Grindhouse. Oh, what a beautiful idea. After Quentin Tarantino's highly successful paeans to the drive-in fare of his youth, Kill Bill vol. 1 and vol. 2, he and kindred soul Robert Rodriguez teamed up again to recapture this lost cinematic feeling, the hardcore trash double-feature. Each director did half, each movie conveniently "losing" a reel to keep the runtime down to three hours, and still include fake trailers and advertisements to complete the experience. It was the whole magilla. It was perfect.
So, of course, it tanked at the box office, guaranteeing nothing like this will ever happen again.
Apparently hoping to recoup some of the losses from that outing, Dimension Pictures has split the two parts of Grindhouse into separate discs, adding the "lost" reels and some miscellaneous scenes to bring them back up to what is currently considered "feature" length, with the second-billed but inarguably more marketable Tarantino's half seeing silver first.
Death Proof is a very interesting hybrid, combining the tropes of psycho killer, bad girl and car chase flicks from the 70s. Kurt Russell is compelling as Stuntman Mike, a serial killer whose weapon of choice is his specially reinforced muscle car - "death proof", in the stunt parlance. The script can sometimes become heavy with Tarantino's stock-in-trade pop culture riffs, but proves to be particularly skillful in keeping the viewer uncertain as to who may live or die... until Mike picks on the wrong victims, who are more than willing to turn the tables on him.
Tarantino's evocation of a 70's trash pic is tone-perfect, right down to film damage and bad splices - it's so good, it's actually jarring when a character pulls out her cell phone, and we are pulled into this decade. The climactic car chase is one of the best of recent vintage, full of high speed dangerous stuff. And with Tarantino directing - you know it's going to be done old school.
When the visual part of the movie has been messed with so thoroughly and purposefully, how does one truly judge it? Eh. The picture is fine, the audio doubly so, although the frequent bursts of music - the usual fine QT soundtrack - are mixed pretty loud.
The packaging, though, is what shows some loving care. It's easy to imagine former video clerk Tarantino fussing over the cardboard slipcase, which bears the marks of fake distressing, so it looks like a VHS case that's been pulled from the shelves and manhandled for years. That's a whole lot of fun.
Notably missing, and cause for furor amongst collectors, are the false trailers and adverts of the Grindhouse double feature. There is, however, a $5.00 off coupon for Rodriguez' Planet Terror (the other half)- which reportedly will also not include the trailers.
The first disc gives you the feature, the International trailer, a gallery of six posters from different nations, and Sneak Peeks, previews for Planet Terror, 1408, Black Sheep and Feast. There is also an interesting feature, accessible via the Scene Selection menu, which allows you to jump to various musical moments in the film.
Disc Two has your documentary materials, taking video interviews with Tarantino and others, intercutting them with pertinent footage, and most of them are self-explanatory: Stunts on Wheels - the Legendary Drivers of Death Proof; Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike; Finding Quentin's Gals (there are a bunch of familiar faces in this movie); The Guys of Death Proof (which, besides Michael Parks reprising once again Texas Ranger Earl Graw, include director Eli Roth).
Introducing Zoe Bell does just that: one of Tarantino's wilier casting choices, Bell is a personable Kiwi stuntwoman who doubled for Lucy Lawless in Xena and Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies (among many others). So it is undeniably one of the actresses doing all that dangerous stuff in the climactic chase; Quentin's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke - nice to see the editor get credit, but the best part is a collection of "Hi Sally"s - actors breaking character to say hi to the lady "stuck in a little room".
Finally, there is a trailer for Double Dare, a 2004 documentary about veteran stuntwoman and coordinator Jeannie Epper and Bell, in which Tarantino acknowledges he and Kill Bill inadvertently supplied a third act.
Dr. Freex, 9/21/2003