Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof

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GRINDHOUSE: PLANET TERROR/DEATH PROOF —-wildass retro-trash mashup from 2007 re-imagines schlock horror junk from the 70s, through the prism of raised-on-high-calorie-celluloid fansters Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino. The Eternal Boys bring their estimable skills and dubious taste to bear both in homage to and in seeking to out-gross grade-D funjunk from the drive-in zone of yore, employing big budgets and purposely goofing actors to put sex, violence, cars and zombies where they were meant to be—in your face.

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Designed as a double-bill (ah, for those days…) it came out first under the heading Grindhouse, with both separate features glued together, using elaborate and funny “previews of coming attractions” as linkage. This calculated launch tagged a hefty 191 minutes, with a combined budget running to as much as $67,000,000. Flopping out with a gross of just $25,400,000, 95th place for the year, the two were then released as individual epics, with an additional half-hour added to the 87-minute Death Proof, bringing it to 114 minutes (another seven in the extended cut) while Planet Terror, originally 91 minutes, topped out at 105. Planet Terror managed to yield $10,872,000 on its own, globally, while Death Proof did much better with $32,706,000, likely owing to Tarantino’s higher profile status, not because it was superior or more fun—which it assuredly wasn’t. At this point, does any of it matter?

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PLANET TERROR was written, directed, co-produced, edited, scored and photographed by Robert Rodriguez. His full-throttle helping of pulp (and most every kind of goop) has a deadly biochemical agent loosed into the otherwise human-fouled air of some piece of rural Texas. Dealing with the zombie-created after-bloodbath are go-go fox ‘Cherry Darling’ (Rose McGowan, hot enough to vaporize the Alamo), Mexi-stud ‘El-Wray’ (Freddy Rodriguez), demented ‘Doctor Block’ (Josh Brolin), his two-timin’, switch-hittin’ hottie wife ‘Dakota’ (Marley Shelton) and barbecue-joint honcho ‘J.T.Hague’ (Jeff Fahey). The actors are deliriously good.

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The word ‘splatter’ could have coined for this festival of send-up grue; everyone involved gets the sick joke and plays it to perfection. If only the dumb-ass movies this mocks were half as good. Twisted, warped, foul, yucky, and Fun as hell.

With Michael Biehn, Bruce Willis, Rebel Rodriguez (the director’s son), Naveen Andrews, Electra & Alise Avellan, Fergie, Nicky Katt, Tom Savini, Tarantino (as a disgusting rapist) and Michael Parks.

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DEATH PROOF was written, directed, co-produced and photographed by Quentin Tarantino. QTs opus de pain has psychotic ex-stuntman ‘Mike McKay’ (Kurt Russell) fulfilling his inner rage-boy by using his tricked-up 1970 Dodge Challenger to murder a quartet of girls (sexy, naturally) on the backroads of Texas. He runs into vengeance territory later on when he tries to repeat it with another batch of brassy gals, but this crew is up to & into kicking butt on psycho rednecks. In the first segment the teaser/victims are played by Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd (Cheryl’s daughter), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (daughter of the Sidney) and Rose McGowan. The second, less-cowed group: Rosario Dawson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell. Others in the cast include Eli Roth, Michael Parks, Tarantino and Marley Shelton.

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Though the actors have their game on, Tarantino’s contribution to the grind is too mean, too long and way too talkative (even if it’s supposed to be ‘bad’, this is his worst dialog ever—until The Hateful Eight). Russell gives it flair, stunt-woman Bell is flat-out amazing in her truly crazy scenes atop the hood of the car, and the wrap-up song “Chick Habit”, done by April March, is a stone keeper. Otherwise, Rodriguez’ Planet, superior in every way, beats QTs Proof  into so much pulped fiction.

Death Proof Image Zoe Bell

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