Your mind just goes to the craziest idea to lure people into the theatre and then you write your script around those elements”, says Robert Rodriguez, describing the modus operandi he used to put together Planet Terror – the movie within the meta-movie Grindhouse that he and his buddy and partner Quentin Tarantino most recently collaborated on. So the movie consists of two films, connected by four trailers – made by Eli Roth of Hostel fame, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Robert Rodriguez himself – for films that have never even been made! The whole idea was to duplicate the films that the Grindhouse Theatres ran – mostly B movie double features – and the ambience they created. And in order to go the whole hog and retain the authenticity, the two movies even have the look and feel of the ones that they are paying homage to – in other words, there are scratches, breaks and all sorts of other elements that, if you have seen any of the stuff they are on about, you will recognize instantly.

For those that aren’t aware, Grindhouse Theatres were the ones in the downtown areas of cities in the US in the 50s, 60s and 70s that ran B grade genre movies of the sort that the big studios wouldn’t have anything to do with – usually dominated by sex and gore, with garish posters that promised a whole lot more than would actually be on the screen. The theatres themselves were havens for the winos and homeless bums. As Tarantino says: “Grindhouses were usually in the ghetto or they were the big old downtown theatres that sometimes stayed open all night long, for all the bums. The Grindhouse that I went to, every week there was a new kung-fu movie, or new car-chase movie, or new sexploitation movie, or blaxploitation movie.”

I really dug the films – Death Proof in particular – for a variety of reasons – being a Tarantino fan, among them. I’m not even getting close to describing it, or Planet Terror, for that matter, except to say that I thought Planet Terror was a wee bit over the top. But then, that’s just me, who’s not a huge fan of the zombie genre. I am however, in awe of Rodriguez’s creative and technical abilities. This guy does just about everything – from conceiving, writing the screenplay and most the music (picking the rest), shooting, editing – you name it! Tarantino is in the same league, although I doubt he writes music. Actually, Rodriguez was meant to be the cinematographer on Death Proof, but convinced Tarantino that he could handle it himself, and for the first time ever, Tarantino was the cinematographer on his own film. The duo are classic and it is really wonderful that fate, or whatever, determined that they should meet and collaborate.

Spoiler Alert

The car chase scene in Death Proof will be, Tarantino hopes (in an interview with Total Film), “one of the greatest car chaces ever made. I’ll take top three”. The plot centers on a sociopathic stuntman, Mike, played by Kurt Russell, who stalks and kills chicks with his car – a customised job that can withstand just about any punishment. Brilliantly filmed and with Zoe Bell (Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill double) playing herself and excelling to such an extent that Tarantino says,  “..if I did an action movie again it would be foolhardy not to cast her”. Suffice it to say that all you ‘liberated’ ladies out there who brook no shit from no one, will surely dig this movie – oh, and you mustn’t be squeamish, okay?

Planet Terror is a whole other kettle of gore, with the plot revolving around a small town in Texas where a biochemical weapon is released from an abandoned military base which results in the infected residents crowding the local hospital. Horrifyingly, the victims’ bodies start to rot and they metamorphose into bloodthirsty zombies! And that’s not all that’s on the ‘mindblower’ menu, Rose McGowan, who loses most of a leg in the initial action, ends up having a machine gun attached to her stump – and what havoc she wreaks with it! I won’t say more – in case you will watch.

The movie(s) was released as one movie – a double-feature, as in the old Grindhouse days. However, perhaps with the less than expected returns on the initial run, they have been re-released as individual movies, so the DVDs available on the local market will probably have them as individual movies. If you are a fan of either Tarantino or Rodriguez, or both, check this effort out – you will not be disappointed. If you’re not, don’t bother.

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