In this episode, Tyler and Josh are joined by writer Reed Lackey to discuss his involvement with the grindhouse movie The Victim.
I disagree with you guys. Death Proof is closer to a grindhouse film than Planet Terror. Most grindhouse films only had a budget for one or two stunts/fantastic moments, which means that for the majority of the running time, they had stretches of either boredom or nothing much happening.
My objections to DEATH PROOF has more to do with its tone than what actually happens in it. It’s entirely possible that DEATH PROOF is more grindhouse in its events, but I think PLANET TERROR has a more grindhouse tone. Tarantino seems unable to quite grasp the gleeful, pulpy tone that a film like this requires. Instead, there is a languid pace, in which bland, uninteresting women sit and talk all day. Now, the fact of them sitting and talking is fine, but the “QT vibe” that Faraci notes manages to somehow undercut what he seems to be trying to do. Oddly enough, only when Kurt Russell starts crying like a little girl and the women eventually smash his head did I finally feel like Tarantino was actually approximating the grindhouse tone, with its hedonistic joy worn way out on its sleeve. PLANET TERROR somehow had that tone the whole time, even in smaller moments, like those between Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn. I have my own theories about why Rodriguez was able to achieve this and Tarantino seemed unable to- even while doing a better job of replicating the exterior of a grindhouse film- but I’ll leave those for another time.
I still disagree with you; Planet Terror does not have a Grindhouse tone at all. The film basically has the tone of a CARTOON. As Faraci points out, “Rodriguez wasn’t schooled on exploitation like Tarantino was, and he’s really using the language of action films of the 80s here – the kinds of films that took over after the exploitation circuit was slowly killed off and as home video began to dominate the market. Chuck Norris could have very easily been in the Freddy Rodriguez role, albeit with the addition of some more martial arts to the film’s many, many fight scenes. Which actually would have been very welcome.”
That is why, when you talk to many grindhouse aficionados, most of them look down at Rodriguez’s segment of Grindhouse.
Having said that, while I think Death Proof is a better film than Planet Terror (and a more sincere effort), I still think that it is Quentin Tarantino’s weakest film. His dialogue at times feels force.
Perhaps when I talk about the tone, I mean that I actually detect more than a hint of condescension from DEATH PROOF, while I get unironic excitement from PLANET TERROR. It always felt like Tarantino approached the genre that he loves as if to say, “Okay, I’m gonna make a grindhouse movie, but I’m gonna put the QT stamp on it. It’ll be the best grindhouse movie ever.” He seemed to think of himself as above the proceedings, and we were all just lucky we got to hang with him.
Of course, Tarantino IS, in fact, above the proceedings. He makes better movies than typical grindhouse filmmakers ever could. This actually leads to my general frustration with the very conceit of the film. It felt like two filmmakers were slumming when they could have been using their resources to make movies that are at their actual level, rather than try to condescend to a genre that they both had long since surpassed artistically.
Interesting point, Antho. Perhaps there should be a distinction made between “grindhouse” style films and “exploitation” films. The Rodriguez/Tarantino experiment seems to differ between the two films in that Rodriguez made a film which fit the perceived stereotype of what an exploitation film was, while Tarantino perhaps made a more genuine “grindhouse” movie (low-budget, few stunt shots, stretches of talkiness, etc.) It’s an interesting dynamic to think about creating an homage which replicates something as authentically as possible (Deathproof) or creating one which replicates the most common perception of that same thing (Planet Terror).
I’m not sure which of those two movies you prefered, but if you prefer a more traditional grindhouse experience like Deathproof rather than an exploitation experience like Planet Terror, you might dig The Victim.
“Quentin Tarantino understands the beauty of that shittiness, and his half of the movie, Death Proof is, in many ways, an amazing approximation of the old exploitation films, but with an unmistakable QT vibe. Rodriguez, on the other hand, directs his half – Planet Terror – as a fever dream of someone who has only been told about exploitation movies. Here’s the thing about exploitation films: people only talk about the really good, really fucked up and really sexy parts of them, but those parts often make up less than a third of most exploitation movies’ running time. Of course this means that Planet Terror, with its endless gore and cartoony action, will be more popular with moviegoers than Tarantino’s talky, weirdly structured Death Proof.” – Devin Faraci http://www.chud.com/9581/double-feature-review-grindhouse-devins-take/
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