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Death Proof (2007)
… Sydney Poitier as Jungle Julia
Planet Terror (2007)
What is a Grindhouse?
“Grind House” – noun – A downtown movie theater – in disrepair since its glory days as a movie palace of the ’30s and ’40s – known for “grinding out” non-stop double-bill programs of B-movies. From groundbreaking directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez comes the ultimate film experience: a double-bill of thrillers that will recall both filmmakers’ favorite exploitation films. Grindhouse will be presented as one full-length feature comprised of two individual films helmed separately by each director. Tarantino’s film, Death Proof, is a rip-roaring slasher flick where the killer pursues his victims with a car rather than a knife, while Rodriguez’s film explores an alien world eerily familiar to ours in Planet Terror. Welcome to the Grindhouse – it’ll tear you in two!
It was announced in July 2006 that Grindhouse, two totally different films by each director, would go into production to be played back-to-back a year later on the silver screen. “We’re going to make two, sleazy grindhouse movies that will deliver on the posters..and beyond! This isn’t some Twilight Zone: The Movie fucking thing. This is not a faux double feature. This is two fucking movies for the price of one! You’re $10 will be well spent at the Grindhouse, baby!” said Quentin Tarantino.
After being given a budget of about 50 million from the Weinstein Company and tons of excitement, the first movie of the two; Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, went into production. After he had the general idea and of a “zombie movie” in his head for years (he even wrote the first script draft shortly after 1998′s The Faculty), he had officially started casting based on a shorter version of the script. After filming througout the summer of 2006, Planet Terror was ready for editing which is where Rodriguez went in to do the rest of his work. Leaving Tarantino in Texas filming.
Shortly after wrapping Terror, Quentin and his gang began finalizing Death Proof. Like Rodriguez, he was so inspired by some of his actresses that he was able to complete his script and move in to shoot very quickly. Quentin casted Vanessa Ferlito after being so intrigued by this quirky actress after seeing her in On_Line and after remembering Sydney Tamiia Poitier from her multiple previous QT project auditions (she tryed out for Kill Bill and CSI) he imediately saw her physicallity for the role of Jungle Julia. Quentin invisioned this tall, Amazonian, beautiful physique. He states that not many roles seek out for Sydney’s appearance which is just that; a 5′ 11″ Amazonian like beauty with long black hair. So while he finished writing the role of Jungle Julia and Death Proof he was always writing it for her. After a proper audition, Sydney instantly got the part. Both films budget’s were split 50/50. Death Proof is a classic Tarantino film. Down to it’s killer Austin soundtrack, sexy and diverse female leads, and witty, often long dialogue. Planet Terror and Death Proof were polar opposites except for the ‘same-actor cameo’ now and then.
Faux Trailers, Machine Gun Legs and a History Lesson
“Groundbreaking directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are back! But this time they’re back-to-back!” Read posters everywhere. The gruesome twosome had reunited to bring what would become an instant cult classic. Grindhouse movies were traditionally a sleaze-filled saga film ride. Two insanely sick and twisted B (hell, you might even say D) movies which were to crazy for the local cinema. The films were made with little or no attention to quality or artistic merit but with the sole eye to turn a quick profit, usually via high-pressure sales and promotion techniques emphasizing some sensational aspect of the product – for instance; the machine gun leg on a hot actress would be seen as a “exploidable” element.
“Exploitation” films feature forbidden sex, wanton violence, drug use, nudity, freaks, gore, monsters, destruction, rebellion and mayhem. Such films have existed since the earliest days of moviemaking, but they were popularized in the 1960s with the general relaxing of cinematic taboos in the US and Europe. Since the 1990s, this genre has also received attention from academic circles, where it is sometimes called paracinema.
Some popular Grindhouse titles include Chain Gang Women (1974), Superchick (1973), Don’t Answer the Phone (1980), Women in Cages (1971) and Coffy (1973) among several others. Some of the most popular Grindhouse film stars are Pam Grier and Sid Haig. Companies would often use the same actors in different titles and then double-bill them.
