Rodriguez got his start are completely absent, as is an audio track. I doubt there's that many people in Region 4 who speak Spanish as their only language but it would have been nice to hear some of the dialogue in what is inarguably the most threatening-sounding of the four acknowledged Latin-based languages (the others are English, Italian, and French in case you don't already know). Hell, the audio for the entirety of the film itself could have been crap and it still would have attracted a rave review from me as long as the song that accompanies the credits was well presented. Spanish is such a wonderful language truly designed to accompany the guitar.


    You want extras? You've got extras! I've only ever seen one disc that has more extras of such a standard - Ghostbusters. The director's commentaries provide wonderful insights into the art of filmmaking, and are worth the thirty-five dollars by themselves.


    The designs of the menus follow the themes of the film. Nothing spectacular about them, but nothing really ordinary either.

Theatrical Trailers

    While the trailer for El Mariachi is somewhat plain and grainy, it still makes a nice bonus. The trailer for Desperado is just typical Hollywood wankery. Both are presented in the standard ratio of 1.33:1 with stereo sound. Nothing to get excited about, but certainly nothing to spew about either.


    I'll save us some time and combine my thoughts on the featurettes into the one heading. Bedhead apparently won some awards, although I suspect they were for the typical trickiness that Rodriguez injected into them. I see little to rave about with that one, but that's because it looks like it was shot on similar budget constraints to one of my home movies. The Ten Minute Filmschool spends fifteen minutes explaining exactly how the director managed to get such a great look out of a film which cost him less than a new car would. I think the blowhards who created The Blair Witch Project could learn a thing or two from Rodriguez, it's that interesting. Ten Minutes More: Anatomy Of A Shootout explains how the director conceived and rehearsed what I believe to be one of the most anarchic shootout sequences in film history. The films in question might just be two more action films, but they're two of the best-made action films in history, and the making-of featurettes reflect this very well. All of them are presented in full-screen, 4:3 format with stereo sound, a nice change from most other featurettes of their kind.

Director's Commentary - Robert Rodriguez (Director/Editor/etc)

    Robert is a delight to listen to, especially if you have any interest in film-making techniques. Having been blown away by some of the most expensive and thorough effects in film history midway through 1999, it was fun to hear about some of the most low-key ones in the history of filmmaking. Unlike some films that have some of the most boring and masturbatory commentaries I've ever heard (Matrix, anyone?), I find the commentaries (especially the one for El Mariachi) as much fun as the films themselves. I've only ever listened to one other commentary track that I like this much, and it isn't available in Region 4 yet.

R4 vs R1

    The only real difference is that in Region 1, these titles are available separately for $39.95, or so I have been told by my local record store. While I hate flippers enough to consider this option, you'd have to be mad about El Mariachi to consider paying what translates into about $53 for each film. The double feature versions are reportedly identical (as they should be given that we speak the same language), so it's really your call.


    Both films are worthy additions to any action fan's collection, especially if you want to see every budget-saving cinematic trick in the book being pulled.

    The video quality on both films is exemplary except for one small problem about eight minutes into Desperado. The quality of El Mariachi is better than anyone has any right to expect.

    El Mariachi's audio quality is somewhat substandard, but what can you expect when it was recorded on a Radio Shack mono unidirectional microphone? As for Desperado, anyone who loves the way Spanish musicians play a song will be in heaven. The other sounds are on the same par.

    As for the extras, well, they bring a whole new meaning to the argument that DVDs store and deliver much more for your buck. There's thirty-five dollars worth of entertainment in the extras section alone.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
5th January 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100D
Display Panasonic 51cm and 68cm televisions
Audio Decoder None
Amplification Sony STR-DE535
Speakers Pioneer SJ-1500D, set of five with garage-built subwoofer comprised of salvaged Sony woofer and Samick bass amplifier components