Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Below is a review of the entire shebang, including trailers:
MACHETE: It's strange to review this now that the full-length movie has been released, but Rodriguez's original trailer was the perfect kickstart to GRINDHOUSE—with Danny Trejo, ridiculous action, ample nudity, and the promise of something unreal.
A girl with an M4 carbine assault rifle for a leg; that’s either the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen or it’s so awesome your face melts like Nazis just opened the Ark of the Covenant. If you fit in the latter category, PLANET TERROR easily qualifies as one of the most entertaining and satisfying movies of 2007.
Even though the machine gun appendage only makes a fairly brief (but glorious) appearance near the end, PLANET TERROR still reaches near-illegal levels of fun. I mean, what’s not to love here? Lethally hot women (Rose McGowan was built for this movie—both physically and performance-wise), some badass dudes (Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn as brothers…genius) and more than enough gore, goo and splatter to fill twenty horror movies. Most of all Robert Rodriguez nails the tone, look and feel in his half of GRINDHOUSE, complete with his signature creative carnage and blend of practical-digital effects. It’s filled with moments both cringe-inducing and applause-worthy (and one instance of “Holy hell, I can’t believe Rodriguez just did that!”). And with a groovy synth score, the result seriously feels like John Carpenter kidnapped George Romero and took the Delorean back to the 1980s to make an unapologetic movie of that era with a modern day budget.
PLANET TERROR fits in the genre it’s honoring so perfectly that it’s almost tongue in cheek in nature. After the missing reel kicks in, the movie goes absolutely insane; from El Wray rocking the pocket bike to liquid-filled hit and runs to helicopter decapitations, it borders on too much insanity without ever crossing the line. The missing reel gag itself is a genius meta nod to the genre. It’s hilarious in how it’s used, but more importantly allows Rodriguez to cut to the glorious chase in a way that filmmakers can only dream of. This means it leaves you with a cool sense of backstory and answered questions, but skips the boring exposition parts and instead concentrates on having fun. So much fun, you just might lose your balls.
WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS: If I had to pick, this was probably the least entertaining out of all the GRINDHOUSE trailers, but most likely my favorite in theory. The subject matter itself (along wit the cast and Cage cameo) alone makes this worthwhile, but perhaps the seriousness of Rob Zombie's execution made it stand out from the others.
DON'T: The most clever and well-executed of the four previews, the Edgar Wright-directed bit is just as smart, funny and genre-poking as his other work and it feels most like an old-school horror trailer.
THANKSGIVING: Is it insulting to say this two minute clip is the best thing Eli Roth has ever done? Roth nails the 80s slasher vibe and gives us something subversive and delightful at the same time.
PLANET TERROR was the more straightforward “entertainment” half of GRINDHOUSE, but DEATH PROOF was the movie that stuck with me afterwards, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to make of it after one viewing. But watching it a second time it’s safe to say this is a great film that tries some very interesting things.
When Quentin Tarantino said he was making a slasher exploitation movie, I don’t think anybody expected an excessively talky 70s throwback split straight down the middle by a bizarre, genre defying two-act structure. But that’s exactly what you get. (Note: I’m going to quickly go in to detail about each half, so make sure you’ve seen the movie before continuing.) It’s easy for viewers to initially be disappointed by the seemingly boring dialogue and pointless development in the first half, but it’s simply Tarantino faithfully adapting the traditional horror movie archetypes. Even though nothing tangible happens with plot threads like the in-absentia Christian Simonson, it still ropes you in emotionally to the characters in ways that most horror movies today can’t do in a full two hours. So when Stuntman Mike goes in for that first kill, it makes the ordeal that much more horrifying and their fates more unexpected. It also helps that the first car crash is easily one of the most visceral, pulse-pounding sequences of the year and one of the most terrifying wrecks ever filmed.
