Exploitation in the grindhouse

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Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino present a double feature of sex, violence, sleazy characters, zombies, freaks and bizarre plots. Death Proof and Planet Terror now on dvd.

Once again Quentin Tarantino digs deep into American cinema subculture revisiting exploitation films; a genre of cheap production and prurient images. These films broke cinematic taboos, including explicit sex and nudity, explosions and destruction, drug and weird perverse plots. They were most popular in the 70s and were shown in so-called grindhouses, theatres offering a non-stop programme, which consisted of a double feature or double bill, a phenomenon in which theatre managers would exhibit two films for the price of one.

Along with long time friend Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn), Tarantino came up with the idea of filming a double feature like the ones grindhouses used to show. The result is Grindhouse, a film consisting of two separate feature film segments: Planet Horror, directed by Rodriguez, and Death Proof, by Tarantino. The first is a zombie tale and the latter, the story of a crazed man, played by Kurt Russell, who murders young women with his “death proof” stunt car.

Like in the traditional double bill, each feature is preceded by fake trailers for other exploitation films and coming attractions. One of those trailers, Werewolf Women of the SS, is directed by Rob Zombie and features Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu.

The film opened in April in the United States and it got positive reviews, although it performed poorly at the box office. However, for the rest of the world, Grindhouse has been split into two different movies: Death Proof, which premiers on 1 June and Planet Terror, which will arrive a little bit later on 20 July. In the international version, the features will have a different and extended cut. It is also possible that the fake trailers will be different as well. The extended version of Death Proof will be shown for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival.

The producers and Tarantino explained that the movie was cut in two because most non-English speaking countries would not understand the double feature tradition. However, many fans see it as a way of being forced to pay twice for what was originally conceived as a single film.

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Grindhouse: Death Proof
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Danny Trejo and Timothy V. Murphy
Premiere: 1 June