Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Machete)
Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof)
Rob Zombie (Werewolf Woman of the SS)
Edgar Wright (Don't)
Eli Roth (Thanksgiving)
Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun)
|Produced by||Elizabeth Avellan
|Written by||Robert Rodriguez (PT)
Quentin Tarantino (DP)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
|Music by||Robert Rodriguez (PT)
Graeme Revell (PT)
|Cinematography||Robert Rodriguez (PT)
Quentin Tarantino (DP)
|Edited by||Robert Rodriguez (PT)
Ethan Maniquis (PT)
Sally Menke (DP)
|Distributed by||Dimension Films|
Grindhouse is a 2007 horror film double feature co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The double feature consists of two feature-length segments, Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof, and is bookended by fictional trailers for upcoming attractions, advertisements, and in-theater announcements. The film's title derives from the U.S. film industry term "grindhouse", which refers to (now mostly defunct) movie theaters specializing in B movies, often exploitation films, shown in a multiple-feature format. The film stars Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Fergie, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and stuntwoman Zoë Bell, who plays herself.
Rodriguez's segment, Planet Terror, revolves around an outfit of rebels attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a rogue military unit, while Tarantino's segment, Death Proof, focuses on a misogynistic, psychopathic stuntman who targets young women, murdering them with his "death proof" stunt car. Each feature is preceded by faux trailers of exploitation films in other genres that were developed by other directors.
After the film was released on April 6, 2007, ticket sales performed significantly below box office analysts' expectations despite mostly positive critic reviews. In much of the rest of the world, each feature was released separately in extended versions. Two soundtracks were also released for the features and include music and audio snippets from the film. The feature later found more success on DVD and Blu-ray. In several interviews, despite the box office failure, the directors have expressed their interest in a possible sequel to the film due to its critical acclaim and successful home media sales. Three spin-off films have been made based on Grindhouse's fake trailers: Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun, and Machete Kills.
- 1 Planet Terror
- 2 Death Proof
- 3 Fictitious trailers
- 4 History and development
- 5 Production
- 6 Response
- 7 Release
- 8 Adaptations of the fake trailers
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
In a rural town in Texas, go-go dancer Cherry Darling decides to quit her low-paying job and find another use for her numerous "useless" talents. She runs into mysterious ex-boyfriend El Wray at the Bone Shack, a restaurant owned by J.T. Hague. Meanwhile, a group of military officials, led by the demented Lt. Muldoon, are making a business transaction with a scientist named Abby for mass quantities of a deadly biochemical agent known as DC2 (codename "Project Terror"). Muldoon learns that Abby has an extra supply on hand and attempts to take him hostage. Abby intentionally releases the gas into the air. The gas reaches the town and turns its residents into deformed bloodthirsty, man-eating psychopaths, mockingly referred to as "sickos" by the surviving humans. The infected townspeople are treated by the sinister Dr. William Block and his abused, neglected anesthesiologist wife Dakota at a local hospital. As the patients quickly become enraged aggressors, Cherry and El Wray lead a team of accidental warriors into the night, struggling to find safety.
- Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling: A go-go dancer. After Cherry's leg is torn off by sickos, she is given a special prosthetic leg in the form of a high powered machine gun.
- Freddy Rodriguez as El Wray: The ex-boyfriend of Cherry Darling. The two meet and take on the sickos together which causes them to fall in love again.
- Josh Brolin as Dr. William Block: The husband of Dr. Dakota Block, the father of Tony Block and the son-in-law of Sheriff Earl McGraw. He tries to kill Dakota because she cheated on him with Tammy.
- Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block: The estranged daughter of Sheriff Earl McGraw. Dakota is also the wife of Dr. William Block, with whom she shares a son, Tony Block.
- Jeff Fahey as J.T. Hague: The owner and head chef of the Bone Shack, who is known for having the best BBQ recipes in the world. He is Sheriff Hague's brother.
- Michael Biehn as Sheriff Hague: J.T.'s brother. He hates El Wray, but later likes him because El Wray saves his life.
- Rebel Rodriguez as Tony Block: The son of Dr. Dakota Block and Dr. William Block.
