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
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.
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…