I absolutely loved the entire GRINDHOUSE experience when it was released theatrically back in April of this year. Myself and the entire Icons crew caught it at the AMC on 42nd Street in Manhattan and it was just a solid 3 hours of pure exploitive entertainment. So, I was nervous when The Weinstein Company opted to separate both movies for the DVD releases and delete the awesome trailers that came before and in between both features. (I’m SURE they’ll eventually release the version from theaters, hence forcing us to fork over more cash for the double-dip.) But in the meantime, we’re being treated with extended full-length versions of both GRINDHOUSE features, completely uncut.
The first release is Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF, which the filmmaker himself has often described as a “slasher” film but without the knife, instead the killer uses his car. For those that haven’t seen or heard anything about it yet, here’s a brief synopsis. DEATH PROOF is about two sets of girls being stalked by a creepy, former stuntman who calls himself (ironically enough) “Stuntman Mike” (played with sinister glee by Kurt “Snake Plissken” Russell!). The first set of girls are a group of friends including famous radio personality Jungle Julia (played by Sydney Poitier) and Shanna (played by Cabin Fever alumni Jordon Ladd) who take out their friend “Butterfly” (Vanessa Ferlito) all through out Austin, TX. (She’s visiting from Brooklyn as you’ll be able to tell from her accent almost immediately.) Pam (Rose McGowen) also happens to be at the Texas Chili Parlor where Stuntman Mike shows up and manages to swindle a lap-dance out of Butterfly. From there on, some wacky stuff ensues involving the way Stuntman Mike deviously uses his “death proof” automobile. To give away anymore would take away from all the fun, especially for the second half of DEATH PROOF.
So, how it is? I think it’s a blast! I enjoyed it when it played after PLANET TERROR as part of GRINDHOUSE, and now with the extra footage put back in, it flows and feels like a more complete movie. Stuntman Mike’s motivations are explained a little bit better, and all the girls (from both groups) feel more fleshed out now that we have a little more time to get to know them in this extended cut. I know some people either love or hate Quentin’s excessive use of dialogue, but I usually love it. I will say this though, the first time I saw this movie, I had no idea what the second group of girls were talking about half the time. Granted, they’re all stuntwomen (Zoe Bell being a REAL one!), so how the hell would I know how stuntwomen talk? However, on the second viewing (which was for this DVD release) knowing exactly how the movie was going to play out, I enjoyed it way more then on my initial viewing. The entire movie is worth it for the incredible car chase in the 3rd act. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And with Zoe Bell playing herself and doing all her own stunts, it’s pretty amazing to see close up shots of her face as she’s holding on for dear life on the hood of a car. I can’t imagine Tarantino fans not loving this.
Special feature-wise, the DVD offers some goodies. “Stunts On Wheels” offers a bit of behind the scenes stuff, and focuses primarily on the stunt driver brought in to pull off the impressive sequences in DEATH PROOF. “Kurt Russell As Stuntman Mike” is a fun interview segment with Kurt, as well as Quentin all talking about the character and Kurt’s take on it. I’m sure Stuntman Mike will go down as one of Russell’s most memorable movie villains. “Finding Quentin’s Gals” and “The Guys of Death Proof” offer some funny insight into how the casting process went for both the guys and gals of the flick. Rosario Dawson and Tracie Toms talk about how they prepared well in advance and auditioned together, while Quentin mentions having remembered several of the actors from casting auditions on other gigs, such as his CSI episode. Eli Roth also chimes in about how difficult it was to make fun of Kurt Russell for one of his scenes with the acting legend a mere few feet away. “Introducing Zoe Bell” is a great little introduction into Quentin’s stunt gal and DEATH PROOF lead Zoe Bell. There’s also a trailer for the documentary DOUBLE DARE on the disc, which features former Wonder Woman stuntwoman Jeannie Epper taking on protégé Zoe Bell and training her. The third act primarily consists of her getting the gig as Uma’s stuntwoman in KILL BILL. (She does all the ass-kicking!) This trailer did its job, because I immediately put in on my Netflix rental queue! Last but not least is a featurette about Quentin’s editor Sally Menke. She doesn’t appear in the short clip, instead it’s Quentin singing her praises and then a gag reel of the cast sending their hellos to Sally at the end of takes.
Overall, a great little DVD release. Can’t wait for Rodriquez’s PLANET TERROR, and I hope ONE day, we’ll get the full double-feature as we saw it in theaters. Where there’s money to be made, there’s a new special edition DVD right around the corner. – Robg.
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