- Bruce Willis as Lt. Muldoon: A scientist who caused the sickos. He has the gas to protect himself from the deadly poison which everyone in the movie wants.
- Naveen Andrews as Dr. John "Abby" Abbington: A scientist and possible terrorist. He has the cure for the disease that turned everyone into sickos.
- Stacy Ferguson as Tammy Visan: The girl Dr. Dakota Block is having an affair with.
- Tom Savini as Deputy Tolo: Gets his finger bitten off by the sickos, then gets eaten alive by them.
- Nicky Katt as Joe: Gets bitten by the sickos, and later on becomes one.
- Michael Parks as Earl McGraw: The estranged father of Dr. Dakota Block.
- Quentin Tarantino as Lewis (Rapist #1): A rapist who tries to rape Cherry and Dr. Dakota Block.
Three friends – Arlene, Shanna, and radio disc jockey "Jungle" Julia Lucai – spend a night in Austin, Texas for fun, unknowingly followed by a mysterious man in a souped-up 1971 Chevy Nova. The man, Stuntman Mike, stalks the young women with his "death proof car", eventually killing all three. Fourteen months later, Stuntman Mike, now in Tennessee and driving a 1969 Dodge Charger, tails another group of young women – Lee, Abernathy, Kim, and stuntwoman Zoë – a group of women working below the line in Hollywood, whose Stock 1970 Dodge Challenger proves a worthy adversary.
- Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike: Little is known about Stuntman Mike, except that he hangs around the Texas Chili Parlor and may or may not have been a professional stuntman on various TV shows during the 1960s and 1970s.
- Rosario Dawson as Abernathy: She is the feminist friend of Kim, Zoe, and Lee. She is the make-up artist for Lindsay Lohan and is undergoing a romance dilemma.
- Vanessa Ferlito as Arlene "Butterfly": She is a chappy newbie friend with Julia and Shanna, from New York. Stuntman Mike has been following her throughout the day.
- Zoë Bell as Zoë: An old friend of Kim. She straps herself to a car while Kim is driving very fast and Abernathy is in the passenger seat, till Stuntman Mike come to attack.
- Sydney Tamiia Poitier as "Jungle" Julia Lucai: A popular radio DJ in Austin, Texas. She went to school with Pam where she bullied her and slept around a lot.
- Tracie Thoms as Kim: She is a friend of Abernathy, Zoe, and Lee. She is a professional stuntwoman and is usually armed for personal protection.
- Rose McGowan as Pam: In the bar she needs a ride home and Stuntman Mike volunteers to take her. She eventually becomes the first victim in Death Proof.
- Jordan Ladd as Shanna: She is a friend of Jungle Julia and Arlene, and has arranged a location to spend the night.
- Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lee: She is a friend of Abernathy, Zoe and Kim. She is a beginner actress who will play a cheerleader in a movie.
- Quentin Tarantino as Warren: The owner and bartender of the Texas Chili Parlor.
- Michael Parks as Earl McGraw: Sheriff who works on Stuntman Mike's case.
- Jonathan Loughran as Jasper: A car mechanic who keeps Lee with him to make sure that he hasn't been duped by the girls.
Before each segment, there are trailers advertising fake films, as well as vintage theater snipes and an ad for a fictional restaurant called Acuña Boys. According to Rodriguez, it was Tarantino's idea to film fake trailers for Grindhouse. "I didn't even know about it until I read it in the trades. It said something like 'Rodriguez and Tarantino doing a double feature and Tarantino says there's gonna be fake trailers.' And I thought, 'There are?'" Rodriguez and Tarantino had originally planned to make all of the film's fake trailers themselves. According to Rodriguez, "We had so many ideas for trailers. I made Machete. I shot lobby cards and the poster and cut the trailer and sent it to Quentin, and he just flipped out because it looked so vintage and so real. He started showing it around to Eli Roth and to Edgar Wright, and they said, 'Can we do a trailer? We have an idea for a trailer!' We were like, 'Hey, let them shoot it. If we don't get around to shooting ours, we'll put theirs in the movie. If theirs come out really great, we'll put it in the movie to have some variety.' Then Rob Zombie came up to me in October at the Scream Awards and said, 'I have a trailer: Werewolf Women of the SS.' I said, 'Say no more. Go shoot it. You got me.'" Each trailer was shot in two days. While Wright and Roth shot only what ended up on screen, Zombie shot enough footage to work into a half-hour film and was particularly pained to edit it down. Some Canadian screening releases included the South by Southwest-winning trailer Hobo with a Shotgun.