While Grindhouse films mostly flew under the radar until Tarantino and Rodriguez reignited the “franchise” with their announcement and plans for Grindhouse, if you did get to experierence Grindhouse films in their prime (1960s-early 1980s) you were treated to babes, boobs, blood, explosions and more. The movies that were featured at Grindhouse theatres (also Drive-ins) would usually ship from New York to California through out a year. The movie that started of in NY was not the same film by the time it hit California. The reason being for the “missing reels”. Theatre workers would often ‘slice’ out the film’s frames, the scene could be a high octane chase at the brink of finding out “who the bad guy is” and it would cut of for 30 seconds of so with a note saying “Missing reel, appologies from Management” only to cut back on minutes later and you see everyone is all friends. A serious case of “What the fuck just happened?!”. Or sometimes even more disapointing for some – a leading lady strips down to her birthday suit or a sexy scene would often get nipped right on out – as Death Proof actress Rosario Dawson put it “Ohh, Pam Grier takes her tom off here … *snip* *snip*.” The prints would also get so damaged and the quality degraded, the movie would have tons of dust, ‘scratches’ ‘pops’ and ‘crackles’, sometimes the entire print would be washed out in a magenta/reddish color (like a scene done on purpose with Rose McGowan and Quentin Tarantino in Planet Terror.) To emulate this ‘effect’ Robert and Quentin deliberately ruined their prints with CGI and special effects, and even going as far as removing entire scenes for the “missing reel” segments and most drastically, when Robert Rodriguez completed the script for Planet Terror he cut out 10 minutes! They even brought on their director buddies Eli Roth (Hostel), Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) to helm faux trailer segments along with the already cut Machete trailer (by Rodriguez) which would be seen before and in between the film (of course after the real previews). The duo said they wanted not only give audiences their money’s worth, but give them the total Grindhouse film experience.
Cut to the year 2007. Grindhouse is in the can, online sites are gearing up for mega promotions, there is plenty of excitement in the air when the bomb is dropped. Grindhouse a film that has took every step to be a legit “Grindhouse” motion picture will be split in two?! Variety reported that since the double-bill concept is alien to many filmgoers around the world, Grindhouse was be going out as two pics in some parts of the globe, while the US and a few other English-speaking territories will see it as one singular experience. But most non-English-speaking territories have little tradition of a Grindhouse double bill. So the central conceit of the film – two short exploitation films, separated by faux trailers for upcoming cheapies – would be lost. Thus the fases of Grindhouse seperation began.
After being released in the United States on it’s scheduled April 6th 2007, as two films back-to-back it turned out as though American audiences didn’t hack it and Grindhouse flopped miserably at the Box Office. “Although the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez B-movie double feature Grindhouse seemed to have the most buzz going into the Easter weekend, there didn’t seem to be an audience willing to sit through three plus hours of the filmmakers’ tribute to B-exploitation movies, as it failed to dethrone last week’s returning movies and a new comedy sequel starring Ice Cube,” said ComingSoon.net. “Despite an abundance of media coverage, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature Grindhouse opened with just $5 million on Friday struggling to $11.5 million over the weekend, less than half what many expected the movie to make based on Tarantino and Rodriguez’s past track record. Opening in fourth place, Grindhouse is unlikely to make back its reported $53 million production budget in theatres, at least not in the US.”
While the film contiuned to barely make it’s money back in the US and a shorter list of expanded countries, Grindhouse was being recieved as one of the best films of the year for it’s sheer energy, originality and – dare I say – awesomeness? Most critics and the fans who did see the movie, not only got the concept, but loved it and begged for more! Fans shrieked for sequels, or to have the faux trailers made into actual motion pictures. While it seemed unlikely there was some things to wet the thirsty appetites; Robert Rodriguez announced he would be making Machete over the summer and Eli Roth taunted about making Thanksgiving a full film. Instead, he settled on his next project, Trailer Trash, A full length movie compiled of nothing but faux trailers, inspired by the Grindhouse idea. Rumor is he’s even considering allowing fellow friends/directors to make their own like he was got the privellage to with Grindhouse. Critics ate up Grindhouse with a spoon, hailing Q & R and the cast as well. Critics and audiences ate up Jungle Julia and Sydney in the role! Going as far to claim she was one of the most original, interesting and badass chicks on screen in history.
After the film was eventually split – becoming Grindhouse Presents: Death Proof and Grindhouse Presents: Planet Terror officially, the movies saw some success overseas and on DVD releases. Robert Rodriguez said on his Planet Terror DVD commentary that there would, in fact, be a double edition of Grindhouse DVD to come out soon. To the true fans, it seems the concept wouldn’t be lost after all!
Still, after the continuing unfortunate Box Office results, it seemed as though Grindhouse succeeded in the one thing it always meant to do. No, It didn’t blow the ceiling of the “Grindhouse” films franchise, but it did ignite interest. It didn’t make loads of dough and catapult actors into worldwide fame but it did do this – It will remain a cult favorite, not unlike, well, Grindhouse films.
The Double-Bill Films