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Laramie Movie Scope: Grindhouse

A waste of time

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 7, 2007 -- “Grindhouse” is a double feature movie with some specially-made trailers for coming attractions that don't exist, but should, especially “Werewolf Women of the SS,” which looks like a better idea for a movie than either of the two that I sat through for three hours. I got what directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are trying to do. With their double feature, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof,” they were trying to recapture their youthful enthusiasm for so-called “Grindhouse Movies,” of a type shown in run-down urban theaters, or drive-in theaters in the 1960s and 1970s, complete with strippers bumping and grinding live on stage between features (hence, the name). These theaters would show sleazy genre films like car chase movies, horror films, slasher films, science fiction and soft porn.

I was thinking to myself “this could be fun,” a little light, tongue-in-cheek entertainment, an homage to the schlock films of old. Unfortunately, Rodriguez's film, “Planet Terror” turns out to be boring and disgusting. It does have some over-the-top humor involving a one-legged go-go dancer who quickly evolves from a zombie snack to an army of one who is able to shoot zombies with a gun attached to her leg stump without any visible means of pulling the trigger. The action scenes are so ridiculous that they don't really generate any excitement. It is just one damned gore-soaked slaughter after another, boring. The film also commits the deadly sin of trying to be too serious. The only people who seemed to be in on the joke were veteran actors Michael Biehn of “Aliens,” who plays the laconic Sheriff Hague, Jeff Fahey, who plays the Sheriff's barbeque whiz of a brother, J.T. and Michael Parks, who plays the even more laconic Earl McGraw.

The “Planet Terror” segment of the film seems to be obsessed with testicles. There are jars full of men's testicles, testicles squirting around on the ground, testicles dripping off one rapist zombie (played by none other than Quentin Tarantino), slimy little testicles everywhere. This might be O.K. if you like to eat Rocky Mountain oysters. To me, it was just too much of a bad idea. I don't like Rocky Mountain oysters. No thanks. The movie had missing reels, sprocket holes on the edges, scratches, discolored film. Everything you would expect in a grindhouse film, except for the entertainment.

Tarantino's “Death Proof” segment was a big improvement over the “Planet Terror” segment. It was only boring for the first 80 percent of the film. That last 20 percent, a high-speed car chase with stunt woman Zoe Bell (playing herself) hanging precariously onto the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger equipped with a 440 engine, is the only really entertaining thing in either film. Zoe picked that car because she is a big fan of the 1971 car chase film “Vanishing Point” in which that same model of car is one of the stars. This is just one of the many film and music references from the 1970s mentioned in the film. I learned from watching this film, by the way, that Zabadak was not the only hit song created by the English rock group named Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. I was astonished. I thought they were one-hit wonders. I own one of their albums. I own a copy of “Vanishing Point,” too, by the way. It's a classic.

Oh yeah, back to the car chase. It is a really good one, with a car full of beautiful women being chased by an evil former stunt man (or so he claims), Stunt Man Mike (played by Kurt Russell of “Miracle”). Earlier in the movie, the evil Mike used his car to kill yet another carload of beautiful girls. This time, however, he picked on the wrong women. These are stunt women and they know how drive fast and fight back. They are very tough (maybe they've been eating Rocky Mountain oysters). The only trouble is, this looks like a modern movie. It doesn't have all the scratches, missing frames and discolorations of the first film. Tarantino has made a modern film, not a retro 1970s grindhouse film. He cheated, but that's O.K. At least it is a little bit entertaining for those last few minutes. Grindhouse rates a C. You want good schlock entertainment? Rent any “Evil Dead” movie, or any of George Romero's zombie movies, or “Vanishing Point,” “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “The Gumball Rally” or even “Smokey and the Bandit.” That stuff is good schlock. It's entertaining.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics, theater tickets and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)