Rodriguez wrote Machete in 1993 as a full feature for Danny Trejo. "I had cast him in Desperado and I remember thinking, 'Wow, this guy should have his own series of Mexploitation movies like Charles Bronson or like Jean-Claude Van Damme.' So I wrote him this idea of a federale from Mexico who gets hired to do hatchet jobs in the U.S. I had heard sometimes FBI or DEA have a really tough job that they don't want to get their own agents killed on, they'll hire an agent from Mexico to come do the job for $25,000. I thought, 'That's Machete. He would come and do a really dangerous job for a lot of money to him but for everyone else over here it's peanuts.' But I never got around to making it." The trailer was made into a feature film which was released in September 2010; a sequel, Machete Kills (2013), followed.
Werewolf Women of the SS
Rob Zombie's contribution, Werewolf Women of the SS, starred Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu; Udo Kier as Franz Hess, the commandant of Death Camp 13; Zombie's wife, Sheri; and Sybil Danning as SS officers/sisters Eva and Gretchen Krupp (The She-Devils of Belzac). Professional wrestlers Andrew "Test" Martin and Oleg Prudius (better known as Vladimir Kozlov) also featured, plus Olja Hrustic, Meriah Nelson, and Lorielle New as the Werewolf Women. According to Zombie, "Basically, I had two ideas. It was either going to be a Nazi movie or a women-in-prison film, and I went with the Nazis. There're all those movies like Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS; Fräulein Devil; and Love Camp 7—I've always found that to be the most bizarre genre." Zombie is also quoted as saying "I was getting very conceptual in my own mind with it. [...] A lot of times these movies would be made like, 'Well, you know, I've got a whole bunch of Nazi uniforms, but I got this Chinese set too. We'll put 'em together!' They start jamming things in there, so I took that approach."
Edgar Wright's contribution, Don't, was produced in the style of a 1970s' Hammer House of Horror film trailer. The trailer featured appearances from Jason Isaacs, Matthew Macfadyen, singer Katie Melua, Lee Ingleby, Georgina Chapman, Emily Booth, Stuart Wilson, Lucy Punch, Rafe Spall, Wright regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and a voice-over by Will Arnett. Mark Gatiss, MyAnna Buring, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley and Nicola Cunningham (who played the zombie "Mary" in Shaun of the Dead), among others, made cameo appearances though they eventually went uncredited. To get the necessary 1970s look, Wright used vintage lenses and old-style graphics. During editing, he scratched some of the film with steel wool and dragged it around a parking lot to make it appear neglected by wayward projectionists. According to Wright, "In the '70s, when American International would release European horror films, they'd give them snazzier titles. And the one that inspired me was this Jorge Grau film: In the UK, it's called The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue. In Spain and in Italy, I think it's called Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead. But in the States, it was called Don't Open the Window. I just loved the fact that there isn't a big window scene in the film—it's all based around the spin and the voiceover not really telling you what the hell is going on in the film." On the Charlie Rose talk show, Quentin Tarantino also pointed out another aspect of American advertising of British films in the 1970s that was being referenced—none of the actors have any dialogue in the trailer, as if the trailer was intentionally edited to prevent American viewers from realizing that the film is British.
Eli Roth's contribution is a promo for the slasher opus Thanksgiving. Produced in the style of holiday-themed slasher films like Halloween, Silent Night, Deadly Night, April Fool's Day and My Bloody Valentine, the trailer starred Jeff Rendell as a killer who stalks victims while dressed as a pilgrim; Jordan Ladd, Jay Hernandez, and Roth himself as his intended victims; and Michael Biehn as the Sheriff. The design for the titles in Thanksgiving was based on a Mad magazine slasher parody titled Arbor Day. Excerpts of the score from Creepshow were used in the faux trailer.
