Grindhouse Presents: Planet Terror
Special Edition, Director's Cut
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Director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) is back with a rip-roaring, zombie-infested rollercoaster of a movie that sure as hell keeps you hanging on for the ride (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, and an all-star cast fight for their lives in the ultimate showdown between an army of flesh-eating mutants and a motley group of rag-tag survivors. Featuring one of the most memorable screen heroines ever and the now-legendary mock Machete trailer, Planet Terror is as total blast funny, gory and over the top (Christy Lemire, Associated Press).
Loud, fast, and proudly out of control, Grindhouse is a tribute to the low-budget exploitation movies that lurked at drive-ins and inner city theaters in the '60s and early '70s. Writers/directors Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) cooked up this three-hour double feature as a way to pay homage to these films, and the end result manages to evoke the down-and-dirty vibe of the original films for an audience that may be too young to remember them. Rodriguez's Planet Terror is a rollicking horror/sci-fi/action piece about a plague outbreak that turns citizens into cannibalistic murderers; it's heavy on the gore and explosions but also features a terrific cast of A players (Freddy Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Marley Shelton) and B-movie vets (Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Tom Savini) and the indelible image of Rose McGowan as a stripper whose torn-off leg is replaced by a high-powered machine gun.
If Tarantino's feature was a nod to the moody, genre-jumping exploitation of the early '70s, Rodriguez's contribution to the Grindhouse aesthetic pays tribute to the manic gorefests from Italy and the States in the early '80s. And much like the film itself, the supplemental features on Terror's double-disc Extended and Unrated presentation have a loose, action-packed and familial vibe that gives fans full access to Rodriguez's one-man-studio approach to moviemaking. The director is featured twice on audio tracks: first, on the feature commentary, which provides a fun tour through the picture's production (as well as information on the upcoming Grindhouse DVD set, which will reunite the two pictures in their theatrical format), and later on the "10-Minute Film School," a fascinating breakneck run through the numerous visual and CGI effects that produced the film's most eye-popping effects, including McGowan's leg/machine gun. Most of the extras echo Rodriguez's informative and entertaining vibe--two featurettes cover the picture's male and female cast (the former offers affectionate tributes to the exploitation vets in the company, including Biehn, Fahey, Michael Parks, and Savini), while "Casting Rebel" is an amusing discussion of how Rodriguez came to bring his own son into the movie, as well as his refusal to disclose the fate of Rebel's character. "Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions" takes a look at Terror's extensive special effects through interviews with stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw and members of the visual effects team, while "The Friend, The Doctor, and The Real Estate Agent" chats with three non-actors, all pals of Rodriguez, who wound up with small but significant roles in the picture. The Extended and Unrated aspect of the set is limited to a few extended scenes and extra splatter (sorry, the infamous "Missing Reel" is not recovered for this set), while Grindhouse fans bemoaning the absence of the film's hilarious faux trailers will appreciate the inclusion of Rodriguez's hilarious Machete spot, with Danny Trejo as a death-dealing, lady-loving tough guy gunning for double-crosser Fahey. The set also includes an "Audience Reaction" track: Essentially, it's a whole track of whoops and hollers that allows the viewer to "experience" the film as if they were watching it in an actual grindhouse from back in the day. Its inclusion neither adds to or detracts from enjoying this DVD, but it's wholly indicative of the level of fun Rodriguez had making the picture--and wants to share with his fans. -- Paul Gaita
- Extended and unrated cut of Planet Terror
- Audience reaction track
- International trailer & poster gallery
- Feature commentary by director/writer Robert Rodriguez
- 10-minute film school with Robert Rodriguez
- The Badass Babes & Tough Guys of Planet Terror
- Casting rebel
- Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror
- The Friend, the Doctor, and the Real Estate Agent
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In this case action director Robert Rodriguez of Sin City and Desperado fame and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) sought to replicate the whole "grindhouse" cinema effect with a movie called... drum roll please... Grindhouse.
Grindhouses were cheap cinemas in the 1970s which showed B-rate exploitation flicks all day long -- usually in the form of double bills.
Grindhouse (the movie) consisted of a "double bill" of two movies, namely Death Proof and Planet Terror. The cinema prints of both movies were deliberately "aged" with scratches, faded colors and so forth to replicate the whole watching a battered print at a grindhouse cinema effect. Planet Terror actually has a faux trailer before the movie itself starts (it is quite funny and very reminiscent of those 1970's action flicks) for a fictional movie titled Machete.
It even has a deliberately "missing reel," letting the audience fill in the dots between scenes themselves. The DVD, by the way, goes one step further: you can select an audio track that replicates the cinema experience - you can hear an audience jeering and a guy eating pop corn in the seat next to you.
Death Proof starred Kurt Russell as a serial killer who drives a 1970s muscle car and targeted young women -- that is, until a group of them fights back.
In Planet Terror -- Rodriguez's flick -- cannibalistic zombies overrun a small town when a top secret virus is set loose at the nearby military base. The gore and violence is way over the top with some scenes directly stealing from movies such as The Thing, Evil Dead and Total Recall.
The most notable image from the movie is of a sexy Rose McGowan as an amputee with a machine gun as a prosthetic. Sensitive viewers should take care to avoid it. It stars several Rodriguez regulars and Bruce Willis in a small cameo. Watching it is like watching some forgotten straight-to-video effort from the early 1980's -- Highly stylized and reminiscent of B-movies from that era, the color palettes are often a sickly green with a dated synth music score (of the sort Carpenter's films were noted for) on the soundtrack. Its like watching a movie you have never seen before, but feeling as if you had, but can't remember when.
