Django Unchained (left) & Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Django Unchained (left) & Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

It’s not always page-to-screen, you know. While DC Comics is still celebrating the successful conclusion of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the recent debut of the TV series ARROW, and the upcoming MAN OF STEEL, they’re also taking the process in the opposite direction, mounting graphic adaptations of two hot properties: the intense thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti-western reboot, Django Unchained.
While at New York Comic-Con, Dan Persons got a few minutes with DC co-publisher Dan DiDio to ask him about the motivations for this new project, and also threw in a question about the new, animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s revolutionary BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.


Tarantino to pen 'The Shadow'?

–PULP FICTION Director to Helm Pulp Hero Film As Well?–

Pajiba.com is reporting that Quentin Tarantino is going to  rewrite or co-write a script for THE SHADOW, now a 20th Century Fox project.TheShadow_DC
After the rights to the radio and pulp magazine character passed from Universal (whose 1994 film version underperformed) to Sony/Columbia, it was a project that Sam Raimi (SPIDER-MAN) developed for several years. Sony sold their rights to Fox, along with a script from Siavash Farahani, with Raimi attached as a producer, and David Slade (30 DAYS OF NIGHT) tentatively set to direct.
The site is speculating that Quentin Tarantino may be interested in directing the film, as well.
The Shadow began as a mysterious, mocking voice on the radio in 1930, as the host and narrator of Street & Smith’s Detective Story Hour. Detective Story was the publisher’s popular mystery magazine, and since radio programs at the time did not have federal copyright protection, and magazines did, they decided to launch the suddenly famous character in his own pulp (newsprint paper) title. 
The character seen in The Shadow Magazine was created by former newspaper reporter Walter B. Gibson. Writing as ‘Maxwell Grant’,  Gibson took the Shadow’s laugh from the radio, his appearance from the ‘Man in Black’  cloaked figures of Victorian (and older) literature, and gave him skills suggested from his own hobby of stage magic. Two big .45 automatics gave deadly weight to his vigilante crusade.
In 1937, a new radio series featured the Shadow in one of his several identies from the the pulp novels, Lamont Cranston.  Taking his ability to hide in the shadows a step further, the show granted him the “hypnotic power to cloud mens’ minds, so they cannot see him”. For vocal contrast, they created his “aide and companion, the lovely Margo Lane” — rather than pair him with one of his many male agents from the magazine. Orson Wells was the first Lamont Cranston, though former Shadow/narrator Frank Redick provided his opening and closing warnings and sardonic laughter. Brilliant actor that he was, Orson Welles could never master that chilling graveyard  chortle. Successors Bill Johnstone and Brett Morrison got it down to a science.
The Shadow ReturnsMovie versions included THE SHADOW STRIKES (1937) and INTERNATIONAL CRIME (1938) ,  both with Rod LaRoque as Lamont Cranston, and THE SHADOW (1940 chapterplay) starring Victor Jory.  Kane Richmond donned the mask in THE SHADOW RETURNS (1946), BEHIND THE MASK, and THE MISSING LADY. Richard Derr was the first film Shadow to actually turn invisible in 1958’s INVISIBLE AVENGER, put together from a failed attempt at a TV series.
Alec Baldwin tried on the slouch hat and cape in Russell Mulcahy’s THE SHADOW, but it proved to be a bad fit. The film suffered from an inconsisent approach, shifting from a serious tone to campy comedy from scene to scene, and never really jelling into anything memorable.
The Shadow has also appeared in newspaper strips and comic books on and off, from the 1940 through to today.

Inglourious Basterds – Fairy Tale Film Review

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is Quentin Tarantino’s grim and gruesome fairy tale version of WWII.

