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Vern Reviews The DEATH PROOF DVD!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Since this showed up at my house, I’ve screened it three times. I hate that they are not putting out GRINDHOUSE together, but I really like the international cut of DEATH PROOF, and I know that sooner or later, I’ll be able to own the same thing I saw in theaters this spring. It’s just not right now, and I guess that’s just the way it fucking goes. Vern’s got a typically strong write-up of the disc for you today, and it was nearly as much fun to read this as it was to watch the disc:

For me GRINDHOUSE was one of the great theatrical experiences of 2007. A rare modern instance of filmatists trying to put on a real show, and giving you more than your money's worth. Two movies for the price of one, plus fake trailers - an affordable night or afternoon out. Yeah, I read about how it failed to make money for the Weinsteins, but guess what? That's what happens when you spend decades buying other people's movies so you can cut them, dub them, retitle them, sit them on a shelf for years, and then only allow them to be rented at Blockbuster. When you spend that long doing that many cruel and unusual things eventually your bi-yearly good deed will fail for you too. Because you are an asshole. So in that sense GRINDHOUSE is even better than you realize at first glance. It's a good time at the movies AND it lost money for some assholes. Two birds with one stone, in the form of two movies. Down to business: I was one of the people who thought Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR was kind of a fun fake movie but Tarantino's DEATH PROOF was a good actual movie. I liked it. So that's where I'm coming from reviewing the new DEATH PROOF dvd out today. A guy who bought the dvd because he likes the movie. That's right, the DEATH PROOF dvd. As opposed to the GRINDHOUSE dvd that would contain the original double feature as shown to packed houses on the outer edges of the United States. You may say wait a minute, why are these bloodsuckers releasing the two movies on dvd separately? No longer a double feature? Without even including the trailers? And as if we are so stupid that we don't know they're gonna release it as a double feature later? These are all valid points and clearly those snakehearted fuckers are doing it for the money. But by accident there is a certain logic to it. Think of it this way. There have been many double features throughout time, it has rarely been a permanent state. I remember in the late '80s for example seeing a double feature of I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA and THE FLY 2. For real. So to me that's how those movies were meant to be seen, but you can't buy them on one DVD. A double feature is a fleeting moment in time, a limited time offer, like a Christo installation, a snow sculpture, or the "eggnog" milkshake that becomes "tom and jerry" when it's not winter. You appreciate it when it comes around but you can't have Christmas every day. Unless you work in one of those year round Christmas stores. In which case I hope you get paid well you poor bastard. Also, I gotta be honest, there's not much of a chance I would sit and watch the whole double feature again. I saw it twice in theaters but on home video how often are you gonna watch two movies in a row that are pre-programmed for you by the Weinsteins? Not often. I do like those double feature dvds with the trailers that Dark Sky puts out, but those I don't watch the whole thing in one sitting either. So I really can't be too upset about it personally. Your mileage may vary. (That is not some car pun because of the movie being about cars, I am just using a common idiom.) In order to justify the separation this is the longer European cut with the "missing reel" lapdance scene and other additions. I don't know how the fuck they're gonna do it with PLANET TERROR since you would never want the "missing reel" to be in there, and the movie is probaly a little too long as it is. But with DEATH PROOF it seems kind of like a movie that had a bunch of different releases and you're seeing a version with parts you never knew were cut out before. So you got the lapdance scene, that's self-explanatory. (if you need it explained, what happens is she gives him a lapdance.) The other most noticeable addition is a long black and white sequence at a convenience store before Rosario, Kim and Lucy McClane pick up Zoe at the airport. Nicky Katt from THE LIMEY plays the clerk. The highlight is when Stuntman Mike pretends to drop his keys so he can lick Rosario's foot. I was surprised it was Kurt Russell's character that did that, you'd think Tarantino's character Warren the bartender would've been the one to do it. It would make no sense for him to be out there in Tennessee stalking girls in a minimart parking lot, but I'm sure he could've figured something out. But he didn't, he had Stuntman Mike do it for the sake of the story. Way to take one for the team Tarantino. I liked seeing this scene, but I didn't really think it needed to be in the movie. I especially didn't see any reason for it to be in black and white, that just seemed like screwin off. It's a good deleted scene but it doesn't add enough to justify how much it slows things down. On the other hand, it does make the ending make a little more sense. Knowing how long this guy has been stalking them makes it a little more believable that they would want to kill him. There are other scenes that aren't new but are longer. One little thing that really changes the way the story unfolds is in the first half there's a scene where Stuntman Mike is in his car laughing sinisterly and looking at the photos of his "girlfriends." It kind of reminds me of MANIAC or one of those other early '80s stalker movies. I liked in the theatrical cut that there really wasn't an acknowledgment that he was evil until he turned left when Rose MacGowan wanted to turn right. You'd seen his car looking ominous but that could've always been a trick, he could turn out to be the guy who protects the girls from the slasher. In this "Extended and Unrated" cut you know that can't happen because you see him cackling and collecting spy photos early on. The cat is out of the bag. My favorite addition for this cut is in the Earl McGraw scene in the middle, the bridge between the two halves of the movie where he explains the concept that car crashes are "the only way that degenerate sonofabitch can shoot his goo." The scene is a little longer and includes a part where he brings up the possibility of investigating Stuntman Mike, dogging him like Dr. Loomis, but he decides against it. I won't give away the joke, but there's some good new lines, it's always good to see that character. I know you're supposed to want to see the longer, uncut version, but sometimes shorter is better. DAWN OF THE DEAD for example, the long one from