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Soundtrack Review

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Grindhouse: Planet Terror
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(2018 Vinyl Release)


Composer: Robert Rodriguez
Artists: Various
Label: Varèse Sarabande
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Release Date: 21 April 2018

Varèse Sarabande releases the soundtrack to the Robert Rodriguez modern Grindhouse movie Planet Terror for the first time on record, in transparent white vinyl. The movie was a double feature alongside Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. They were working together on a project but subsequently took an idea each and put them out simultaneously under the Grindhouse main title. The score was composed by Rodriguez, with contributions from Carl Thiel (who worked on the Dusk Till Dawn TV series), Graeme Revell (who took a hand to The Crow and Sin City), songs from Rose McGowan (who starred in the films), with additional music from Nouvelle Vague  (which certainly lets down the whole) and Chingon (which achieves the opposite).

Let me start by saying that Planet Terror is an infinitely better film than Death Proof. It’s gritty, action-packed, exaggerated without being too insanely over-the-top, humorous, incorporates a potential victim female who becomes a leg-toting and fearless Ripley-like get it done gal – oh, and it has a pretty good soundtrack, too. The best way to describe the overall sound is an electric Spaghetti Western with New Romantic-like electronic synthesisers forming much of the linking pieces between the action.

It’s worth giving a special stand-out mention to the 'Grindhouse Main Theme' and 'Cherry’s Dance of Death' (the first and last-but-one tracks). Both incorporate the central theme of down-tuned electric guitar and shrieking trumpet sample. The first adds something akin to Arabian pipes into the mix, whereas the latter by Chingon brings a Mexican feel to the grungy driving music. Chingon (which I believe means ‘Bad Ass’ in Spanish) are badly underutilised here. They were on the soundtrack to Tarantino’s Kill Bill 2, and anyone who watched the extras documentary about them would surely have been blown away by their unique mix of traditional Mexican guitars and the Western culture of modern electric guitar. It works really well. Chingon have a CD called Mexican Spaghetti Western; check it out.

The main theme is returned to a few times but avoids outstaying its welcome by means of a slightly different version each time. Aside from the aforementioned tracks, 'Go Go Not Cry Cry' incorporates hints of this within an extended grinding guitar and over-driven shrieking. 'Zero to Fifty in Four' is a good driving version with no trimmings, 'The Ring in the Jacket' uses piano to ring in the main theme with a synth beat. Then there is 'His Prescription …Pain', which is a John Carpenter-like tapping synth with a slight hint of the main theme in the background.

This brings me to the synthesiser side of the score. You can’t hear styles like this without invoking the mostly brilliant film music of John Carpenter. 'Police Station Assault' sounds very similar to Ghosts of Mars. El Wray has the clattering reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13 or the opening bars of Chariots of Fire. It returns for an eerie electronic reprise in the track 'Dakota'. Electronic drums and synth accompany 'Useless Talent #32', one of the three songs sung by Rose McGowan. 'You Belong to Me' is a cover of the Jo Stafford original from the 1950s, with underlying steel guitar. The other is 'Two Against the World'. She is supposed to sound sexy and sultry but to me just sounds like she’s forgotten her inhaler!

'Melting Member' is the only piece which actually has an old school film score orchestral feel. The mix here is generally electric and Mexican guitars in a Spaghetti Western style, Bluesy guitar, saxophone and harmonica, and synthesised and sampled music and noise. There is plenty to enjoy here for those who prefer actual music to enhance the movement of the film, rather than bland and meaningless orchestral squeaks. This will certainly appeal to collectors of limited vinyl, too. If you haven’t seen the film check it out. It’s all those things said in the first paragraph!


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Ty Power