Only now does it occur to me... that FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is the finest Ambrose Bierce fan fiction ever made.
The second straight-to-video sequel to Tarantino and Rodriguez's hardboiled vampire flick FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER is a period piece, set in in 1913. Essentially, it follows the structure of the original: a Western/crime drama which makes a sudden turn into horror territory around the one hour mark.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2: TEXAS BLOOD MONEY was not without its high points, but part three outdoes it on nearly every count––primarily, in concept.
Ambrose Bierce (THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE, THE DAMNED THING) was one of America's finest satirists, a witty, wayward, and delightfully bitter man whose attitude was somewhere between Jonathan Swift's and Robert Mitchum's. "Nothing matters" was his motto, and, at seventy-one, rather than suffer the sins of geriatric boredom, traveled south into Mexico with the intention of joining the Revolution. He was never seen again...
"...Or was he?" So supposes FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER, which delivers the masterstroke of casting the inimitable Michael Parks (DEATH WISH 5, TWIN PEAKS, THE HITMAN, KILL BILL) as Mr. Bierce.
Parks delivers an understated performance that strives for poetry; he imbues the film with a haunting sense of élan vital. And yes, I'm still talking about a straight-to-video vampire flick. Remember, this is the actor who can make "waiting around and drinking coffee in a car" rife with pathos (in THE HITMAN).
Written by Robert Rodriguez's cousin Álvaro (and based on a story by the two cousins), THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER places a drunken and detached Bierce amid a sea of outlaws, missionaries, lawmen, revolutionaries, and Aztec vampires, where he can quote one-liners from THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY and generally not care a damn.
This is about as brilliant as having Oscar Wilde become Paladin's sidekick in a particularly memorable episode of HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL.
Director P.J. Pesce, long imprisoned by television and straight-to-DVD sequels (THE LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE, SMOKIN' ACES 2: ASSASSIN'S BALL, SNIPER 3) brings a genuine style to the proceedings; you see the talent and joie de vivre of a young director excited to be playing with the medium––this is not a man phoning it in, and boy, that makes a difference.
True to the Tarantino/Rodriguez oeuvre, it's packed with loving homages to everything from THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY to FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE to TAXI DRIVER, and composer Nathan Barr even turns in a borderline brilliant score, heavily inspired by Ennio Morricone by-way-of John Zorn.
Also of note: Danny Trejo is still tendin' bar eighty years prior (he has about three minutes of screentime),
Though he says, "We don't need no stinking brushes!" in perhaps the saddest nod to THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE ever made.
Sonia Braga (KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN) has a blast as the Elvira-ish innkeeper/madame (and mother of Salma Hayek's character from the first film),
and Temuera Morrison (ONCE WERE WARRIORS, Boba Fett's dad in the STAR WARS prequels), is the titular "Hangman" and he gives it his all in a sort of an "evil Yul Brynner" performance.
More "bizarro MAGNIFICENT SEVEN" than WESTWORLD.
Sure, there's plenty of bad CGI, and I would never call it a masterpiece, but the act of shoehorning a literary figure into a bargain bin horror flick and then hiring an actor capable of embodying said figure is something of an artistic coup, and it's why FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3 ought to outlive its intended shelf-life.
Here's to you, Mr. Bierce... and Mr. Parks.
PS: And if you check it out, stay tuned after the end credits for a mildly amusing, meta scene involving the singular Mr. Parks.