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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

2-Disc Collector's Edition
(HMV Exclusive)


Starring: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Kurt Russell and Rosario Dawson
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Available 18 October 2010

The double feature 'grindhouse' was an artist labour of love, but a relative financial failure, probably because the genre grew out of the death of vaudeville, leaving many theatres showing cheap, poor quality, quickly made features. Although this may have been a part of some of the audience’s teenage memories, these memories were particularly urban American, which did not travel well. That didn’t stop Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez giving the idea a punt.

Grindhouse (2007) is actually two films, Planet Terror (1 hr, 31 min, 08 sec) and Death Proof (1 hr, 40 min, 04 sec), these times include the fake ‘coming soon' trailers for Werewolf Women of the SS (1 min, 49 sec), Don’t (1 min, 18 sec), Machete (2 min, 26 sec) and the Thanksgiving Trailer (2 min, 25 sec) - with optional commentary from Eli Roth and Jeff Rendell - plus the intermission and coming soon cards. Because of the poor sales the films were originally released separately, so here for the first time on Blu-ray the films are presented as they were meant to be seen, with all their accompanying accoutrements. The film which typically fell under the genre of Grindhouse were usually exploitation films, therefore Tarantino took the road movie, Rodriguez gave us zombies.

A discussion of the qualities of the two-disc Blu-ray package has to take into account that the films have been digitally treated to look old and decrepit, even so compared to the DVD release there is more colour depth and definition in the 1080p picture. The films are presented in 19:9 although the original has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. You have a pretty decent English Dolby digital 5.1 audio track with captions and subtitles plus English for the hard of hearing

Planet of Terror, directed by Robert Rodriguez does little that is original, as far as story is concerned, squarely in schlock Zombieland with a tale of human survivors battling against the lumbering hoards, but its lack of narrative originally is in perfect tune with the Grindhouse concept. Planet of Terror is a love letter to poor film making with its unexpected close ups, a thin plot about survivors of a viral outbreak. What does set it apart from even most of the exploitation films that I have seen is the completely over the top effects, from the comic book shootings, with buckets of spurting blood to the decidedly stomach churning, visceral, bolus’s of pus which the zombies create. Be warned I watched this one while eating and quickly regretted the combination.

Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino is his personal homage to the serial killer film, many have said that this was the better of the two films, but I have to disagree. Planet of Terror uses all the genre tricks of its subject to create a fun ride, Tarantino, on the other hand can’t quite get away from his encyclopedic knowledge of films, and the references to sixties ‘B’ movies are woven together with a little too much artistry to really make it as bad a film as it should have been to be called Grindhouse.

The extras on the first disc consist of the audience Reaction Track (Full Length) is a bit of an oddity as it plays the reactions of a film audience, I suppose that it’s useful for anyone who wants a cinema experience at home, but in truth it’s a gimmicky piece, which loses its appeal pretty quickly. Rodriguez’s full length commentary is fine if a little reserved and covers the slightly lopsided way that he approached the construction of the film, interspersed with amusing and potentially fatal anecdotes.

The second disc is where the bulk of the extras reside and although some have appeared before the number is pretty overwhelming. The menus for the extras divide them up between the two films and an all new Grindhouse bonus.

Planet of Terror

10 Minute Film School (11 min, 50 sec HD) narrated by Rodriguez. The featurette takes a look at the filming of the leg gun, including raw footage animatics, the composite and the final shot, which gives an idea of how much work goes into making a new film look aged.

The Badass Babes of Planet Terror (11 min, 49 sec) takes a look at the casting of the central female cast. Including contributions from all the female cast. Rodriguez freely admits how much the characters of the actors determined the scripts outcome.

The Guys of Planet Terror (16 min, 30 sec) and this is a companion piece to the girls bit, covering much the same material.