According to Roth, "My friend Jeff, who plays the killer pilgrim – we grew up in Massachusetts, we were huge slasher movie fans and every November we were waiting for the Thanksgiving slasher movie. We had the whole movie worked out: A kid who's in love with a turkey, and then his father killed it, and then he killed his family and went away to a mental institution and came back and took revenge on the town. I called Jeff and said, 'Dude, guess what, we don't have to make the movie, we can just shoot the best parts.'" "Shooting the trailer was so much fun," Roth has stated, "because every shot is a money shot. Every shot is decapitation or nudity. It's so ridiculous, it's absurd. It's just so wrong and sick that it's right."
Roth's fake trailer contained elements that almost earned Grindhouse an NC-17 rating, including a cheerleader simultaneously stripping, bouncing on a trampoline and getting stabbed in the vulva, and three decapitations, one of which occurs as the victim's girlfriend performs fellatio on him. According to Roth, "Instead of seeing it spread out in a feature, watching it all jammed together non-stop makes it more shocking. But we had a great discussion with the ratings board. They got it. Once they saw it with all the bad splices and the distress and scratches they were fine with it." Roth confirmed in an interview with Cinema Blend's Eric Eisenberg that he and co-writer Jeff Rendell are working on a possible feature film.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Some screenings of Grindhouse (mainly in Canada) also featured a fake trailer for a film titled Hobo with a Shotgun. The trailer, created by Dartmouth, Nova Scotia filmmakers Jason Eisener, John Davies, and Rob Cotterill, won Robert Rodriguez's South by Southwest Grindhouse trailers contest. In the trailer, David Brunt plays a vagabond with a 20-gauge shotgun (changed to a 12-gauge for the actual movie) who becomes a vigilante. In the trailer, he is shown killing numerous persons, ranging from armed robbers to corrupt cops to a pedophilic Santa Claus. The trailer was available in certain selected movie theaters in the United States and Canada.
In 2010, the trailer was made into a full-length feature film starring Rutger Hauer as the hobo, with David Brunt playing a dirty cop. Hobo With a Shotgun was the second of Grindhouse 's fake trailers to be turned into a feature film, the first being Machete. The film was released March 25, 2011 in Canada, April 1, 2011 on American Video On Demand and May 6, 2011 in U.S. theatres.
History and development
The idea for Grindhouse came to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino when Tarantino set up screenings of double features in his house, complete with trailers before and in between the films. During one screening in 2003, Rodriguez noticed that he owned the same double feature movie poster as Tarantino for the 1957 films Dragstrip Girl and Rock All Night. Rodriguez asked Tarantino, "I always wanted to do a double feature. Hey, why don't you direct one and I'll do the other?" Tarantino quickly replied, "And we've got to call it Grindhouse!"
The film's name originates from the American term for theaters that played "all the exploitation genres: kung fu, horror, Giallo, sexploitation, the 'good old boy' redneck car-chase movies, blaxploitation, spaghetti Westerns—all those risible genres that were released in the 70s." According to Rodriguez, "The posters were much better than the movies, but we're actually making something that lives up to the posters."
Rodriguez first came up with the idea for Planet Terror during the production of The Faculty: "I remember telling Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett, all these young actors, that zombie movies were dead and hadn't been around in a while, but that I thought they were going to come back in a big way because they’d been gone for so long. I said, 'We've got to be there first.' I had [a script] I’d started writing. It was about 30 pages, and I said to them, 'There are characters for all of you to play.' We got all excited about it, and then I didn't know where to go with it. The introduction was about as far as I'd gotten, and then I got onto other movies. Sure enough, the zombie [movie] invasion happened and they all came back again, and I was like, 'Ah, I knew that I should've made my zombie film.'" The story was reapproached when Tarantino and Rodriguez developed the idea for Grindhouse.
As Planet Terror took shape, Tarantino developed the story for Death Proof, based on his fascination for the way stuntmen would "death-proof" their cars. As long as they were driving, stuntmen could slam their cars headfirst into a brick wall at 60 mph (97 km/h) and survive. This inspired Tarantino to create a slasher film featuring a deranged stuntman who stalks and murders sexy young women with his "death-proof" car. Tarantino remembers, "I realized I couldn't do a straight slasher film, because with the exception of women-in-prison films, there is no other genre quite as rigid. And if you break that up, you aren't really doing it anymore. It's inorganic, so I realized—let me take the structure of a slasher film and just do what I do. My version is going to be fucked up and disjointed, but it seemingly uses the structure of a slasher film, hopefully against you."
