Saturday, 28 February 2009

Grindhouse - The Japanese DVD

Grindhouse (term)

A grindhouse is an American term for a theater that mainly showed exploitation films. It is named after the defunct burlesque theatres located on 42nd Street in New York City, where 'bump n' grind' dancing and striptease used to be on the bill

Grindhouse (film)

An American anthology film featuring two feature-length segments, Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, bookended with trailers for fake upcoming movies, advertisements and theatre announcements

After Grindhouse spectacularly flopped following its April 2007 release to an indifferent movie-going public who didn't know/care about exploitation movies, the Weinstein Company dumped the original 190-min anthology film, and put out Rodriquez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof as extended stand-alone features. Both films were never re-instated back into Grindhouse, and still today, the original film remains unreleased on home video in the US and Europe. Fortunately, the Japanese were treated to a spectacular 6-disc boxset that contained the original Grindhouse film.

Grindhouse in its original 190-min uncut form is a hugely enjoyable experience. As well as the two films which contrast nicely with one another, the fake trailers are a lot of fun. Rodriguez's Machete trailer, a Mexploitation revenge film genuinely looks like it was cut from a complete movie. Rob Zombie's trailer, Werewolf Women of the SS is a delirious cross between the SS Exploitation films of the 70's, like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, and hybrid trash classics like Rock 'N Roll Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula. Look out for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu - possibly his best work in years. Edgar Wright’s trailer Don't is a wicked tip of the hat to British exploitation movies of the 70's and the films of Pete Walker and Norman J. Warren. The "Don't" of the title which is repeated in a frenzy as the trailer intensifies is a nice riff on the cycle of mostly 70's horror films with Don't in their title - Don't Answer the Phone, Don't Go In the House, Don't Look in the Basement etc... The final trailer, Thanksgiving by Eli Roth, is an homage to holiday-set slasher films like Halloween, Friday 13th, My Bloody Valentine, Black Christmas etc. and has just the right amount of teens, tits and decapitations.

Whether you consider Grindhouse a throwaway novelty film or a piece of conceptual art is a matter of taste. Personally, I think its the latter - homages are one thing but what Rodriguez and Tarantino have done with the film - artificially adding dirt and debris to the print, adding scuffs and bad splices, was a extraordinary bold move. At one stage of the Rodriguez segment, a love scene appears to grind the movie to a halt only for the film to melt in the projector gate and jump cut into the next scene following a "Missing Reel" announcement card. Perhaps the segments should have been shot full-frame, but its a minor point. Both films photographed by their directors in Cinemascope, look great with appropriately grungy lighting and colors. Tarantino's segment is visually the cleaner of the two but look very fast at the beginning of the front credits, and there is an almost subliminal title card announcing the films as Quentin Tarantino's Thunderbolt, the implication being that the Death Proof title was grafted onto the print at a later date (which was often the case with exploitation films dumped on the re-run circuit) Rodriguez's segment is most faithful to the grindhouse experience - the film could easily have been a New World release from the early 80's, and is loaded with affectionate nods to American films such as The Crazies, I Drink Your Blood and Return of the Living Dead, as well as European zombie films like Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City and Lucio Fulci's Zombie. Tarantino pays respect to the car-snuff genre of the early 70's - Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Gone In Sixty Seconds, and explicitly references the great car chase classic Vanishing Point.

The Region 2 6-DVD set made for the Japanese market is nothing short of dazzling. As well as the original Grindhouse film, the set contains Planet Terror and Death Proof in their extended forms plus copius extras. The set is housed in an appropriately beat-up looking case, and folds out into a large 2 tier digipak holding the 6 discs which look like jukebox 45's. The packaging is illustrated throughout with stills, posters and ad mats of the various trailers and segments. On the discs themselves, the Japanese subtitles are removable. The set is almost the complete Grindhouse experience, almost, because missing from the set is a rare 5th trailer, Hobo with a Shotgun which played with the film on a very select run in Canada. The fake trailer was directed by some first-time film makers who won a Grindhouse trailer competition organised by Rodriguez…


  1. Happily a few more years down the road this did get released in its complete form on Blu-Ray. I say complete - but truth be told - while I do have it in the video vault I have not put it in the player yet to see - for example - if the Hobo with a Shotgun trailer is in there somewhere. And of course, now Hobo is a real feature film - and Machete has two full movies in its spinoff franchise. I saw this in the theater and thought it was marvelous - it really felt like I was there on 42nd Street...minus the danger of course.... ;)

  2. Despite the longer cuts available on the stand-alone editions of Death Proof and Planet Terror, I'll always go back to Grindhouse when I'm in the mood for these films - I think both films play very well together and the Coming Attractions trailers are just great... The point about 42nd St is well taken Craig - I can tell you right now I never would have had the balls to run the gauntlet of the Deuce or The Rialto, with all those crawling bums and dope peddlers !