Casting Rebel (5 min, 38 sec) wherein Rodriguez admits to deciding to traumatise his own child, Rebel, instead of picking on someone else’s kid. Given his age his son hasn’t seen the film and thinks that he didn’t die in the movie. When he finds out, his dad has a lot of explaining to do. With contribution from, among others, the director and his well balanced son.

Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror (13 min, 16 sec) and we are offered more behind the scenes footage of the stunt men at work, covering everything from large explosions to shootings and stabbings; it’s all fun for these guys

The Friend, the Doctor, and the Real Estate Agent (6 min, 40 sec) and Rodriguez discuss casting his own friend in a small but memorable role. Having cast his friend he went on to cast his own Dr Felix to play Dr Felix, not content he cast his estate agent as the bar manager.

Planet Terror Poster Gallery has the lobby cards for the film including Machete.

Death Proof

Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (20 min, 39 sec) Tarantino gathered together a lot of old school stunt people to create stunts which were really filmed at eighty to one hundred miles an hour, including some of the main sequences in the film.

Quentin's Greatest Collaborator - Editor Sally Menke (4 min, 36 sec) is homage to Quentin’s long time collaborator, though much of the sequence involves people saying hello to Sally in a montage of unused footage, well worth a spin.

The Guys of Death Proof (8 min, 14 sec) much like the earlier feature this covers the male cast.

Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (9 min, 32 sec) and it’s a love letter to Kurt Russell covering how Tarantino wanted Russell in his film as a John Carpenter icon, including a look at how much of the driving was done by Russell himself.

Finding Quentin's Gals (21 min, 13 sec) there’s little doubt that the casting of the girls is pretty much near perfect. The feature has Tarantino explaining how and why he chose to dole out the various roles. There is some footage in the piece that hasn’t made it into any of the released versions, so there’s an extended director's cut waiting to be put together.

The uncut version of "Baby, It's You" by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (1 min, 46 sec).

Introducing Zoë Bell (8 min, 57 sec) and it’s a love letter, this time for Ms Bell, a very talented stunt woman, with loads of shots of her doing her thing.

Double Dare Trailer (2 min, 34 sec) Double Dare is a documentary which looks at the work of stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, amongst others.

This section closes with the Death Proof Poster Gallery and the extended musical cues 10 min, 26 sec).

The third section of extras is under the umbrella title of Grindhouse Bonus, for those of you that haven’t already gone blind from watching the extremely generous extras so far. Once again they are separated between the two features, so starting with Planet Terror we have:-

10 Minute Cooking School (8 min, 30 sec HD) where Rodriguez takes you through what you need for the perfect Texas BBQ.

The Makeup Effects of Planet Terror (12 min, 02 sec) and like the main feature this is not something you should watch whilst eating as Greg Nicotero takes us through the various stages of postulation and liquefaction.

Under Death Proof we kick off with The Hot Rods of Death Proof (11 min, 46 sec) which takes a look at what made a classic car chase great and how previous attempts determined the type of chase which ended up in Death Proof.

From Texas to Tennessee - The Production Design of Death Proof (8 min, 01 sec) and although its a short piece, there is a lot of depth here looking at the influences which were drawn upon when designing the film.

The extras continue with...

New York Times Talk with Lynn Hirschberg (1 hr, 04 min, 36 sec) wherein Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino discuss their friendship and mutual love for films, even bad ones and how this led to the Grindhouse project. The piece ends in a Q&A.

Comic Con 2006 (23 min, 35 sec) and chance to see the guys talking about the film, life and the universe, not dissimilar to the last feature.

Hobo with a Shotgun (2 min) and we have yet another spoof trailer.

The disc is a HMV exclusive, and about as comprehensive a look at a film as you can get, it’s not often that a reviewer starts to think that the extras are moving into the overkill zone. It’s worth getting even if you bought the separate releases, but what you will make of a cultural even which happened to only a small minority is anyone’s guess. If I had to say which film I like best then it would be Planet Terror, Tarantino struggles to make a bad picture, which wasn’t really the point of the exercise.


Charles Packer

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