Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #435
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: April 6, 2007
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Elizabeth Avellan
Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero
Cinematography: Robert Rodriguez
Score: Robert Rodriguez, Graeme Revell
Editing: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
Studios: Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios
Distributor: Dimension Films
Stars: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Rebel Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Stacy Ferguson, Nicky Katt, Tom Savini, Carlos Gallardo, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 Nouvelle Vague “Too Drunk to Fuck”
 Rose McGowan “Two Against The World”
 Chingon “Cherry´s Dance Of Death”
To this very day, I’m dumbfounded by how the working title Planet Terror had never been snapped up by the time Robert Rodriguez got his gums around it. Thanks to Bruce D. Clark we discovered ourselves a whole Galaxy of Terror back in the eighties, but somehow nobody had the smarts to concentrate said terror any. As a result, the acclaimed director of such heavyweight contenders as From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City was afforded free rein of his very own wandering star and, after three stints babysitting the Spy Kids, he gladly traded little terrors for some good old-fashioned free range pandemonium.
The first seeds for Project Terror, as it was originally known, were planted almost a decade earlier, while Rodriguez was shooting The Faculty. He had a hunch that a return of the living dead was on the cards and wanted to be first out of the gates upon commencement of the zombie invasion. However, writer’s block can be both a whore and her pimp, and thirty pages in, he drew a disconcerting blank. You know how it is, suddenly other projects come along and, before you can work out whether it’s dusk or dawn, the craze was upon us just as he had prophecized, leaving the director without a vein to tap into. Thankfully, he didn’t trash the inconclusive treatment, and the result was a significant head start on his buddy Quentin Tarantino when the word Grindhouse was suggested.
When Rodriguez first pitched the concept of a double-bill to Tarantino, it didn’t take much convincing to win him over. However, Quentin was very clear on one thing; that being they needed to give horror a run-out as that best fitted the brief. While both films contain elements of horror, Death Proof draws as much inspiration from seventies action exploitation as it does anything else, leaving Rodriguez to finally finish Project Terror and pay homage to both the zombie flicks of the era and b-movies splatter cinema the likes of which Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman were then pumping out on a bi-monthly basis. On the evidence of watching both films back-to-back, and enjoying the living shit out of them for their own unique merits, I’d say both men made precisely the right choice.
“I’m gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge”
Should you choose to view them as they were originally intended, then Planet Terror is undoubtedly the place to begin. It is far more accessible than its stablemate and takes a lot less time making its point. That said, Death Proof is, for Keeper, the slightly more thoroughbred of the two and this is, in no way, a slight against Rodriguez’ piquant entrée. Where films such as Vanishing Point had long scenes of exposition and drawn-out pace, creature features dilly-dallied not when dishing out the space snot. Tarantino’s approach is a tad more refined, whereas Rodriguez lunges straight for the jugular just as Richie Gecko would have done back at The Titty Twister, after his third straight whiskey, and once he’d dragged himself away from ogling Salma Hayek’s toenail gloss.
Picture the scene. It’s Texas and a spill of bio-nerve gas has converted anyone exposed into marauding sickos, leaving the rag-tag few to fend off relentless waves of toxic avengers and save their town before sunrise. Clearly there needed to be a sheriff on-hand, while a medic is always useful in the trenches, but no seventies/eighties throwback b-movie would be complete without at least one ballsy stripper. Enter Rose McGowan (and believe me, you’ll desire such), as poster girl and all-round badass Cherry Darling.
This salacious siren looks saucy enough sliding up and down an alloy rod suggestively, licking those blushed lips, to have us soundly slathering our monitors. McGowan actually suffers from Mysophobia, thus requested the stripper pole in question be sanitized beforehand. If she was uncomfortable, then she sure as shit hides it well. I believe “dang!” is the correct word.
“You’re bleeding like a stuck pig. Your vision is probably blurred, and you’re on your last leg”
After her rousing go-go intro, I was half-expecting Cherry darling to commence firing ping-pong balls from her labia. So, after having her right leg subtracted from the equation, when she crouched down to line up her shot, I was more than thrilled to see a custom-made M4A1 carbine assault rifle/M203 grenade launcher stuffed into her stump. I never understood Gary and Wyatt’s logic when tinkering with Weird Science and coming up with Kelly Le Brock. Surely the perfect woman comes fitted with a machine-gun implant and that still leaves another five toes to suck on should you share a shower.
In the history of hotness, Cherry Darling ranks way above the lava loungers, at the very tip of volcanic. McGowan is simply sumptuous in the dominant role and I feel a twinge in my daddy region every single time she reloads. Needless to say, I volunteer to blow the barrel on her behalf, as she is still classified as a cripple after all. Least I can do Darling.
“Never did like that son of a bitch. About as useless as a pecker on a pope”
Her bright future as a stand-up comedian appears to be in jeopardy, although she does, at least, have an effective means to silence any hecklers. Thankfully, her personal life appears to be looking up, thanks to her ass-stomping, twin blade-plunging, gunslinging chicano ex-boyfriend El Wrey (Freddy Rodriguez), who is all about protecting his precious Palomita. He starts out appearing to be in possession of little in the way of charisma and spends much of the early exchanges eyeing up the jacket which Cherry claimed from him after the pair parted ways but turns out to be quite the hardcore hombre as things wear on and, in the words of Sheriff Hague (a perfectly grizzled Michael Biehn), definitely has the devil in him.