If DEATH PROOF had continued on that track as a straight slasher flick I would’ve been more than happy. Stuntman Mike at that point was a badass force of terror—so of course, Tarantino decides to do the exact opposite. At first the second hour seems like a complete retread with a new set of girls, but then things take such an out-of-left-field turn that it wasn’t until April March’s “Chick Habit” began playing over the credits that I fully realized what had happened. With the victims turning the tables on the killer, who breaks down crying and screaming like a little girl, the movie turns in to a 60s female empowerment movie ala FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! And with the fleshed out extended cut, the transition between the two halves makes more sense and the juxtaposition of the pair makes Tarantino’s aim more apparent: DEATH PROOF is the deconstruction of both the slasher genre AND the first half of his own movie, as well as being a modern tribute to the femme-worshipping Russ Meyer at the same time. You can seriously feel Tarantino winking at the audience…almost like Stuntman Mike does when he smiles knowingly at the camera while watching his future prey drive off.
As great as the direction and script are, the movie wouldn’t be anything without the cast. Kurt Russell adds Stuntman Mike to his other iconic characters next to Snake Plissken and Jack Burton. The man can be cool, funny or terrifying when he needs to be and more importantly, believable at each. The girls in both halves are all great in their respective roles within the group, but the one worth mentioning by name is Zoe Bell. Bell isn’t going to win any acting awards just yet, but she has a natural charisma and likeability that really works. (The moment when she pops up from the bushes unscathed elicits a much needed laugh.) As a fearless stuntwoman she also adds a heightened sense of realism and terror to the film’s big chase. And that brings us to the real stars of the movies…the cars themselves and stunt drivers who make them look awesome. The chases and stunts in DEATH PROOF are nuts, to the point that it’s almost like watching car porn. In every shot you can feel real people driving real cars on real roads…and doing it fast. Unlike a lot of modern movies, it’s easy to feel the speed of the car barreling down the road at 90 miles an hour, a tribute to old school auto classics like BULLITT or THE FRENCH CONNECTION, a class to which Tarantino can fittingly add DEATH PROOF.
Commentary by Robert Rodriguez: The one man filmmaking army always gives informative and entertaining talks and this one is no exception. From cast to effects, if you enjoy the film you’ll definitely get something out of this track. It’s always reassuring for aspiring filmmakers to hear this guy live his dream in his own terms.
Audience Reaction Track: If there’s one movie that you want to hear an eager audience scream, laugh and groan throughout, it’s definitely this one. When I saw GRINDHOUSE in the theaters opening weekend it was unfortunately empty, so this track gave me the experience I was looking for.
10 Minute Film School (11:51): This is fairly short, but oh so sweet. Rodriguez goes through pretty much all the big “how did they do that?” parts of the movie and shows you…how they did it. From the machine gun leg to the makeup to the gore (both practical and CG), this’ll show you what a creative madman Rodriguez is.
The Badass Babes of PLANET TERROR (11:49): Should I be concerned that the sexy babysitter twins are Rodriguez’s own nieces? (Nah.) Anyways, as expected, this offers look at each female cast member, with interviews and little bits of trivia, including how Quentin Tarantino randomly bit Fergie.
The Guys of PLANET TERROR (16:31): The chromosomal opposite of the previous extra.
Casting Rebel (5:34): Rodriguez talks about the experience of having his own son Rebel play the Marley Shelton’s kid, which if you’ve seen the movie adds an interesting dimension to things. [Spoiler: The man actually shot alternate footage throughout the film where the kid lives, in case his son ever asks to see the movie].
The Stunts of Planet Terror (13:17): “Annnnd zombie action!” Your basic look at the stunts and fights covering all the major set pieces.
The Friend, The Doctor and the Real Estate Agent (6:42): A handful of the different supporting actors in the movie are actually just random people Rodriguez knows and decided to put in the movie. I want to be friends with you, Robert Rodriguez. (My email is above.)
*Robert Rodriguez 10 Minute Cooking School (8:30): Another installment of the popular series (if you own any other RR movies). In this one, the director teaches you how to make Texas barbecue like they do in the movie, from ribs to brisket. He even throws in the recipe for Jeff Fahey's secret sauce. Rodriguez is always super fun to watch and here he sounds like he's on Iron Chef.
