Sunday, April 16, 2017

GRINDHOUSE: 10th Anniversary

I remember the release of GRINDHOUSE like it was yesterday. For good reason too, I followed the progress of the film since conception! Hot off the success of SIN CITY and KILL BILL, filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were kings. They could do any film project they wanted! Rodriguez had several offers from major studios, I think a BARBARELLA and CONAN THE BARBARIAN remake were offered to him? Tarantino kept quiet (per usual) but let it be known that whatever he did next was going to be small compared to KILL BILL.

After a night of watching movies at Tarantino's home theater, the two decided that their next films would be a collaboration. But instead of one movie, like FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, they would both each make their own and play them back to back as a double feature!

The day I first heard about this, I read every movie news post with information on the progress of GRINDHOUSE. It was fun, but something I never really want to do again. GRINDHOUSE wasn't ruined for me because of this, but I felt like I had learned too much going in. And it's best not to know much when seeing a Tarantino film.

Has it already been 10 years since the release of GRINDHOUSE? It sure doesn't feel like it! What the heck is GRINDHOUSE you say? Well, it was a film directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Both filmmakers set out to create a double-feature experience with coming attractions and retro theater advertisements. You probably don’t remember it because the film bombed at the box office. Because of this the films were released separately on home video.

You're probably better acquainted with the separate titles PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino respectively. There are numerous reasons as to why the film bombed at the box office; released on Easter Sunday, poor advertisement, or a confusing title?

In this day and age GRINDHOUSE does sound a little bit like a porno title. But the title is a homage to the theaters on 42nd Street that would play movies all day. I think from midnight to 8:00am was a popular time? Some of the movie houses would show blockbuster films, but you had to sit through some trash first. But the lot of them would show exploitation films.

My early judgement of exploitation films was that they all must be XXX porno films? Yes they showed those on 42nd Street, but there was so much more. The famous New York City stretch (not anymore) had plenty to offer in terms of genre; Kung-Fu, Horror, Action, and Sexploitation. If not for Quentin Tarantino and his film KILL BILL, I probably would have never been interested in exploitation cinema?

After KILL BILL I tried to watch anything I could get my hands on, primarily Spaghetti Westerns, Blacksploitation, and Italian Horror. Because of this I now have a few "new" favorite films of all time!

So April 6th, 2007 GRINDHOUSE opens in theaters and I go see the first showing of the day. There were no midnight showings for it, back then that only happened with Summer Blockbusters. You're probably thinking that GRINDHOUSE doesn't really sound like a matinee type of film; you're right it's not, but I'm a fan, so first showing it is! Thus began a new tradition with watching a new Tarantino film, I'd see it first by myself then go to the prime-time show with friends. That first showing is all me!

Watching GRINDHOUSE that first showing I really felt like Rodriguez/Tarantino made the film for me!

With PLANET TERROR I got this "lost film" of John Carpenter vibe mixed with Italian Horror. The film is a roller coster ride! I love watching it still because I kinda get what's going on in Robert's head when I watch it. That being said, PLANET TERROR is the weak link in GRINDHOUSE. It's fun, but at the end of the day it feels like a cross between a experiment and glorified trailer.

Both PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF have a 'Missing Reel' gag. The joke is hilarious in both films, but you look at script for TERROR and the gag is written into the script. So what, right? Well, in DEATH PROOF it isn't written in. They shot the scene and removed it latter. The International version of DEATH PROOF (a.k.a. the non-GRINDHOUSE version) has the lap dance scene intact. Now it's just my opinion, but Tarantino's "gag" is way more clever.

Despite all my criticism, I still enjoy watching PLANET TERROR. It sets the mood for 3 hours of exploitation fun. After a experimental bio-weapon is released, turning hundreds if not thousands into zombie-like creatures, it's up to a rag tag bunch to make is safely to Mexico with their backs to the ocean.

My favorite thing about PLANET TERROR is the 80's style gore effects. As I said earlier the movie has a John Carpenter meets Italian Horror vibe to it. I always wanna watch ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD next!

Once PLANET TERROR finishes we are shown 3 previews of Coming Attractions; WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE S.S, DON'T, and THANKSGIVING. I'm picking THANKSGIVING to talk about. The preview is a fake trailer directed by horror master Eli Roth. Love him or hate him, the guy can deliver the gore/scares. His film HOSTEL: PART 2 was my favorite horror film of 2007, beating out GRINDHOUSE.

THANKSGIVING is a parody of slasher films that are set during the holidays. When you think about it every holiday has been done except for Thanksgiving. Recently I found a slasher set during Thanksgiving but I cannot for the life of me remember the title. Regardless, the concept is still hilarious! Spoiler alert, my favorite part is when the 'trailer voice' says the film is coming out "This February". It's funny because it's true, horror fans know what I'm talking about!

It's time for DEATH PROOF and I'm immediately transported to the 70's. The film is set during modern times (same with PLANET TERROR) but Tarantino nails the Seventies exploitation flick! There is plenty of homage going on in DEATH PROOF but this second feature doesn't feel like like an extended trailer or cool experiment; no, DEATH PROOF feels like a movie.

I've already reviewed the International version, so I'll try my best to stick with DEATH PROOF's 87 minute GRINDHOUSE cut.

Just like with PLANET TERROR, DEATH PROOF has all the snaps, crackles, and pops that make the film look like it's traveled all over the U.S. But, there is a middle part that is pristine? My guess as to why is that Tarantino is playing around with the idea that GRINDHOUSE has a "Frankenstein" copy of DEATH PROOF. The other day I read a pretty good theory on the scratched up first half, that the first half is Stuntman Mike's personal copy. It's an artsy opinion, but I like it!

He's also toying with the idea that this version of DEATH PROOF is the successful one. I remember hearing Tarantino talk about the exploitation film SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. At one point in his DVD introduction he tells the story on how the film was originally titled THE JEZEBELS. The film flopped during it's first run. So the studio changed the name to SWITCHBLADE SISTERS and it became a smash!

You see, DEATH PROOF is actually the films second title, the original title was THUNDER BOLT.

In Austin, Texas, the girlfriends Julia, Arlene and Shanna meet in a bar to drink, smoke and make out with their boyfriends before traveling alone to Lake LBJ to spend the weekend together. They meet the former Hollywood stuntman Mike, who takes Pam out in his "death-proof" stunt car. Fourteen months later, Mike turns up in Lebanon, Tennessee and chase Abernathy, Zoƫ and Kim, but these girls are tough and decide to pay-back the attack.

My favorite thing about DEATH PROOF while watching GRINDHOUSE is that at the once the car chase moves onto the highway, the audience is treated to somewhat of a triple feature with an amazing car chase finale! I really believe this is a trick Tarantino learned from legendary movie producer Roger Corman, give the audience more bang for their buck.

In conclusion, I wish GRINDHOUSE didn't bomb at the box office, but at the same time maybe I am a little bit? Because I really think it was due to the films poor reception that made Tarantino finally make INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, his 3rd masterpiece!

If you've never seen/experienced GRINDHOUSE and you're a fan of these filmmakers, I'm pretty sure the movie is available On Demand with STARZ!

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