According to Rodriguez, "[Tarantino] had an idea and a complete vision for it right away when he first talked about it. He started to tell me the story and said, 'It's got this death-proof car in it.' I said, 'You have to call it Death Proof.' I helped title the movie, but that's it." Of the car chases, Tarantino stated, "CGI for car stunts doesn't make any sense to me—how is that supposed to be impressive? [...] I don't think there have been any good car chases since I started making films in '92—to me, the last terrific car chase was in Terminator 2. And Final Destination 2 had a magnificent car action piece. In between that, not a lot. Every time a stunt happens, there's twelve cameras and they use every angle for Avid editing, but I don't feel it in my stomach. It's just action."
According to actress Marley Shelton, "Rodriguez and Tarantino really co-directed, at least Planet Terror. Quentin was on set a lot. He had notes and adjustments to our performances and he changed lines every once in a while. Of course, he always deferred to Robert on Planet Terror and vice versa for Death Proof. So it's really both of their brainchild." Tarantino has stated, "I can't imagine doing Grindhouse with any other director in the way me and Robert did it because I just had complete faith and trust in him. So much so that we didn't actually see each other's movie completed until three weeks before the film opened. It was as if we worked in little vacuums and cut our movies down, and then put them together and watched it all play, and then made a couple of little changes after that, and pretty much that was it."
Many of the cast members had previously worked with both directors. Before appearing in Grindhouse, Marley Shelton had auditioned for The Faculty, but Rodriguez chose not to cast her. She was eventually cast in the role of a customer in the opening sequence of Sin City. Bruce Willis had appeared in both Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Rodriguez's Sin City, in addition to having a cameo appearance in a segment Tarantino directed for the anthology film Four Rooms. Tom Savini had previously acted in From Dusk Till Dawn, which was written by Tarantino and directed by Rodriguez. Michael Parks reprises the role of Earl McGraw in Planet Terror and Death Proof. Parks first portrayed the role in From Dusk Till Dawn. His son, James, appears in Death Proof as Edgar McGraw, a character that first appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. The first time the two characters appeared together was in Tarantino's Kill Bill. Tarantino himself plays small roles in both segments of Grindhouse, and director Eli Roth, who contributed the fake trailer Thanksgiving and whose film Hostel was produced by Tarantino, has a cameo in Death Proof.
Tarantino attempted to cast both Kal Penn and Sylvester Stallone in Death Proof, but both were unable to work due to prior commitments. In an interview, Tarantino revealed that he decided to cast Kurt Russell as the killer stunt driver because "for people of my generation, he's a true hero...but now, there's a whole audience out there that doesn't know what Kurt Russell can do. When I open the newspaper and see an ad that says 'Kurt Russell in Dreamer,' or 'Kurt Russell in Miracle,' I'm not disparaging these movies, but I'm thinking: When is Kurt Russell going to be a badass again?"
Rodriguez and Tarantino each acted as cinematographer on their segments. Although Rodriguez had previously worked as the cinematographer on six of his own feature films, Death Proof marked Tarantino's first credit as a cinematographer. The director of photography for Rob Zombie's fake trailer Werewolf Women of the SS was Phil Parmet, whom Zombie had first worked with on The Devil's Rejects. The director of photography for Eli Roth's fake trailer Thanksgiving was Milan Chadima, whom Roth had previously worked with on Hostel.
Though set in the modern day, the film uses various unconventional techniques to make the films look like those that were shown in grindhouse theaters in the 1970s. Throughout both feature-length segments and the fake trailers, the film is intentionally damaged to make it look like many of the exploitation films of the 1970s, which were generally shipped around from theater to theater and usually ended up in bad shape. To reproduce the look of damaged film reels in Planet Terror, five of the six 25,000-frame reels were edited with real film damage, plug-ins, and stock footage.