*Makeup Effects of PLANET TERROR (12:02): Some of this was touched upon in other features, but here you get a nice look at the development and execution of the Sickos, with great interviews with Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero (who Marley Shelton refers to as "my little pus monkey"). My favorite effect is where the rapist vomits up his guts; the set up for that is ridiculous. With all the comical grossness and sheer amount of blood, gorehounds will love this.
The Hot Rods of DEATH PROOF (11:47): Ever seen a camera rig on a Cadillac Escalade? Check that out here, as well as a look at selecting and customizing each of the major cars (Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, Chevy Nova) and how they were filmed (presumably safely) at high speeds. Tarantino also talks about car chases in cinema and making his own iconic chase sequence.
Stunts on Wheels (20:40): “Real cars, real shit, at full fucking speed.” The stunt drivers are the people that Tarntino wants to glorify in this extra, with interviews and background provided for the old school drivers and stunt coordinators who worked on the movie.
Introducing Zoe Bell (8:58): It’s no secret that Tarantino harbors affection for his KILL BILL stuntwoman and this is a good look at the woman who can fight, fall and hang on to the hood of a speeding car, but is terrified of saying a line in front of a camera.
Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (9:33): Kurt Russell is one of the coolest people to walk the earth and you don’t need a ten minute featurette to tell you that.
Finding Quentin’s Gals (21:14): Less casting couch porno and more featurette on looking for the perfect girl for each role. Tarantino pretty much has a story and reasoning for every actress onboard and he’s not afraid to tell you about it.
Uncut version of “Baby It’s You” (1:48): The song (which was cut from the theatrical release) is performed by an iPod wearing Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is actually quite a good singer.
The Guys of DEATH PROOF (8:16): There’s guys in this movie besides Kurt Russell? This is worth watching just to see Eli Roth making fun of his hero Kurt Russell and then apologizing profusely.
Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator (4:37): Tarantino talks about his editor Sally Menke, who has worked with him since RESERVOIR DOGS, and how editing and writing are tied together (“The last draft of the script is the first draft of the movie.”). There’s also a funny montage of the actors talking to Sally on camera.
*From Texas to Tennessee: Production Design (8:01): The PDs discuss Tarantino's method of working and desire to shoot at the real Texas Chili Parlor and Guero's in Austin.
*New York Times Talk with Lynn Hirschberg (1:04:36): A discussion of over the top filmmakers and collaborators led by respected journalist Hirschberg who talks with Tarantino and Rodriguez in front of a live audience. Tarantino dominates the conversation but they cover all kinds of topics from how they got their start, to their friendship and history together, and just film in general. Some of the info you'll probably know already as fans, but still a fascinating, entertaining and highly recommended talk
*Comic Con 2006 (23:35): Video from the panel where the two first presented their idea to the fans. Rodriguez shows some early footage, but Tarantino hadn't started filming yet but still brings out the cast. Cool to see the movie in the early stages.
*Extended WEREWOLF WOMEN Trailer (4:59) More like a short film than a trailer, with full scenes and dialogue. You also get more screaming Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu. Available with commentary by Rob Zombie.
*Making of WEREWOLF WOMEN (8:48): Zombie talks about his influences (the popular "sexy Nazi" genre) and insists it's all based on a true story. Udo Kier discusses how much he loves breasts.
*Extended DON'T Trailer: Maybe a few extra shots but for the most part its the same. Available with commentary by Edgar Wright.
*DON'T Storyboard and Trailer Comparisons: See the before and after with commentary by Edgar Wright.
*Making of DON'T Trailer (9:40): Wright takes you behind the scenes with the long cast list and explains the origins of the trailers. It's also nice to finally see Simon Pegg, who's completely unrecognizable under heavy prosthetics, as well as Nick Frost as the "retarded man child" which Wright says is a stretch for him.
*Making of the THANKSGIVING Trailer (6:24): A look at the filming in the Czech republic, with some poor old lady clearly scarred by what she has to do.
*HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN Trailer (1:59): This Grindhouse Trailer contest winner is a fun preview, now made in to a real movie with Rutger Hauer.
Assorted Galleries and Previews.
Extra Tidbit: Now where's KILL BILL: THE WHOLE BLOODY AFFAIR?