In an unprecedented manner, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have once again pulled off something that hasn’t been around in a very long time, the coveted double feature DVD, which can be found at your loca retail outlet. Not since the 70’s have we seen such madness and it’s in the true spirit of the genre that “Grindhouse” was created. A classic genre that could include any of the following: kung fu, horror, Italian horror (a.k.a. giallo-sexploitation), retro car chases, spaghetti Westerns and that’s only naming a few. Basically any ‘cheesy’ piece of movie making from the 70’s that you can remember can be a part of what makes “Grindhouse” unique and why this makes for the perfect gift for the upcoming holidays.
Given the fact we haven’t seen any sign of a double feature in decades, it probably doesn’t matter which one of these films you watch first, but if it’s me, it would be Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror.” I would think if you want a story to get you moving in the right direction, it has to be one about zombies. And in this film, Rodriguez makes sure you see enough of them, because you can never have too many of course. Nevertheless, this one starts in a small Texas town outside of Austin where a group of blood-hungry zombies have broken loose of their cages and were infecting the town. It seems some government experiment has gone array and whoever comes into contact with one of the infected, appropriately dubbed ‘sickos,’ will become the same thing creating a nasty chain reaction hard to stop. With really no answer to the epidemic, a group of townspeople, led by El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) and his girlfriend Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) attempt to put the wraps on these ‘sickos’ and save their town. Next thing you know, Cherry has a machine gun strapped to her leg and the two are slaying one zombie after another, leading to an all but worthwhile conclusion full of blood and terror.
Where Robert Rodriguez primarily grossed you out with a lot of zombies and blood, Tarantino will take you on a ride in the opposite direction with “Death Proof,” a ‘slasher’ film surely to get you on the edge of your seat. And the story here starts in typical Tarantino fashion, with some gripping dialogue, amongst a group of young sexy women out in the Austin, Texas nightlife for a birthday celebration. And although this piece of the story drags a bit, it’s what Tarantino does best, so we allow it knowing something insane is just around the corner. And it was, as the death trap to this story was a car itself, which was death proofed, protecting the driver for any harm. This car, a black 1971 Chevy Nova SS, was set-up with its own roll cage and plexy-glass divider between the passenger and driver. Hmm, a divider seems kind of odd considering the car is only used for stunts with one person, right? Well, as you will find out there’s nothing odd about this car, except the guy that is driving it, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) to be exact. And when Stuntman Mike chooses his victim or victim’s, anything goes in order to terrorize and kill. Only this time, he chose the wrong group of victims, as these three women were almost as crazy as he was, stepping up to ‘his game’ during one of the best car chase sequences I have ever seen resulting in an all too fulfilling conclusion.
When you think of any typical Tarantino or even Rodriguez flick, the cast isn’t always the first thought. That’s strange, considering the megastars that tend to pop in and out of their pictures like John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel or Tim Roth. And that’s just the few off the top of my head, so needless to say these two guys, especially Tarantino, know what do to find the right talent. And while I won’t go into everyone that was in both “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof,” know that each member of the respective cast’s were chosen carefully and fit perfectly into the stories written for them. One of those “chosen” one’s was Rose McGowan, who many might not know or remember, but is an extremely talented young actress who played a part in each of these films. Then there was the little unknown actress named Zoë Bell, who actually wound up playing herself in Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” Bell, who many do not know, starred in “Inglourious Basterds,” was the stunt double for Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2,” and in just a few scenes in “Death Proof,” showed off that same talent while riding on a hood of a vintage 1970 Dodge Challenger that was going over 60 mph. Other notable actors/actresses involved were Kurt Russell, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Eli Roth, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Vanessa Ferlito, Monica Staggs, Stacy Ferguson (a.k.a. Fergie) and even Tarantino himself.
I think before you ever sit down to watch these two films that make up “Grindhouse,” you have to leave your ego behind, because no matter which way you slice it, these stories aren’t meant to blow you away with quality. Instead, Rodriguez and Tarantino wanted to bring back that 70’s double-feature appeal in the only way they knew possible, through blood, guts and thrills. That’s all, nothing more complex than that; just simple and fun. That’s what moviemaking use to be like when this whole ‘Grindhouse” thing started and ended. So, give credit where credit is due to these two guys for having the courage to do it and do it right, which they did quite well here. Using older reel techniques and graphics, you truly felt like you were back in time and Quentin Tarantino even added a missing reel or two for good measure.
Sure, if I wanted to I could find issues with each, but why? “Planet Terror” is all about blood-thirsty zombies and “Death Proof” is a slasher flick with style, neither of which should be the utmost picture perfect film. The reality is, Robert Rodriguez finally made the zombie flick he’s always wanted to make, with way too much blood and ridiculous violence; and Tarantino was able to take his diabolical methods of creating entrancing dialogue and shape it around a slasher flick, all the while generating one of the best car chase sequences I have seen in a very long time. The result of the two is one heck of a good time for the better part of three hours, in between all the fake trailers (“Machete” included) that are still getting praise. So, see these films’ together or see them separate, but either way it’s worth the price now that they are being sold together in one DVD package, as you just don’t get entertained like this anymore.
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