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.

Double Bill #01: 2001: A Space Odyssey & A Clockwork Orange

In 1968 and 1971 master director Stanley Kubrick released his two best movies as far as I’m concerned. 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange are both as perfect as films can be. They are also linked in an interesting way and therefore I thought it would be appropriate to couple them for this first edition of my new feature ‘Double Bill’. The connection is as follows; In 2001 we witness the next phase of evolution for mankind. This civilization appears to be peaceful and focussed on deploying technology to improve society for the better. In A Clockwork Orange on the other hand, we witness a society much like our own in which many people are still little more than violent savages. There is a shot of main hooligan Alex that is visually very similar to one of 2001’s angry apes. We are really not yet that evolved and the space age is still a distant dream. This point is made abundantly clear in the very beginning when Alex and his three droogs batter an old homeless drunk nearly to death just for kicks. “What kind of world is it at all? Men on the moon. Men spinning around the world. And there’s not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more”, the man tells them before the beating and he is right. Another link or rather similarity is the magnificent use of classical music. One of 2001’s highlights is the space waltz on Strauss’s The Blue Danube.

The cinematography alone of these immense, beautiful objects floating in space is breathtaking and then this beautiful music added to it makes this a unique accomplishment in cinema. Kubrick wanted to create a non-verbal experience that did not rely on the traditional techniques of narrative cinema, and in which music would play a vital role in evoking particular moods. Alex would certainly approve. Only he imagines quite different imagery when he listens to his favorite symphonies by Beethoven. In A Clockwork Orange too, many of the best scenes feature fantastic classical tracks that effectively enchant the viewer. Every time I watch these movies, the images and music stay in my mind for weeks afterwards. Another reason to appreciate these films is the intelligence of the screenplays. For instance, HAL9000 is still today – more than 50 years later – the finest depiction of machine intelligence in a film. And A Clockwork Orange treats various themes like free will, politics and good versus evil in a fascinating way. But what these films do absolutely better than any before or since is depicting what mankind is really capable of, both in the very good and the very bad sense. Humanity at its most beautiful and most terrible (and with A Clockwork Orange sometimes a twisted combination of both). An amazing feat by a director who is still unsurpassed in his skill and dedication.