Cinema audiences however never got the joke as the whole "grindhouse" experience was as alien to today's young teenaged audiences that frequent today's multiplexes as were the concept of a drive-in.
There were many incidents of audience members not realizing that the movie consisted of a double bill and leaving the cinemas before the second feature started. Cinema owners weren't too happy at the film's long running time either and didn't go to any trouble to keep the movie running when the film proved to be a box office disappointment.
For the non-US. market (as well as the DVD release) it was thus decided to market and release the two movies separately. Thus with padded running times Death Proof and now Planet Terror are released as separate movies. All that remains of the whole "grindhouse" title is the "Grindhouse presents" moniker.
Back when Grindhouse was released as one feature in the cinemas director Tarantino remarked on the film's odd concept that audiences were desperate for something fresh, new and different. It would seems that he was wrong as Grindhouse proved to be a major box office disappointment. Or was he? Perhaps this was a film that proved to be too creative for its target audience, in this day and age of high tech video games, and instant gratification movies that have to 'dumb themselves down' so audiences 'get it'. I think this was a film that the target audience needed to be kids - if not teens back in the late sixties, early seventies to appreciate what had just been viewed.
THE DISC: The movie plus audio commentaries are to be found on the first disc. As stated previously, the film print has been deliberately aged to look much older than it is with all kinds of scratches, splotches, color fades and the like.
The second disc is filled with behind-the-scenes making of featurettes and interviews with the various actors and creative people involved. Unfortunately no time is spent on explaining the whole "grindhouse" phenomenon and inspiration to any newbies. But it is interesting -- and ironic! -- to see how 2000's high-tech computer technology is used to replicate a low-tech early 1980's B-grade look and feel to the movie.
RECOMMENDATION: Worth a look-see, particularly if you miss those genuine early 1980's B-grade straight-to-video efforts from that era's home video boom, and want to take a trip back to a time when movies were what they were - enjoyable, smart, and full of effort.
THE film title alone is reminiscent of many of those old time, sci-fi/horror B-movies. The plot centers around a mass zombie attack. We witness humanity's last stand as embodied by a one-legged go-go dancer (played with jaded brusqueness by Rose McGowan), her inexplicably lethal boyfriend (Freddie Rodriguez), an adulterous, needles-touting nurse, and a few others. It's a cup overflowing with campy dialogue and over-the-top, hilariously staged horror and action sequences. It also offers up a print that is marvelously grimy and grainy, and Rodriguez himself comes up with a pretty effective John Carpenter-like synthetic score which helps to drive the storyline. By the way, creature make-up artist Tom Savini gets a bit part here as he plays a digit-less deputy, while Naveen Andrews is great fun to watch as a testic1es-collecting bio-engineer. Fun, fun, fun.
The second billing is Tarantino's very talky DEATH PROOF, which is a callback to films such as VANISHING POINT, DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY, and the original GONE IN 60 SECONDS (all of which are referenced in this flick). And, if anyone's seen the 1965 flick FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! then DEATH PROOF will strike a certain familiarity. Kurt Russell does a deliciously villainous turn as the scarred Stuntman Mike who applies his death-proofed vehicle to do away with gorgeous females. But he makes the worst mistake of his life when he picks on fellow stuntperson Zoe Bell (who doubled for Uma Thurman in KILL BILL and who, here, plays herself).
With respect to the very natural Zoe Bell and her awesome ship's mast stunt, to me, the one to watch is Sydney Poitier (yes, it's his daughter) who plays the casually sexy Jungle Julia, she of the ravishing feet. Meanwhile, Rosario Dawson again can't help but sizzle on screen, while the very pouty-lipped Vanessa Ferlito... pouts her lips. If you're into extended dialogue which bears that distinctive Tarantino flourish, then the first half of this film is right up your alley because it's all significantly verbal and catered to the gentler sex - "gentler" being qualified here in that f-bombs are dropped with relished abandon. However, if you're an action fan, just wait 'til the second half because, then, Tarantino not only pulls out the stop signs, he smashes you in the mouth with 'em.
I have to mention the quartet of coming attraction trailers which ran in the theater. They ranged from the hilarious (MACHETE - "He just f***ed with the wrong Mexican!") to cliched shlock (DON'T and WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS) to vaguely disturbing (I don't even want to know what was going on in Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING). MACHETE's faux trailer was so outrageous that it inspired an actual motion picture. There's also an ad for some kind of Tex-Mex restaurant with dubious shots of its menu samples, which made me queasy just looking at 'em.
Rodriguez and Tarantino, in their celebation of exploitation films, inject GRINDHOUSE with their exuberance and subversive humor and their love for shlocky cinema. By doing so, they elevate this film tiers above the basement genre of their intended tribute. Their gifts for crafting cinematic icons are again on display as Cherry Darling, Stuntman Mike, and Zoe Bell - à la the Bride or El Mariachi - have become film cult figures. At three hours long, yeah, my bum did fall asleep, but it's a small price to pay to gain admittance into blissfully trashy paradise.
And despite the great job of the other actors and the great look of the film, this has something missing that was also missing (unfortunately) from "Machete" which could also have been a blast. There's a hole of some kind at the middle of Rodriguez's movies, something missing. They 'grind' on you, or should I say they grind you down. Despite all of the attempted humor and kookiness, they are just too heavy is some inexplicable way. (Sin City survives well though.)