“Once upon a time.”
inglourious-basterds_pic2_mFour fun little words that are intended to let us know that we’re being led into a tale of fakery and many times sheer magical fantasy. You know, with talking animals or mystical creatures or such. Yet I’ve seen many a-film in which we’re supposed to get ready for a tale of the fantastic only to find that the tale never reaches passed commonality. Well, I’m pleased to say that as the summer is winding down I’ve seen a fairy tale fantasy that’s all wound up. It starts out like this: “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…”
Yep, I’m talkin’ about a little thing called INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (spelled that way simply as a signature of its author, Quentin Tarantino) and a wild & wooly tale it is. You want talking animals? You got ‘em…of a sort. We’ve got a mean & nasty commando unit that’s been sent behind enemy lines to brutally instill terror within Nazi hearts and souls; we’ve got a mean and nasty “Jew hunter” of a Nazi military detective assigned to hunt down hiding Jews and either round them up or kill them, and we’ve got a mean and nasty (well, almost, anyway) French-Jew who’s reached the point where the only apparent reason for living anymore is to seek vengeance against anyone connected to the Nazis who slaughtered her family. Woven within all this is a subtext surrounding a love of cinema – and the magical and moving journeys on which it can take us all. Even the nasty German Nazis have admiration and appreciation for the powerful art form.
Does any of this sound like a fairy tale to you yet? Probably not, but oh, dear reader, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS be just that. Sure, it may sound like an ominous period drama, yet though it’s set in the WWII era it most certainly is not any traditional period piece. There ain’t anything in this universe that’s meant to be taken as any sort of history lesson. Aside from a few well known true characters, this tale is all tale. And just to make sure no youngsters reading this out there get their historical facts confused, the madcap ending is one ginormous fantasy, just like the rest of it.
Yes, Jews of that time were tragically rounded up, persecuted, tortured and killed and WWII did occur, and Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) did try to preside over the “master race” and a big chunk of the world, and Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) was the Nazi minister of propaganda, but most of the rest is certainly a—sometimes gruesome—fairy tale. So Quentin Tarantino ain’t kiddin’ when he leads the story in with “Once upon a time…”
And there’s something else INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is – fun! I almost feel ashamed to say this, given the film’s subject matter and the lack of any type of morality buried beneath it. Fortunately, Tarantino weaves his characters so charmingly (and sometimes eerily) together that you can’t help smiling and admiring the effort. Do not take the kiddies, however!
The cast is excellent and when Brad Pitt starts speechifyin’ as Lieutenant Aldo Raine it’s nearly priceless. The way he gravels out the word ‘Nazi’ makes you want to mimic him. I mean the guy’s such an animal he practically grunts when he talks. And Christoph Waltz (a German TV actor, though perhaps no longer after this) gives an amazing performance as Colonel Hans Landa. He’s gotta be a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination. It’s almost worth the price of admission merely to watch his skillful, slimy performance, in three-and-a-quarter languages, no less—with the quarter being Italian. Mr. Waltz beautifully understands what Tarantino wants to do with Hans Landa; his cadence is spot on, and his oratory practically flows like music. The entire cast is a joy to watch, in fact. Even one of my old favs, Rod Taylor, makes a teeny-tiny cameo as Winston Churchill.
I may not be one of Tarantino’s largest followers—he sometimes delves too much into graphic excesses for my taste—but one can’t help recognizing that he has a very keen sense when it comes to important concerns such as casting, dialogue, setting and even music. Some of his plotting can be a bit shaky at times, but he understands his chosen art form well and it always shows – as does his love for it and knowledge of its history. He may never be viewed as a Rembrandt or a David Lean; however, he’s a grand pop artist in several respects and I’m sure he’s quite comfortable with that.
He’s also quite the exhibitionist and exploiter. One knows he knows exactly what he’s offering and that he’s not trying to shadow it, exploitation or otherwise, and this somehow makes much of it more palatable in some fashion. He seems wise enough to understand that what he may choose to do here or there may not be the most artistically appropriate decision, so I think It’s more a matter of whether he cares or not. At times he’s simply more interested in toying with his material, as well as his audience. And yes, admittedly, it can be kind of fun.
In fact, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS may be one of my favorite Tarantino films. I know there are those who’d say that as a whole piece it can’t quite measure up to the likes of PULP FICTION or JACKIE BROWN (mainly because their plotting was solid and rarely wavered), yet I personally had more fun with BASTERDS than some of his other works. I’m a sucker for a period film too, so that’s surely part of it.
BASTERDS is also leavened buoyantly with that which came before it. There are definite ingredients from films like KELLY’S HEROES and THE DIRTY DOZEN. Tarantino even uses Lalo Schifrin’s great Tiger Tank theme from HEROES at one point. And even though the movie was of a dark nature and set during a very dark period in history, Tarantino quite skillfully dances around it all and even manages to inject it with a very clever sense of humor. The whole movie is actually rather lyrical. It’s a joy to just listen to what everyone has to say.
Indeed, Tarantino dances around the darkness so well that at times one forgets to fully question the utter amorality or flat out immorality of it all. There’s scarcely a truly decent human being in the entire picture. After all, isn’t it a little disconcerting that the allies (who are naturally supposed to be the good guys) would sanction a special terror squad to create fear in the enemy by brutally—and gleefully—torturing and viciously killing any and all Nazis they come across? Even the female lead isn’t much warmer than ice. Yet, this is all a deliberate decision on Tarantino’s part. He says he doesn’t “impose” a sense of morality on his characters – though frankly, I wish he would. A bit of it would make his work a little more humane and perhaps help it reach another level.

Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus

While we’re looking at this angle of things, what about that subplot involving Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent)? Though it starts out as intriguing, it ultimately feels less satisfying than the rest of the film. Her character never interfaces with the other main characters (save for colonel Landa); she should have more of a supporting cast to play off of, or at least a bit more of an arc to her own character. Because her entire family has been killed by the Nazis she is essentially dead inside and when an opportunity seems to present itself for vengeance it becomes the only thing for which she seemingly wishes to live. And if those who die were not directly involved in her family’s murder, indeed, even if some are completely innocent of anything, so be it. This is bothersome. In addition, we never get any sense that she has to make any important choices in regard to what she’s contemplating. She simply proceeds forward almost like a robot, devoid of any human elements. There’s nothing (left) in her to pity or empathize with.
There is a brilliant scene involving Shosanna in which Colonel Landa sits in a restaurant with her and toys with her as they eat some pie. (By the way, few can stretch a scene like Tarantino does and get away with it. His writing can be that lilting.) This leads us to believe he suspects what her true Jewish background is. She wills herself to maintain composure until he leaves, but then breaks down once he’s gone. It’s a strong scene that makes us think her story is going to escalate in interesting and perhaps frightening ways, yet once the scene’s over all of that storyline is apparently deemed not interesting enough for Tarantino or his audience to pursue in any true way. Though perhaps more than anything else it’s what would have allowed her to be truly human. That scene is almost the only time any real emotion comes from her.
What say we toy a little ourselves now? Might it not have been a more interesting conclusion to a very impressive opening sequence to have colonel Landa use his serpent’s tongue to woo those he finds hiding, telling them how all is going to be just fine and dandy, that he merely wants to assist in their relocation and that he’ll personally oversee their well being, etc., etc., with the audience all the while knowing exactly what’s going to happen to them? With Tarantino’s very clever style of writing that could have been a most unique way to wrap up that scene. I think he could’ve made the hair on my arms rise. Instead we got the visceral punch we’d expect from the lad. Now, I’m not really complaining, mind you. But a friend of mine and I were just wondering, what if? ‘Course, if you loved the movie you’ll no doubt think I’m going off half cocked, but there it is.
Those aspects notwithstanding, it was still one of the very best rides of the summer for me. Tarantino—with some excellent writing—had me from the opening scene and I was along for the rest of the trip. Yeah, he turned history into a grisly fantasy, but he and his cast and crew completely understood what they were doing and why (unlike certain others who take on period projects). For a film set within a war backdrop, Tarantino was more reserved on the graphic end of things than I expected. He sent his boys and girls on a wild and even wacky mission and they completed it quite a bit better than most would.
At one point Aldo Raine looks at his, um, handy work and exclaims something like, “You know, I think this may be my masterpiece.” INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS may not quite be Tarantino’s masterpiece, but I noticed a very nice growth in his writing, and the whole thing made for a mighty witty, dark fairy tale and that’s sure close enough for me.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures 2009; 152 min.) Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. Produced by Lawrence Bender. Co-Produced by Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, and Charlie Woebcken. Executive produced by Lloyd Phillips, Erica Steinberg, Bob Weinstein, and Harvey Weinstein. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Production Design by David Wasco. Art Supervision by Sebastian T. Krawinkel. Costumes by Anna B. Sheppard. Special Effects Supervision by Gerd Feuchter and Uli Nefzer. Visual Effects Supervision by Joe Henke, Gregory D. Liegey, Viktor Muller, and Chris Ryan. Music Supervision by Mary Ramos (with heavy input from Tarantino). Edited By Sally Menke. Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Samm Levine, BJ Novak, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Paul Rust, Michael Bacall, Omar Doom, Sylvester Groth, Julie Dreyfus, Jacky Ido, August Diehl, Martin Wuttke, Richard Sammel, Christian Berkel, Sonke Mohring, Mike Myers, Rod Taylor, and Denis Menochet. MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, strong language and brief sexuality.