Cannes is nice but I go for the theatrical cut. History repeats itself here, I liked the shorter version better. It was more efficient. The long one doesn't ruin it though. I still like it. The transfer looks real nice, whatever the process he's using to make it look like a cheap '70s movie at the beginning, it looks even better on here. If you like the movie like I do the extras are pretty good too, definitely better than on those KILL BILL dvds. (hey bloodsuckers, when you gonna double dip us on those?) The best is a feature on "The Legendary Drivers of DEATH PROOF." One particular shot they talk about involves 3 generations of stunt drivers plus Zoe Bell on the hood of the car. In context it's a cool shot but not one that would necessarily jump out at you, so it's cool to see them explain the significance of it to the stunt drivers. There's also one called "The Guys of DEATH PROOF," which talks about some of these actors you forget are even in the movie since you pay more attention to the girls, and should be ashamed of yourself. I heard Eli Roth interviewed a while back and he told the story of filming the scene where he makes fun of Stuntman Mike ("he cut himself falling out of his time machine") and it's funny because they actually show footage of it happening and everything is pretty much exactly how Roth told the story, including Russell throwing nachos at him and Roth proclaiming THE THING his favorite movie of all time. The extra I was most excited for was "Quentin's Greatest Collaborator: Sally Menke." Unfortunately it's not a real thorough study or retrospective on her editing. But it is kind of amusing. It starts with Tarantino singing Menke's praises and ends with a long montage of takes where the DEATH PROOF actors turn to the camera and say "Hi Sally." The best is Zoe Bell saying it from the hood of the VANISHING POINT Charger. As usual for Tarantino, no commentary. Guess he's not much of a talker. Real shy. It's not an overwhelming amount of extras, and they have the balls to list the trailer for DOUBLE DARE (really good Zoe Bell-featuring documentary about stuntwomen) as a special feature. But it's a good dvd. If you like the movie. And alot of you hate the movie. I know when the double feature came out, DEATH PROOF was by far the least popular in the talkbacks. I didn't take alot of you seriously because you were calling the characters bitches and cunts, but there were plenty of reasonable people who didn't like it. And at least one of you asked me to explain why, exactly, I did like it. I may be a charming fella but I'm not gonna be able to talk anybody into liking it. I will say a few things though on its behalf. (And before you say this review is too long, fuck you, you got eyes, you knew what you were getting into, and I thoughtfully divided it into three parts so you'd have plenty of chances to take the coward's way out.) One of the complaints I heard was that it supposedly didn't fit the "grindhouse" theme it was advertised under. I disagree. I took it as a tribute to movies like TWO LANE BLACKTOP, artier independent car movies marketed with their exploitation elements. (This cover even fits that, they show off the female curves and the box is made to look beat up and "grindhouse" but it also has the logo for "Festival de Cannes Official Selection.") Those arty car movies tend to be dry and quiet though, this is kind of in the other direction, lots of talking before the car chase at the end. And it's true, especially watching it the third time around, alot of that talking is not as funny or interesting as what they're talking about in the other Tarantino movies. That's a fair criticism. Jungle Julia especially starts to seem a little too full of herself with her soliloquy about Butterfly and her poem and lapdance situation. But people that hate it don't acknowledge how the dialogue does its job under the radar. In the first half these discussions set up all the slasher movie expectations - we learn that our heroines smoke weed and drink booze, they like boys, they flaunt their sexuality, they're going to a cabin, and Butterfly refrains from going all the way with her date. Visually, Tarantino emphasizes that she should be the "final girl" who survives at the end. She's the only one who notices him following them, the only one afraid of him. So it seems like they should go out to the cabin and be picked off one by one until Butterfly pulls it together and, say, runs over Mike while yelling that poem menacingly. Instead he kills them all in one crash, running down the whole slasher movie formula. Whoops, start over. Then there's the bridge with Earl McGraw which is like the end of PSYCHO, the explanation of the psychology of the character. (That's the comparison that came to mind when I saw it, and Tarantino uses it in the extras on the DVD. dude, I'm totally on the same page as Tarantino, I must really GET IT! That's the problem, you guys just don't GET IT like I do. People who GET IT get it, why can' t you?) In the second half the conversations are more important because they're setting up what's really gonna happen instead of what you're supposed to think is gonna happen. For example, there's a funny conversation that establishes that Kim has a gun, and that she's happy to use it. That she believes in killing someone who tries to harm her. And there's the story about Zoe falling into the ditch that establishes the spectacular car chase scene that's pretty much the reason for the movie. The car gets to star in the poster, but to me Zoe Bell is the star of DEATH PROOF. She's the main thing that makes it special. I have no doubt that if she looked like some Bratz doll and was on the O.C. even you "haterz" would be sacrificing animals at her altar. Instead she looks like a normal person. But she's not a normal person. She's Xena flying through the air on fire, she's Beatrix Kiddo running up that handrail in the House of Blue Leaves, she's Zoe the Cat falling in the ditch and not getting hurt, she's fucking DEATH PROOF, as much the reason for the title as Stuntman Mike's car is. I think what Tarantino did was brilliant, to take this likable woman and turn her into an actress to create the weird circumstance of now seeing this same woman who we have been hanging out with actually, for real, put in this death-defying situation. The car chase is great, the crashes are great, the old school way it's all staged and filmed is great, the organic has-CGI-even-been-invented-yet?-feel is great-- but it's Zoe, in the middle, on the hood, clinging on for dear life, and then later picking up a metal rod and jumping on the side of the car, ready to beat the hell out of Stuntman Mike and his death proof car - that's DEATH PROOF. Okay, maybe you don't like it. Can we at least agree on MACHETE? You motherfuckers want our money, you need to hurry up and make MACHETE! peace in the middle east and etc., Vern
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