Fans were thrilled to hear that directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarnantino were collaborating on an old-fashioned horror double-feature called "Grindhouse". Surprisingly, the lengthy film didn't get quite the reception that it expected, as some audiences reportedly left part way through the double feature because they weren't aware that two films were included. Given the reception, the films were then broken up for their European release, as well as on DVD, which has upset some fans who wanted to see both films together as originally intended.
The first film to hit DVD is the second film of the two, Quentin Taranto's "Death Proof" (Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" comes out on 10/16/07, and there is a $5 coupon for it included here.) The film stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a scarred, psycho stunt driver who has outfitted his car so that he'll be safe in the case of any sort of accident.
The movie starts off with a group of tough-talking gals hanging out in a Texas dive bar, planning to head to the cottage owned by one of their fathers. Tarantino's flick is talky, but the talk replaces the action quite well, as the chatter is purely Tarantino and often fascinating to listen to. It's not until about 40 minutes into the flick, when Stuntman Mike takes his first rider - Pam (Rose McGowan, who's also in the Rodriguez section) - for a ride in his "death proof" auto. Not long after, the other girls have a "run-in" with Mike's auto in an "over-the-top" (literally) crash sequence.
Cut to Stuntman Mike moving operations from Texas to Tennesee, and trying to lure in another group of gals. The group piles into their car, chatting about their sex lives in pure Tarantino form, and the discussion carries on as the group (played by Tracie Thoms, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead) heads into a local diner. These are, however, no ordinary gals - this is a group of film crew girls (Bell was actually Uma Thurman's stunt double in the "Kill Bill" movies, and is terrific here) who can talk flicks, know their way around a stunt and don't take any crap. When Stuntman Mike tries to run them off the road, he doesn't realize he may have met his match.
"Death Proof" is a fun ride of a picture, despite the fact that the film is surprisingly talky. Still, even the chattering has the hook of Tarantino's dialogue. The two major action sequences are terrifically entertaining, as well - although the film's lengthy second chase sequence is especially impressive. It's all beautifully filmed by Tarantino, acting for the first time as his own cinematographer and doing a superb job at it, as despite the film's intentionally "low-budget" look, shots are skillfully composed.
The acting is also terrific, especially Bell, who is energetic and engaging. While Bell is known largely as a stuntwoman, she certainly has a lot of promise as an actress. Russell is charmingly evil as Stuntman Mike, and Tracie Thoms and Dawson also offer good supporting efforts, too. This isn't going to stand as Tarantino's best effort, but it's a lively, nifty ride of a flick.
This set provides the unrated/extended version of the movie, which adds in about 24 minutes more footage versus when "Death Proof" was attached to "Planet Terror" for the "Grindhouse" double feature.
VIDEO: The film is presented by Genius Products/Weinstein Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. One big note: the scratches, marks and other debris on the elements that are occasionally seen are intentionally added in to give the film the look of a 70's horror picture that has been through a lengthy run at run-down theatres. Other than that, the picture looked as intended: sharpness and detail are just fine, and no edge enhancement or artifacting were spotted. Colors also looked natural and accurate, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film's soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although the audio is also intended to have a low-budget feel, the film's soundtrack was still impressive, as the car chase sequences still presented a fine amount of activity.
EXTRAS: A featurette discussing the film's skilled stunt drivers, a documentary on Zoe Bell, a featurette on Russell's performance as Stuntman Mike, a featurette with Tarantino discussing casting the ladies of the film (as well as another about casting the gentlemen of the movie), the full version of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's performance of "Baby, It's You", a featurette about longtime Tarantino editor Sally Menke and finally, the trailer for "Double Dare", a great documentary about stuntwomen that features Bell.
Final Thoughts: This isn't going to stand as Tarantino's best effort, but it's a lively, nifty ride of a flick that I found entertaining. The DVD doesn't offer much in the way of extras (I'm guessing that's being saved for the inevitable special edition down the road), but the audio/video presentation handles the intended "look" of the film well. Recommended.
The Film B+