Double Bill #02: Grindhouse (Planet Terror & Death Proof)

This was the first time I saw the Rodriguez / Tarantino double feature as it was originally intended: back to back and with fake trailers in between. Originally, I saw the films separately when they came out in 2007 in an open air cinema on Crete. This was a special experience in itself and I really liked the movies. So what is the real authentic Grindhouse experience like? Well, what do you think? It kicks complete ass! It starts with the Machete trailer, which is so good they decided to actually make the movie. Then the first feature Planet Terror opens with that pole dancing sequence, the sexiest ever committed to celluloid. Rose McGowan is amazing as Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who’ll soon have a machine gun for a leg. Rodriguez’ his contribution is a bat shit crazy gory virus zombie splatterpiece, while the Tarantino film that follows is… well a masterful genre film (in this case a carsploitation-horror), like only the maestro knows how to make them. What’s beautiful is that the films actually go together like burgers and fries. Tarantino-Rodriguez is a unique partnership in the history of filmmaking and this is a once-in-a-lifetime project. The two films have a lot in common. Apart from the shared cast members, they feature lots of lethal ladies; girls who kick ass, though they also suffer a lot. The guys in the movies are mostly psychos. And one of them is unforgettable: Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike McKay. Another Tarantino-character made for the cinema wax museum. The Grindhouse versions of the films are cut a little shorter than the films released separately. Death Proof now also has a missing reel. Not coincidentally, it is the lap dance scene that is missing (Tarantino and Rodriquez are suggesting that a horny projectionist stole the reels, in Planet Terror a sex scene between Cherry and Wray is missing). Also, included in all gory glory are the fake movie trailers: Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, Edgar Wright’s Thanksgiving and Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. O man, cult cinema just doesn’t come any better than this.

QT8: The First Eight

I was 13 years old when I saw the video Reservoir Dogs at my local video store. There were – for me at the time – not many familiar actors in it. But the cover looked pretty cool with guys in suits with guns. Plus there was a lot of praise on it from critics, so I decided to give it a shot. I had no idea what to expect, but Jesus Christ was it a good movie! Ridiculously great filmmaking. One of the best movies I had seen at that point and to this day still.

It is funny to hear all these actors in the documentary QT8: The First Eight basically relate to the exact same experience. Tim Roth, shown while being carried in the warehouse by Harvey Keitel, remembers talking to Keitel about what they had just shot and saying: “Man, this is going to be a really great movie!” Keitel agreed.

Reservoir Dogs premiered on Cannes in 1992, very prestigious for a debut, and it was a great success. Everybody wanted to meet Quentin there and he became a movie making star overnight. Everybody said: “Can you believe this guy? He can write and direct and it’s sensational stuff.”

For a long time I was jealous of Tarantino. And when I watch this documentary I still am. I mean, wouldn’t it be something to be able to write screenplays like this guy? And this is also a shared emotion by many people interviewed for this doc. Talent like this is rare. Many people, including me, tried to write scripts like him. But to no avail.

His first screenplays – True Romance and Natural Born Killers – he had to sell to pay the rent. True Romance was originally told in non-chronological order Tarantino-style. Oh and the pop culture loving Clarence, basically Quentin’s alter ego – died at the end. Luckily Tony Scott changed that. At least I for one liked the happy ending.

Tarantino wanted to become a director, so he wrote a script that he could do on a low budget: Reservoir Dogs. Harvey Weinstein distributed the film. After that everybody in Hollywood wanted to work with him, but the Weinstein’s got to produce all his movies up until The Hateful Eight. Then the scandal broke out, and Tarantino – who according to Michael Madsen had known about Weinstein’s misconduct for some time (read Tarantino’s confession-story here) – switched to Sony for his ninth movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

And this Weinstein-business is the only major stain on Tarantino’s career. That, and pushing Uma Thurman to do a car stunt in Kill Bill, which went wrong causing permanent physical problems for her. No good, Mr. Quentin. But there is a lot to balance it out. He is described by everyone in the doc as a very nice guy who enjoys life, and appears to be a great friend for his many cronies.

Pulp Fiction, that followed Reservoir Dogs, is one of the masterpieces of the past 50 years. Michael Madsen, for whom the part of Vincent Vega was originally written, was committed to Wyatt Earp at that time. Nightmare! He takes it well, commenting on the extremely successful casting of John Travolta. “It is one of main reasons the movie worked.” Plus Travolta can dance and Madsen – who did a dance scene in Reservoir Dogs – can’t, at least in his own opinion. “They would have had to change the script into that they don’t win the dance contest.”

How do you follow up a masterpiece like Pulp? You don’t. Just make a very good genre film instead starring Pam Grier, queen of the blaxploitation movies Quentin went to see during his childhood. Jackie Brown is a beautiful film about people trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Then he made another genre film with a strong female lead, a mash-up between Hong Kong cinema and a spaghetti western. Kill Bill is an astonishing accomplishment. Bit of trivia: The razor the Bride uses to escape from the coffin in Vol. 2 is the same used by Mr. Blonde in the torture scene in Dogs. Everything is related in the Tarantino universe.