Planet Terror makes heavy use of digital effects throughout the film. Perhaps the most notable effect is Cherry's (Rose McGowan) fake leg. To accomplish the fake leg that Cherry sports after her accident, during post-production the effects teams digitally removed McGowan's right leg from the shots and replaced it with computer-generated props—first a table leg and then an M16 rifle. During shooting for these scenes, McGowan wore a special cast which restricted her leg movement to give her the correct motion, and helped the effects artists to digitally remove it during post-production.
During editing, Tarantino and Rodriguez came up with the idea of inserting "missing reels" into the film. "[Quentin] was about to show an Italian crime movie with Oliver Reed," Rodriguez recalls, "and he was saying, 'Oh, it's got a missing reel in it. But it's really interesting because after the missing reel, you don't know if he slept with a girl or he didn't because she says he did and he says that he didn't. It leaves you guessing, and the movie still works with 20 minutes gone out of it.' I thought, 'Oh, my God, that's what we’ve got to do. We've got to have a missing reel!' I'm going to use it in a way where it actually says 'missing reel' for 10 seconds, and then when we come back, you're arriving in the third act. [...] The late second acts in movies are usually the most predictable and the most boring, that's where the good guy really turns out to be the bad guy, and the bad guy is really good, and the couple becomes friends. Suddenly, though, in the third act, all bets are off and it's a whole new story anyway."
On the editing of Death Proof, Tarantino stated "There is half-an-hour's difference between my Death Proof and what is playing in Grindhouse. [...] I was like a brutish American exploitation distributor who cut the movie down almost to the point of incoherence. I cut it down to the bone and took all the fat off it to see if it could still exist, and it worked." An extended, 127-minute version of Death Proof was screened in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 60th Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino is quoted as saying "It works great as a double feature, but I'm just as excited if not more excited about actually having the world see Death Proof unfiltered. [...] It will be the first time everyone sees Death Proof by itself, including me."
Grindhouse is rated R in the United States for "strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity, and drug use". On March 15, 2007, The New York Post reported that the film would possibly require heavy and extensive cuts in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. Shortly after, the film officially received an R-rating from the MPAA. Ain't It Cool News reported that according to Tarantino, only minimal cuts were made which ended up totaling 20 seconds.
The music for Planet Terror was composed by Rodriguez. Inspiration for his score came from John Carpenter, whose music was often played on set. A cover version of The Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" performed by Nouvelle Vague was also featured. The soundtrack for Death Proof consists entirely of non-original music, including excerpts from the scores of other films. Soundtrack albums for both segments were released on April 3, 2007.
Grindhouse was embraced favorably by the consensus of critics; review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 83% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 185 reviews, with an average score of 7.3/10. At the website Metacritic, which utilizes a normalized rating system, the film earned a favorable rating of 77/100 based on 33 reviews by mainstream critics.
Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a "B+" rating, praising it as a "crazily funny and exciting tribute to the grimy glory days of 1970s exploitation films" that "will leave you laughing, gasping, thrilled at a movie that knows, at long last, how to put the bad back in badass." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film a positive review, commenting that "by stooping low without selling out, this babes-and-bullets tour de force gets you high on movies again." Critic James Berardinelli also enjoyed the film but was not as positive as other critics. Awarding the film three stars (out of four), Berardinelli found the film to be "cinema as an expression of pulp with attitude... [Rodriguez and Tarantino] are speaking from the hearts... but that doesn't mean everyone sitting in the theater will get it."
The critics who did not like the film were not amused by the film's graphic and comical violence, with Larry Ratliff of San Antonio Express-News noting that "this ambitious, scratched and weathered venture never manages a real death grip on the senses." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle awarded the film a high rating, but noted that "the Rodriguez segment is terrific; the Tarantino one long-winded and juvenile." Others, by contrast, have considered Death Proof to be a deeper and more noteworthy segment. Critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times notes that "[a]t a certain point in Death Proof the scratches and bad splices disappear, and you find yourself watching not an arch, clever pastiche of old movies and movie theaters but an actual movie." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert was divided. He gave Grindhouse as a whole two and a half stars out of four, awarding Planet Terror two stars and Death Proof three stars. Ebert also noted the irony of grindhouse films largely being superseded by many big-budget R-rated mainstream films that included a great deal of nudity and graphic violence.
