Sunday, June 10, 2007


The double-feature verdict: Planet Terror is absolutely brilliant fun, and the exploitation trailers are excellent, but Death Proof just ain't that good at all really.

Planet Terror

The verdict: A rollicking good laugh. Hugely imaginative, gruesome, funny and unpredictable.
The rating: 8/10

Death Proof
The verdict: Heavy on dialogue, light on action. Not interesting enough by half.
The rating: 5/10

The double-feature rating: 7/10

Perhaps due to poor box-office in the U.S., the European release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's lo-fi exploitation cinema double feature is being split in two, with Tarantino's 'Death Proof' only being released here on September 21st (say what!? - Ed) and no release date confirmed as yet for Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror'.

I didn't actually think that the distribution travesty of Darren Arronofsky's 'The Fountain' - which still hasn't been released in this country yet - could be topped, but I'm unhappy to say that I was wrong.

You see, Tarantino and Rodriguez specifically made this movie as a double-feature. Grindhouses were the seedy establishments that used to show this type of double-feature movie, and to go see one in a grindhouse would put you in the company of some fairly seedy late-night punters... The two directors tried to re-create that experience by using special effects to give the impression of old, battered prints, by showing trailers for fictitious 'coming attractions' before each feature presentation, and by paying homage to two staples of the exploitation genre: zombies, and killers of pretty girls.

I caught a viewing of the entire double feature last night, and I can safely say that, as a double feature, Grindhouse is a unique movie. From the outset, where we see a trailer for an ultra-violent exploitation movie called 'Machete', the scene is set for a rollicking good laugh, and Robert Rodriguez's 'Planet Terror' is everything you would hope to see in an over-the-top, gorey, tongue-in-cheek homage to the grainy and cheap, but imaginative monster movies of the '70s.

The movie features gratuitous violence, zombie mayhem, gruesome twists, and some cracking dialogue. Freddy Rodriguez is great as the unlikely action hero, but Marley Shelton and Rose McGowan - with the best prosthetic limb ever seen - are the real stars of this segment. Naveen Andrews (Said from Lost) also turns up as the bollock-collecting bad guy, and his first scenes in the movie should have them screaming in the aisles, with popcorn being thrown in the air so people can avert their eyes, smashing stuff.

After the exhilaration of Planet Terror, we are treated to a few more previews of coming attractions: 'Thanksgiving', 'Don't', and the unforgettable 'Werewolf Women of the SS'. These are also excellent, with Nicholas Cage's one line in the movie possibly the best performance he's turned in since 'Raising Arizona'.

But then comes Tarantino's 'Death Proof', which couldn't really be any more different from Planet Terror. It features Kurt Russell as 'Stuntman Mike', and a whole lot of cute girls in shorts. At 80 minutes, this will be a short movie to see in it's own right, but I'd advise steering clear of it, as it's just not that good. After the exhilaration of Planet Terror, Death Proof seemed heavy on dialogue, light on likeable characters, and just plodded along really. The women all talk like they're Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, and they constantly put on songs from jukeboxes and dance to them like they're classics we should be aware of.. far too keen to be cool this one.

Technically, it is well worked, featuring long cuts of dialogue-heavy scenes, and a couple of well-worked car chase sequences, but that doesn't stop it from being quite a turgid ninety minutes.

I'd recommend seeing the entire double feature of 'Grindhouse', but do yourself a favour and buy the Dvd when the region 1 version is released in a couple of weeks. If you wait until September, and only get to see 'Death Proof', you will be very diasppointed.. If on the other hand, you want a great cinema experience, cross your fingers and hope that 'Planet Terror' is eventually released here. Now that's entertainment!

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