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GRINDHOUSE Runtime for the double feature: 191.

“Planet Terror” (director/writer: Robert Rodriguez; cinematographer: Robert Rodriguez; editors: Robert Rodriguez/Sally Menke; cast: Rose McGowan (Cherry), Marley Shelton (Dr. Dakota Block), Freddy Rodriguez (Wray), Josh Brolin (Block), Jeff Fahey (JT), Michael Biehn (Sherriff Hague), Naveen Andrews (Abby), Stacy Ferguson (Tammy); MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Rodriguez; Dimension Films; 2007)

“Death Proof” (director/writer: Quentin Tarantino; cinematographer: Quentin Tarantino; editors: Quentin Tarantino/Sally Menke; cast: Kurt Russell (Stuntman Mike), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Jungle Julia), Vanessa Ferlito (Arlene), Jordan Ladd (Shanna), Tracie Thoms (Kim), Rosario Dawson (Abernathy), Zoë Bell (Zoë), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lee), Rose McGowan (Pam), Eli Roth (Dov), Omar Doom (Nate); MPAA Rating: R; producer: Quentin Tarantino; Dimension Films; 2007)

“As much fun as being in a car crash.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

These self-indulgent boys take their trashy movies seriously. Filmmakers Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill”) in a show of low-rent slasher film prowess for their oversized egos present in one flick a double feature, with each presenting their own idea of what a raunchy B-film should be like. They were both as much fun as being in a car crash.

Austin-based Robert Rodriguez shoots for a gross-out zombie/horror flick with wall-to-wall killings and dismemberment by zombies, whose memorable scenes are a jar filled with pickled human testicles and a one-legged go-go dancer, Rose McGowan, getting her missing leg fitted with a machine gun for zombie pacification. The plot has a rigid sheriff, a mysterious greaser tow-truck driver (Freddy Rodriguez) who turns out to be a gunslinger with a rep, an inventive Texas barbecue chef/restaurant owner, Rose and others trying to escape from attacking cannibalistic zombies on the warpath. The zombies were infected with a virus from escaping biological chemicals that were collected by the army, in its War on Terror, in a small Texas town. His buddy, Tarantino, shoots for sleaze via those killer car crash flicks that played at Times Square grindhouse theaters in the 1970s. Rodriguez’s film was visceral with non-stop mindless but somewhat amusing gory action that spoofed the genre while at the same time taking the action for real; Tarantino’s was a listless exercise in a childish revenge movie that had only a few car crash scenes for action and was mostly very talky (the kind of banter that is trite and lacked wit). Tarantino has Kurt Russell play the aging stunt-driver who rides a death-proof car and gets his kicks by crashing into other cars driven by chicks and trying to kill them–reminding one of all those damsels in peril flicks, with the car used as a sexual metaphor. Real-life New Zealand stunt double Zoe Bell steals the show from Russell, in the film’s centerpiece car crash scenario, as she hangs on from the hood of a speeding 1970 Dodge Challenger.

Both films achieved the low-level sleaze expected and end up being pointless kid fantasy films designed I believe for their fanboys, film buffs of the Z film type and film critics who are addicted to junk films. If the films were shown separately as originally planned, they both would have probably bombed. But united in this novelty approach, something that a showman director like William Castle would probably appreciate, there’s a certain peculiar strength that gives it a greater force than it deserves. They also include four goofy faux trailers by Rodriguez (“Machete”, with the tagline ”He just f—ed with the wrong Mexican!”), Rob Zombie (“Werewolf Women of the SS” about the Nazis developing a race of Supergirls, with Nicolas Cage cast as Fu Manchu!), Edgar Wright (“Don’t Scream!”, a haunted-house montage where the British stars are not heard so the American audience is not aware it’s a foreign movie) and Eli Roth (“Thanksgiving”, it promises no leftovers as a voice screams out “White meat! Dark meat! All will be carved!”). They are coming attractions for nonexistent B-movies, and as bad as these trailers were they still seemed more fun than the feature films.

Filled with passion for the good ole days of slasher, killer cars, blood-splattering, zombie and sexploitation flicks, the filmmakers take their argument to film. Both films are incoherent and noisy homages to bring back the marvelous days of cheap exploitation flicks (ironically these dudes reportedly worked on a budget that ranged between 50 and 100 million dollars; so much for love of cheapo flicks!), movie trailers, missing reels, cheesy ads, prints with scratches and grimy theaters filled with cigarette smoke. The bad jokes go on for far too long, as two hours could have been lopped off the 191 minutes and nothing precious would have been lost. If you were comparing the two films, at least, Rodriguez’s film caught the spirit of the grindhouse movie, while Tarantino’s was a complete misfire–ruining it with long-winded banter that a grindhouse viewer would never sit through back in the day.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”