Full Tilt Boogie (1997) – Retrospective Documentary Review

Full Tilt Boogie (1997)Two years after the fact, this documentary about the making of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN reaches screens, and what an amusing account it is. Much of it is off-the-cuff and entertaining, but some parts have also clearly been staged for the benefit of the documentary, particularly the hilarious opening, wherein George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino are unable to find their way to the set.
If you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes travails of film-making, you’ll get them in spades, but don’t expect any serious dissection of the film at hand; in fact, there is not so much as an explanation for why this particular film was deemed worthy of being documented. And since the focus is on production, the disappointing reaction the film received (especially after the hoopla surrounding its collaboration between Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez) is not even mentioned.
Perhaps the most interesting moment (which is merely presented, without comment, by the film)is Tarantino and Rodriguez’s insistence, in an early double interview to promote the project before filming began, that the script gives you a chance to care about the characters by spending time with them before introducing the horror element in the last half. No one stops to wonder whether an hour in the company of two violent criminals, one a psychotic sex killer, is really enough to endear us to characters whom we would much rather have seen dispatched by the vampires in the first fifteen minutes.
Ultimately, the best thing about this film is that, by incorporating most of the best footage from its subject, becomes a more than adequate replacement for FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. Now, you can now see your favorite parts, without having to sit through the whole movie again.
FULL TILT BOOGIE(1997). Directed by Sarah Kelly. With: Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Fred Williamson, Gregory Nicotero.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Retrospective Horror Movie Review

It’s not easy being God – just ask Eric Clapton. Quentin Tarantino has achieved iconic status, to the point that it was widely assumed his involvement in this crime-horror hybrid would guarantee blockbuster success. What people forget, however, is that Tarantino has only one blockbuster to his credit (PULP FICTION). Not that artistic achievement should be judged by box office, but it’s not a bad idea ot remember that his name, on its own, is not yet a guaranteed franchise. If we needed any proof of this, the disappointing FROM DUSK TILL DAWN certainly provides it.
Tarantino tries to rework the structural ploy from the Bruce Willis section of PULP, in which a story going in one direction takes an abrupt and outrageous turn; unfortunately, that gambit can’t work in a feature film, when all the trailers and pre-release interviews have told us that this crime melodrama will end up in a lair full of vampires.
The result is that the set up takes too long, because we know what is going to happen. In fact, the killer on the road sequences end up resembling nothing so much as the most over-extended first act in screen history.

Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium
Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium

What accounts for this miscalculation? One can only assume that it ws to provide more screen time for Quentin Tarantino in his co-starring role. Actually, he acquits himself well enough by mostly standing in the shadow of George Clooney, who proves himself an excellent leading man. Still, one cannot help wishing that some of that screen time had been devoted to more deserving characters who show up later, such as Hayek’s vampire dancer Santanico Pandemonium, who ends up being destroyed far too soon (an unbelievable miscalculation on the part of Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez).
When we finally get to the vampire striptease club south of the Mexican border, the film immediately jumps to life: it is as if Robert Rodriguez, back on home turf, has finally got a handle on the film. When the first melee occurs, and the characters we have been following find themselves thrust together and fighting for survival with the help of  two complete strangers (ably played by Fred Williamson and Tom Savini, the latter known for his makeup work on DAWN OF THE DEAD), the film briefly realizes some of its full potential.
Alas, no sooner is this new group drawing  together under adverse conditions, than Quentin Tarantino’s script begins dispatching characters left and right, rather than dramatizing the internal conflicts that must inevitably arise under such duress (a la NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13).
Quentin Tarantino is a real movie-movie talent; that is, much of his cleverness comes from knowing films and filmic expectations and bending them to suit his purpose or re-using familiar material with a win of recognition toward the audience. thus, the appearance of Savini and Williamson is an amusing nod to the cult audience, not because of the characters but because we recognize the actors and associate them with their past accomplishments.
At other times, Tarantino’s script is a bit too clever, setting up interesting ideas that never pay off. For instance, the Gecko brothers are escaping to a lace in Mexico called El Rey – which just happens to be the name of the enigmatic ruler of a south-of-the-border haven for escaped criminals in Jim Thompson novel The Getaway.In the final chapter, (which was omitted from both film adaptations), the escaped robbers find themselves in a criminal sanctuary that is little better than Hell on Earth (“You tell yourself it is a bad dream. You tell yourself you have died…and have waked up in Hell.”) One might, therefore, expect the sanctuary in DUSK TO be similarly revealed as no safe haven at all and that Seth Gecko, through his confrontation with tangible evil in the Titty Twister Bar, would change his ways, choose not to go to El Rey, and thus avoid a horrible fate. Instead, the idea is abandoned. As with everything else in the film, Quentin Tarantino seems almost frantic to throw away potentially good material in favor of impaling a few more hearts and exploding a few more bodies.
Tarantino, Hayek, Clooney
Tarantino, Hayek, Clooney