Critics generally enjoyed the fake trailers. Geoff Pevere of the Toronto Star wrote that the use of the trailers helps the film establish "... its credibility as both mock-artifact and geeky fetish object even before the opening feature." Todd McCarthy of Variety claimed that the trailers were "... excellent candidates for exploitation immortality." Jeff Vice of Deseret News, who gave the feature films negative reviews, called the trailers "... the strongest aspect of the entire presentation." Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide claimed "With the exception of Werewolf Women, which tries a little too hard, they're all spot-on pastiches."
The double feature appeared at number six on Jack Mathews and Owen Gleiberman's respective top ten lists for New York Daily News and Entertainment Weekly, and at number seven on Stephanie Zacharek's list for Salon. Marc Savlov listed Death Proof at number ten on his list for The Austin Chronicle.
Grindhouse did not perform well at the box office, surprising box office analysts and fans alike given the strong reviews and favorable media buzz. Costing $53 million to produce, Grindhouse opened poorly with "a disappointing $11.5 million" in the United States, making a per-theater average of $4,417; box office analysts originally predicted an opening weekend total of at least $20–$30 million.
The opening weekend box office total stood below not only the second weekends of Blades of Glory and Meet the Robinsons, but also fell below the opening weekend gross of the widely panned Are We Done Yet?, adding insult to injury. In an attempt to explain the film's disappointing opening weekend, box office analyst Brandon Gray suggested that Grindhouse "suffered the usual horror comedy dilemma that afflicted Snakes on a Plane and Slither among others: too funny to be scary, too scary to be funny." Box office analyst Lee Tistaert of popular tracking website Lee's Movie Info compared the result with what may have happened if Tarantino's Kill Bill saga had been released as one film, instead of two separate volumes. "Is it possible that Tarantino got his wish this time as a result of two back-to-back $60 million grosses?" he asked. Others attributed the film's disappointing opening to the timing of Easter weekend, noting that the weekend is more tailored for family-oriented films or light-comedy, not exploitative horror films. Quentin Tarantino is quoted as saying about the film's box office results, "It was disappointing, yeah. But the movie worked with the audience. [...] People who saw it loved it and applauded. [...] I'm proud of my flop." Harvey Weinstein said that he was so "incredibly disappointed" with the film's opening weekend that he was considering re-releasing it as two separate films and possibly adding back the "missing" scenes. The film altogether earned $25,422,088 in ticket sales. Grindhouse was separated and released internationally. Grindhouse: Death Proof grossed $30,663,961. Grindhouse: Planet Terror grossed $10,871,224. This brought Grindhouse's total gross to $67,000,000.
Outside the US and Canada, Planet Terror and Death Proof were released separately in extended versions, approximately two months apart. The poster artwork for each film's release in the Netherlands claimed that Death Proof would feature "coming attractions" from Rodriguez, while Planet Terror would feature "coming attractions" from Tarantino. While the separated version of Planet Terror includes the Machete trailer, none of the other fake trailers were included when the features were released individually.
In reaction to the possibility of a split in a foreign release, Tarantino stated "Especially if they were dealing with non-English language countries, they don't really have this tradition ... not only do they not really know what a grind house is, they don't even have the double feature tradition. So you are kind of trying to teach us something else." Many European fans saw the split as an attempt to increase profits by forcing audiences to pay twice for what was shown as a single film in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, Death Proof was released on September 21, 2007. The release of Planet Terror followed on November 9 with an eventual, theatrical, limited run of the entire Grindhouse feature the following year. Death Proof was screened in Europe in the extended version that was presented in competition at the Cannes film festival. The additional material includes scenes that were replaced in the American theatrical release version with a "missing reel" title card, such as the lap dance scene. A total of about 27 minutes were added for this version. In Australia, the edited version of Death Proof was first screened on November 1, 2007 as a separate film. However, from January 17, 2008, Grindhouse had limited screenings. In April 2008, Grindhouse was screened by Dendy Cinemas in one venue at a time across the country, through the use of a traveling 35 mm reel. In South America, Planet Terror was released in January 2010, while Death Proof was released in July 2010 at least in Brazil.
