March 25, 2016

Welcome to the “Grindhouse” Revival

Back in 2006, filmmakers and friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, hot off the success of Kill Bill and Sin City (and also Rodriguez’s infamous, well-intentioned misfire that was The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D) – announced a team-up in the form of an anthology film unlike any other at that point. And that collaboration resulted in Grindhouse, a three hour sleazy, thrilling, rock-n-rollin’ love letter to the age of exploitation cinema double bills, complete with fake trailers for audacious genre films from the likes of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright. However, after months of fan buildup, Grindhouse opened Easter weekend 2007 to little fanfare and a quiet demise at the box office. No one was sure why Grindhouse went the same route as 2006 online heavies Snakes on a Plane and James Gunn’s Slither, but it did. Overseas, the films were divided and found somewhat better success, with Tarantino’s Death Proof in contention for the Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and appearing in Cahiers du Cinéma as one of the best films of 2007 while Rodriguez’s Planet Terror worked its way into the hearts and stomachs of genre fans as a new cult classic.


Over the majority of this week leading into Easter, at the Tarantino owned New Beverly Cinema – if you love movies and haven’t been here, you need to change that as soon as you can – Grindhouse will be screened in the days leading up to Tarantino’s 53rd birthday on the 27th. This isn’t the first time Grindhouse has screened at the New Beverly, either in its original theatrical release or the separate international edits of Planet Terror and Death Proof, but what makes this a little different from a normal presentation of the film is that this consists of the international edits being screened together for the first time along with the fake trailers in-between the films and an Intermission film snipe personally selected from Tarantino’s vast 35mm library to remind you how much time you have left to fit in a trip to the bathroom and the concession stand before the trailer for Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS – for those who missed the film in its original run, the trailer, much like the entire experience, is something that has to be seen to be believed. And how do the “complete” versions of each film play together?


The experience leading up to the actual screening set another New Beverly standard, for staters. When picking up my ticket to this sold-out event, I was given a free booklet, reproductions of the original Japanese programs for paying customers. Anyone who’s been to a screening of The Hateful Eight at the New Beverly in the last three months will know the staff and management go the extra mile in terms of the goodies ticket holders get, be it programs or reproductions of lobby cards . Before the movie, we were treated to an old “Merry Melodies” cartoon featuring Porky Pig and Sylvester the Cat spending the evening in an old house that feels straight out of William Castle’s morbid brand of humor followed by three trailers that got where they were either in first run or rerelease thanks to Tarantino’s support. And then that familiar “Dimension Films” logo appeared.


As for the films themselves: this inarguably is the best way to experience Grindhouse in a theater. I’ve always felt since first seeing both films’ extended cuts that those were the ones that made better film watching experiences. The original cuts in Grindhouse are fun and perfectly evoke the feeling and spirit of the 1970s double bill, but but their extended counterparts showcased more character development, heart (literally, in Planet Terror’s case) and some of the creepiest and funniest moments in either director’s oeuvre. If my own two cents is worth anything to anyone, I think Death Proof is the stronger of the two films, especially in its complete form, and I don’t say this as someone with an admitted bias towards favoring Quentin Tarantino movies.

Planet Terror is the epitome of sleazy fun with its Carpenter-influenced plotting and synth score and the entire cast is having a ball hamming it up while slathered in buckets of movie blood or zombie makeup AND the buckets of movie blood, but there comes a point where things become so absurd, it feels less like an exploitation film tribute and more like a pastiche of exploitation tropes that’s in danger of veering into parody – I realize we’re talking about a gooey zombie movie where a go-go dancer loses a leg that’s replaced with a machine-gun with an infinite round of bullets and explosives and effectively becomes a savior in the middle of the apocalypse, but still – whereas Death Proof feels like it would snuggly fit in between a double bill of Jack Hill’s Shakespearian-meets-troubled girl gang epic Switchblade Sisters and Meir Zarchi’s notorious rape-and-revenge I Spit On Your Grave from its Argento-tinged color scheme to the pulse-pounding car crashes and chases that most action directors of today would be wise to take notes on. And of course, the soundtrack. Saying a Quentin Tarantino movie has a great soundtrack is expected at this point, but he and his music producers really went above and beyond giving Death Proof it’s era replicating sound.


To make a long story short: If you live in Los Angeles and want to experience Grindhouse in a whole new way that gives you a new appreciation for the medium and the cinematic experience, make you way to the New Beverly lines early either tonight or tomorrow, get a ticket and a good seat and have the best four hour experience one can possibly have at a revival theater with a likeminded audience ready to laugh, scream, feel grossed out and share the same memories and experiences with you. You won’t regret it.

Rating: A+

About the Author

William Coffey
William is a first time film blogger, full time cinema enthusiast. When he's not writing about film, he's using his time to work on a number of screenplays and various op-eds about the state of film. He currently lives in Los Angeles.


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