Sitting in the director’s chair, Robert Rodriguez does an adequate job of filming the gobs of gore, but for some reason the action lacks the balletic intensity of DESPERADO – the stylistic verb that invites sympathetic viewers to forgive the story deficiencies. and simply surrender to the excitement of the on-screen carnage.
Whereas one might reasonably have expected that the combo of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would yield a critical mass of nuclear proportions, instead of an atomic fireball’s worth of entertainment, we get a long fuse, quite a bit of fizzle, and a rather minor blast. It is a shame to see so much good talent giving such low-yield results.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996). Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Written by Quentin Tarantino. Cast: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, John Saxon.

Copyright 1996 by Steve Biodrowski. This review originally appeared in the June 1996 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 27, Number 10).

Grindhouse (2007) – Film Review

This homage to exploitation cinema of decades past seeks is not so much a movie as a gimmick that links together two feature films, plus a handful of faux trailers and advertisements – all appropriately scratched and faded to recreate the experience of attending a second-rate “grindhouse” theatre playing beat-up old prints. As amusing as the concept is, the actual result is a considerable disappointment – a high-tech forgery that lacks the disreputable charm of its models, which were made without the self-conscious affectation on display here. The movie is not without its merits, but it’s safe to say that much of it would have been derisively hooted off the screen at any real grindhouse theatre. In at least one sense, however, the film perfectly captures the grindhouse experience: it promises much more than it delivers.

GRINDHOUSE launches with its best foot forward, a fake trailer called “Machete,” starring character actor Danny Trejo as a Mexican man set up by the people who hired him to assassinate a senator. The brief flurry of outrageous violence, overblown dialogue, and hyperbolic narration yields the perfect recipe for an explosive blast of sheer, giddy fun that the rest of GRINDHOUSE cannot possibly match. Perhaps retrofitted exploitation is better in two-minute doses.

That brief opening exhilaration extends through the first few minutes of “Planet Terror,” written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. With a nod to George Romero’s zombie films like DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD (whose make-up supervisor, Tom Savini, shows up in a supporting role), the story portrays a small town in Texas overrun by zombie-like mutants who have been infected by chemical weapons.

Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR

After getting off to a good start, the film bogs down in its narrative meanderings. In way, it too closely emulates its models: it’s boring, and you have to wait for the eruptions of gore and violence to break the boredom. By the time the jokey “Reel Missing” title card flashes on screen and the film jumps ahead as if several scenes have been lost, you’re grateful for the quickstep progress in what had hitherto been building tedium rather than tension.
When the shit hits the proverbial fan near the conclusion, the action blast across the screen in an unapologetic way, but the central visual conceit of actress Rose McGowan with a rifle in place of a leg never really comes off, yielding more derisive chuckles than gasps of excitement. (In the low point, she is supposed to blow smoke away from the recently fired weapon, and it is painfully obvious that she cannot get her mouth anywhere near enough to the barrel to have an effect.) At least the episode is partially redeemed by Rodriguez’s simple but effective music, a pounding, repetitive motif that recurs throughout in different permutations, a la Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter.
Next comes a trio of phony trailers: Rob Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of the S.S.,” Edgar Wright’s “Don’t,” and Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving.” All are amusing, but none match the delights of the opening “Machete.” Wright’s stands out a bit by virtue of aiming at a target other than cheap exploitation films; its visual style consciously recalls higher-class efforts like 1973’s THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (one actor is a dead ringer for Roddy McDowall, right down to his hair cut).
Roth’s trailer perfectly captures the washed-out look and downbeat “serious” tone of sleazeball horror films, and Zombie gets credit for making a mini-movie that includes both Udo Keir and Nicolas Cage (who, despite being an Oscar-winner, has shown a penchant for ham-handed scenary chewing that would be quite appropriate in a grindhouse movie).