Death Proof and Planet Terror were released separately on DVD in the United States. The trailers were omitted from Death Proof, with the exception of Machete which was from Planet Terror. Death Proof was released on September 18, 2007, with Planet Terror following on October 16, 2007. Both were two-disc special editions featuring extended versions of the films. Robert Rodriguez stated in his 10-Minute Film School that a box set of the two films would be available soon, and that his 10-Minute Cook School would appear on it. This release would also reportedly include Hobo with a Shotgun. A six-DVD edition of the film was released on March 21, 2008 in Japan, featuring the films in both their individual extended versions and in the abridged double feature presentation along with previously-unreleased special features.
Planet Terror and Death Proof were released individually on Blu-ray Disc on December 16, 2008 in North America. The Blu-ray edition of Planet Terror also contained a "scratch-free" version of the film that removed much of the damage effects, while the Blu-ray edition of Death Proof only contained the "damaged" version of the film. The theatrical version of Grindhouse was released on Region 2 DVD and the stand-alone version of Death Proof HD DVD was released in Germany on December 31, 2009.
A two-disc Blu-ray "Special Edition" of Grindhouse was released on October 5, 2010 in the US by Vivendi Entertainment and has exclusive bonus features. This release marks the first time that US viewers can view the full Grindhouse "Double Feature Presentation" experience at home as it was originally released in theaters. The first disc of the 2-disc set contains Death Proof and Planet Terror, along with the faux trailers, including the "trailer" for Machete. The theatrical cut was released on DVD in Canada from Alliance Atlantis. All of the extras from the previous individual DVD releases were included, however none of the extras from the Special Edition Blu-ray were included.
Bill Moseley stated at FanExpo on August 27, 2010 that the Blu-ray would also include a 5-minute version of Werewolf Women of the SS.
Adaptations of the fake trailers
In 2010, Rodriguez wrote and co-directed a feature-length adaptation of his fake trailer, Machete. Many of the original actors from the trailer returned to their roles for it. Machete screened September 1 at the Venice Film Festival and was released across cinemas in the US on September 3, 2010.
Machete turned out to be more of a success at the box office than Grindhouse, grossing $44 million internationally against a just-over $10 million budget. At the end of the film, the announcer says that there would be two sequels: Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. Soon afterward, Rodriguez confirmed that the financing for the sequels was in place, and that once everyone was free, they could begin shooting.
The director of a trailer that played in some theaters in the United States and Canada (mainly the latter), Hobo with a Shotgun, Jason Eisener, also made a feature-length adaptation of it. Rutger Hauer replaced Dave Brunt as the titular character, though Brunt does make a cameo as a corrupt cop.
These two adaptations received mainly positive reviews, with the general consensus being that they were cartoonishly enjoyable and gleefully violent homages to their reasons for being. Although Hobo with a Shotgun was not as big a box office success in the U.S. as it was in Canada, it has since gained a cult following there.
Many of the other fake trailer directors have expressed interest in making their trailers into real films, including Edgar Wright and Eli Roth.
Both Rodriguez and Tarantino have said that they are interested in making a sequel to Grindhouse. Tarantino said that he wants to shoot an "old-school Kung Fu movie in Mandarin with subtitles in some countries, and release a shorter, dubbed cut in others" for his segment. It has also been reported by Rotten Tomatoes that Edgar Wright may expand Don't into a feature film. According to Eli Roth, he and Wright have discussed the possibility of pairing Don't with Thanksgiving for a Grindhouse sequel. Roth is quoted as saying "We're talking to Dimension about it. I think they're still trying to figure out Grindhouse 1 before we think about Grindhouse 2, but I've already been working on the outline for it and I would do it in a heartbeat."
Electra and Elise Avellan, Rodriguez's nieces who play the Crazy Babysitter Twins in both films, originally stated their uncle wanted to do a sequel featuring both Machete and The Babysitter Twins, but the latter concept did not materialize with the former's release. "Robert mentioned something about the end of the world and Hollywood action films, where we'd be trained in Mexico to come back here and fight," Electra Avellan told bloody-disgusting.com.
A third feature-length film based on the trailers, the Robert Rodriguez-directed Machete Kills, was released at the end of 2013.
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- Grindhouse at the Internet Movie Database
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