Meanwhile, Hague’s brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey) runs the best little blood diner in Texas, The Bone Shack, and it is here that any survivors congregate as they contemplate the thankless task ahead of them, while Hague attempts to prise his kin’s secret BBQ recipe from his reluctant grasp. Throw in Marley Shelton as the bi-curious Dr. Dakota Block and Josh Brolin as her rapidly mutating embittered other and we’ve got ourselves some stragglers. There are also fun cameos for Tom Savini as the sheriff’s dimwitted deputy Tolo (which is Portuguese for fool) and Tarantino himself as the aptly named Rapist #1 which shows he still has the cojones for playing a reprobate. He doesn’t need J.T.’s “best in Texas” BBQ sauce to make his meatballs spicy and evidently relishes letting it all hang out for such a worthy cause.
“I’ve seen me a lot of weird shit in my day, but I ain’t never seen a one-legged stripper. I seen me a stripper with one breast. And I seen me a stripper with twelve toes. I’ve even seen me a stripper with no brains at all, but I ain’t never seen a one-legged stripper. And I’ve been to Morocco”
There are also a number of tenuous links to Death Proof, with Jungle Julia’s radio eulogy proving that Stuntman Mike picked the ideal time to skip state and Michael Parks reprising his role as Earl McGraw. To keep things suitably grindhouse, Rodriguez uses all the reverential tricks at his disposal, using scratchy film print, outrageous jump cuts, and that elusive missing reel which melts away midway through a bout of El Wray and Cherry Darling’s make-up sex. While it is possible that some will be deterred by the unmistakably weathered filmmaking style Rodriguez adopts to tell his tale, substance is something he is happy to leave to his associate. Style, on the other hand, is in über-abundance and the director of the El Mariachi trilogy once again plays his hand with the unabashed verve that has become customary with his work.
I have purposely negated to mention the character of Lt. Muldoon until now as Bruce Willis’ presence is in the capacity of a knowing nod to grindhouse films passed where certain high-profile names were recruited for a solitary day’s frontal shooting, then a body double used for any subsequent rear footage. The thorn in his side is well-spoken bio-chemical engineer Abby (Naveen Andrews), a man with an ominous predilection for pickled testicles and a rather disconcerting three-pronged tool used to snag himself some fresh knackers for his overcrowded ball jar. Kaufman will be mighty proud I’m sure. While Planet Terror wears all of its influences proudly on its cuff links, all exits appear to lead directly back to Tromaville. Alas, however, there isn’t a single rabid granny.
When watching as the double-bill intended, we are presented with bookended trailers for Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, Edgar Wright’s Don’t, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, and notably Jason Eisener’s Hobo With a Shotgun and Rodriguez’ own Machete, both of which have since been adroitly fleshed out to full-length. It would seem unruly not to speak of David Brunt’s indignant vagabond with a 20-gauge given that the elaborated film role eventually fell to a rampant rogue who positively masticates gunpowder, Rutger Hauer). Meanwhile, Danny Trejo’s snarling vigilante grunts with the best of ’em and Cheech Marin’s somewhat atheist preacher is a joy to take final communion with. These furious five buckwild bulletins provide incalculable intermission and exhibit exquisite understanding of the boys’ brief.
Planet Terror does precisely what it states on the tin and, where Death Proof supplies the more noble reverence, it pays rather wonderful homage to the movies that found themselves at midnight screenings during an epoch passed. It’s like a ferret on a flume, stuffing our cheeks with J.T.’s famous BBQ sausages like the feeder that it is, while making enough polite conversation to forgive any belches as we digest its roadkill. Rodriguez knows of Useless Talent #38 and it turns out it to be mighty productive once we lend ourselves to the film’s deliberately trashy charm. Which brings me to my one gripe, if you can call it that. Cherry Darling is beyond iconic and, last I checked, Cosmos of Terror was still fair game, so why we haven’t seen more of McGowan’s upgrades is anyone’s guess but only Rodriguez’ answer. Given his tendency to sit on his nest eggs for a decade or so, I’d say it’s high time we see the roost.
One last thing before you discard those corn dogs Grueheads. Be sure to keep scrolling to the very foot of this appraisal as, in true Grindhouse fashion, there’s an extra helping for any who stick around to the end of the credits.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: I’ve held back on the splatter with sound reasoning. Where the fuck am I supposed to begin? Let me just suggest this; I’m fairly convinced that the likely lads of KNB had something of a field excursion bringing the ooze. CGI is often preferred to the practical gristle of Death Proof, but there’s still more than ample prosthetic pleasure to be had. Syringes are plunged, caps popped, primed pustules puckered, finger foods snacked upon, Savini dummies obliterated, peepers splintered, faces liquefied, heads caved, nuts cracked, schlongs stretched, ribs slathered, dental records readjusted, toxies fashioned, the whole nine yards with inches to spare. Then there is the small matter of limping love-whippet Cherry Darling. Her scratched up pole dance has been forever deposited into my wank bank. There, in the vault of the mind, interest will continue to mature, with some regularity I might add.
As already mentioned, both Hobo With a Shotgun and Machete have already seen fruition and both movies encapsulate everything Rodriguez and Tarantino had in mind when starting their Grindhouse venture. Meanwhile, I would pay good money to see Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu so here’s hoping Werewolf Women of The S.S. sees its full moon sometime soon. Fingers crossed also that Wright doesn’t take his own advice with the Fulci-flavored Don’t, while Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving festivities simply must get underway or I’ll be stuffed. As a self-confessed slasher whore myself, his slow cooked pot roast is my personal darling. That’s some way to pop a cheerleader’s cherry and perhaps the last time I’ll ever go trampolining.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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