Quentin Tarantino's DEATH PROOF

Next up is writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” which seems deliberately designed to piss off the target audience. One can admire the nerve it took promise “explicit sexuality and hard-core thrills” and then deliver a feature film that consists mostly of two groups of women sitting around in bars, cars, and cafes, talking about their personal lives; however, that does not make the result entertaining. There may be a sly strategy at work here: the character stuff is so boring that you eagerly look forward to the intrusion of death and violence, which takes the form of Kurt Russell as “Stuntman Mike,” who uses his car to plow through the first group of girls but gets more than he bargains for with the second. Unfortunately, Russell is not really the star of the episode – he is off-screen far too long – so his presence is not enough to save it. But he deserves high-fives all around for taking his despicable woman-killer and turning him into a pathetic loser who whines like a baby when the tables are turned on him.
The other big plus in “Death Proof” is the astounding stunt work by Zoe Bell (who doubled for The Bride in KILL BILL). Here, Bell plays herself, on vacation in America, where she goes on a test drive in a white Dodge (like the one from VANISHING POINT) and hangs off the hood suspended by nothing but a pair of belts. Tarantino gets his camera right in on the action so that you can see it is real, with Bell hanging on for dear life when she and her friends run afoul of Stuntman Mike.
Even so, the chase sequence never matches the thrills of BULLET, and Tarantino overplays his hand: several times, the driver of Bell’s care passes up opportunities to slow down and/or stop, so that Bell could get off the hood and back into the car; this stretches the situation out beyond belief or credibility, delaying what we really want to see – and what Tarantino finally delivers – Bell and friends turning the tables and putting Stuntman Mike in his place. Sadly, the comeuppance arrives, satisfying as it is, cannot possibly justify the time it took getting to it.

In the end, GRINDHOUSE is almost exactly the opposite of what it promises to be. Real grindhouse movies were made on fast schedules with few resources; the exploitation elements were necessary in order to give the audience some kind of entertainment value in exchange for their ticket-buying dollar. Running times were short (88 minutes fit into a single canister, making it cheaper to ship to theatres), and self-indulgent filmmaking was pretty much out of the question.
Rodriguez and Tarantino no doubt have sincere affection for these films, but they come across as posers – not too far from Pat Boone covering a Little Richard song. As much fun as the exploitation action is, it lacks the serious sleaze of the genuine article, and it’s not quite arch enough to amuse as camp. And for all the promise of balls-to-the-wall mayhem, what they deliver here is no more hardcore than anything we’ve seen in their previous films. Hopefully, if GRINDHOUSE II is ever made, the Dynamic Duo will take executive producer roles and hand over the directorial reigns to some young, hungry filmmaker eager to churn out a real grindhouse movie. Either that, or Rodriguez could make the actual feature-length version of “Machete.”


Put crudely, one might say that watching GRINDHOUSE is a bit like watching two guys jerk each other off while staring at a Playboy centerfold. In their own minds, they’re having sex with a beautiful woman, and for some reason, they expect us to share their fantasy. But only a blindly loyal fan could be blind to the ugly truth.


The (actual) trailers for GRINDHOUSE feature shots that are not in the final film (such as Kurt Russell saying “I’m not a cowboy; I’m a stuntman.” According to Rose MacGowan, Tarantino wrote a script for “Death Proof” that was long enough to be a stand-alone feature. Expect lots of deleted scenes (or an extended director’s cut) when the film arrives on DVD.


For DVD, the GRINDHOUSE double bill was divided up into two titles, one for Robert Rodriguez’s PLANET TERROR and one for Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF. Each offerd an extended unrated director’s cut. The longer version of PLANET TERROR still begins with “Machete” – bogus preview for flick about a Mexican day laborer set up to take the fall for a political assassination – which was probably the highlight of GRINDHOUSE when it was in theatres. Unfortunately, the new cut does not alter PLANET TERROR in any major way – it just adds little bits and pieces throughout – so unless you loved the film to begin with, there’s not much reason to see it again. In case, you were wondering, despite restored footage, the “Scene Missing” title card remains in place, so you still will not learn what Wray said to convince the Sheriff to suddenly trust him.