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DVD Review

Planet Terror


Starring: Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton and Jeff Fahey
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 18
Available 10 March 2008

When an arms deal involving bio-weapons goes seriously wrong, a deadly green gas escapes into the air. The hospital receives an unusually high number of patients infected with a quickly spreading virulent virus. When the dead reanimate themselves to feed on the bodies of the living, killing and infecting others, the contagion escalates out of all proportion. The sheriff and his deputy reluctantly accept the help of returning local bad boy, El Wray and his old flame, ex-go go dancer Cherry Darling. When Cherry loses her leg after a roadside confrontation, she resigns herself to her fate, but El Wray believes in her and invents a novel way for her to be the saviour of them all...

Filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino come together to produce a retro-style bubblegum violent action movie double-bill under the collective title Grindhouse, where the proposed two hour-long shorts soon turned into a couple of feature-length pieces, one from each director. So what we have on this two-disc release is the former's Planet Terror, a violent zombie horror flick with plenty of dark humour.

I've never really appreciated most of the 1970s Grindhouse stuff; generally, they are dull and lifeless, with graphic depictions of gore for the sake of gore and no thought for logical plot or pacing. In contrast, Planet Terror is a fun modern depiction of that era and sub-genre. There is plenty of attention to detail here and therefore a great deal to appreciate. I got the distinct impression this was a labour of love for writer/director Rodriguez, because the effort really shows up on the screen.

We the audience are offered this genre-crossing venture as it might have been seen in a dingy cinema back in the seventies, or in the case of America, perhaps a larger-than-life drive-in experience. First off we get a trailer for Tarantino's segment, Death Proof. Then we are told we are about to see the feature presentation. It's curious that in an age of painstakingly remastered old films that the dirtying-down of this one succeeds so well. There are added scratch lines and celluloid-like sound marks, at times the film appears to flicker or jump, there is a one-off wash of colour and even the representation of the film burning through. At this point, we join the action at what would be the start of the next reel.

This is an action, horror, military, medical, road movie, comedy, with a multitude of elaborate stunts and around 450 seamless special effects. The main characters are "real" people with believable agendas. Nearly everyone has depth which begins to emerge at desperate times. Freddy Rodriguez plays the sultry James Dean rebel, El Wray, and Rose McGowan is particularly good as the machine gun-legged dancer turned action hero, Cherry Darling. Among the cast you'll also spot roles for Bruce Willis, Naveen (Lost) Andrews, Quentin Tarantino and famous horror make-up effects artist, Tom Savini.

Special features are plentiful over the two discs. Disc one contains a Commentary by writer/director Robert Rodriguez; the option to view the film with an Audience reaction Track; footage from Comic Con 2008 with directors & cast of Grindhouse; a Poster Gallery and two Trailers. Disc two contains 10 Minute Film School (showing how the machine gun leg is achieved, as well as the film ageing effects; Badass Babes of Planet Terror; The Guys of Planet Terror; Casting Rebel (the real life young son of Robert Rodriguez); Sickos, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror; and The Friend, the Doctor and the Real Estate Agent.

For me this was a surprisingly enjoyable experience of mindless fun. The humour is extremely good in places, my favourite exchange being between the Marley Shelton character and her son:

 "I want you to take the gun and if anyone comes that isn't me, I want you to shoot them in the head."

 "What if it's dad?"

 "Especially if it's dad."


Ty Power

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