Then he went on to make another feministic movie with powerful girls in it. Death Proof is a clever slasher flick / carploitation movie shot by the maestro himself. With an unforgettable Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike. After that came his war movie effort. Inglourious Basterds is unlike any war film ever done before. It is storytelling at his best. Django Unchained is another historic film and it’s brutal. It might just be a little too funny for a film about slavery. But Tarantino likes to hand out justice to his characters. Hitler gets machine gunned to death in Basterds and in Django, the black hero – after having killed a ton of slavers – rides off into the sunset with his girl, an image you won’t find in many westerns.

The Hateful Eight, the final movie treated in this doc, is in a way Reservoir Dogs redone as western. Everything comes full circle. Even Weinstein’s story. Apparently John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (played by Kurt Russell) is based on the monstrous Weinstein. He gets a big fat lesson in the film. Tarantino said many times that he wants to quit at ten movies, because otherwise he fears the quality will go down and people will say: ‘This one is not so good, but this guy used to make great movies’. Let’s hope he will break his word and continue to make movies forever. His style and voice are unique and irreplaceable in Hollywood. Whatever happens, currently nine films are in the can. And I will certainly keep enjoying his work till the end of my days and share it with friends. When you absolutely, positively, want to blow away everybody motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.

Cult Radar: Part 9

FilmDungeon is glad to explore the video trenches to find that oddball treasure between the piles of crap out there. Of Course, a treasure in this context can also be a film that’s so shockingly bad it’s worth a look, or something so bizarre that cult fans just have to see it. Join us on our quest and learn what we learn. Hopefully we’ll uncover some well-hidden cult gems.

Researched by: Jeppe Kleijngeld

Tormented (UK, 2009)

Directed by: Jon Wright
Written by: Stephen Prentice
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, April Pearson, Dimitri Leonidas

Fat schoolboy Darren got bullied to the point where he committed suicide. Tormented opens at his funeral. Not only do Darren’s tormentors don’t have any regrets whatsoever, they even throw a party to celebrate his demise. That’s just too much… Soon after, each member of the group of bullies starts receiving text messages from the dead Darren. They first think that someone is playing a prank on them, but as soon as the first body drops, they know they’re totally screwed. Tormented is a very effective horror flick that is both funny and inventively satisfying. Whether you thought high school was fun or not, this will keep you entertained for an hour and a half easily. Reviewer Kim Newman, who runs a Dungeon over at Empire Magazine gave it four stars also. It’s a recommendation.

Nude Nuns with Big Guns (USA, 2010)

Directed by: Joseph Guzman
Written by: Joseph Guzman, Robert James Hayes II
Cast: Asun Ortega, David Castro, Perry D’Marco

Violence, drugs, guns, boobs and off course lesbian sex. Nude Nuns With Big Guns is an immoral cocktail delivered by Freak Show Entertainment, the team behind the similar Run Bitch Run!. An abused nun has a vision from God. She is told to slay all sinners that are somehow connected to an elaborate heroin network, led by a money hungry padre who uses naked nuns as personnel. Sister Sarah is not supposed to show any mercy and she doesn’t! Is this entertaining? It kind of is in the sense that it is well shot and cut. Your eventual appreciation of Nude Nuns With Big Guns will depend mostly on your tolerance for graphic sex and violence featuring nuns. If this is low, you can easily deduct a star from this rating.

Hobo with a Shotgun (Canada, 2011)

Directed by: Jason Eisener
Written by: John Davies, Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey

The awesome film poster promises an exploitation film pur sang and delivers. Hobo With a Shotgun was originally a fake trailer that won a Grindhouse competition organized by Robert Rodriguez. The story is about a homeless guy (Rutger Hauer) that takes on psychopathic scum in a city riddled with crime and depravity. Since it was made on a modest budget and has no Hollywood stars in its cast, it is more convincing than Tarantino’s and Rodriquez’ own Grindhouse pictures Death Proof and Planet Terror. The cheap violence gives you the real sense of watching a cult flick from the seventies. However, the sadistic violence is so excessive and beastly that it is hard to care about the characters at all, even the protagonists. The build-up is also not entirely effective; Hauer changes into a bloodthirsty vigilante in minutes, taking away some of the pleasure when he settles the score. Still, the underlying message about the human condition is well delivered and the exploitation feel is sublime; you can almost hear the exciting screams in the grindhouse theater. This hobo is certainly worth spending some loose change on.

Orcs! (USA, 2011)

Directed by: Andrew Black, James MacPherson
Written by: Anne K. Black, Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin and Justin Partridge
Cast: Adam Johnson, Renny Grames, Maclain Nelson

‘It’s an orc! No, it’s not. There is no such thing.’ A movie in which orcs show up in modern times sounds pretty horrendous. While certainly no masterpiece, Orcs! manages to entertain during its first half, which is basically a comedy about two idiot park rangers. Some jokes and The Lord of the Rings references are pretty funny. The second half is one long and tiresome battle against the orcs. This is the boring part. The costumes and special effects are laughable. All in all, don’t watch Orcs!. Just don’t!

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (USA, 1988)

Directed by: Stephen Chiodo
Written by: Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo, Stephen Chiodo
Cast: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson

From the special effects team behind Critters and Team America: World Police comes an original eighties classic. On a Friday night in Cove Crescent, a couple of youngsters witness a shooting star land nearby. At the place of impact, a circus tent appears, but what’s inside aint no funhouse… The acting in Killer Klowns From Outer Space may not be world class, but the production design is very well done and reason enough to check this out. It certainly beats cotton candy.