At first glance “Grindhouse,” the new exploitative double feature joint from the inventive minds of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez looks like one of those films that will subsequently have you grumbling about the three hours of your life that you can’t get back.
But somehow spending that time watching a quirky Tarantino flick, doesn’t seem like such a waste. Tarantino’s films aren’t always brilliant, but they are inarguably entertaining on some level. And, he has such a way with the bizarre that it’s highly likely that “Grindhouse” will go down as one of the top cult classics in history.
The film, which opens Friday, features Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Marley Shelton and Bruce Willis (cameo) in “Planet Terror,” a throwback to “Dawn of the Dead.” All hell breaks loose when some strange plague hits the town and turns the locals into zombies and it’s up to a one-legged former go-go dancer Cherry (McGowan) and her ex-boyfriend (Rodriguez) to save the world.
Kurt Russell, Tracie Thoms, Sydney Tamia Poitier, Rosario Dawson, Jordan Ladd, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell and McGowan star in Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” a spoof on the slasher genre in which the madman (Russell) hunts down babes in his car as opposed to chasing them through the woods.
‘Quentin and Robert are outlaws’“When I read it I knew I had to be in it,” said Freddy Rodriguez. “Quentin and Robert are outlaws who do their own thing. That’s the beauty of them. They make their own rules and they come up with these ideas that no one else will try. That’s why as an actor, when they call, you just say, I’m there.”
Tarantino and Rodriguez came up with the concept one night when Rodriguez stumbled across an old movie poster from the ’50s at Tarantino’s home in Austin.
“He says, ‘Hey, see that poster?” Tarantino said. “‘I’ve always wanted to do a double feature like that.’ And I said, ‘let’s do it. I’ll do one and you do the other.’ And he said, ‘we’ll put fake trailers in it and call it ‘Grindhouse.’”
The origin of “The Grindhouse” is a little ambiguous. According to the press notes, some folks believe it referred to films that included a lot of bumping and grinding. Others say that it came from the way the films were “grinded out” on ancient projectors. One thing, however, is very clear. These films generally included lots of sex and violence. The more bizarre the scene, the better. Nothing needed to make sense and it didn’t.
“Grindhouse” contains all of those elements.
“We were trying to capture the entire Grindhouse experience and hopefully it works correctly,” said Tarantino. “We wanted to kind of take you on a ride.”
Yeah, a really gory one.
‘We just let our imaginations go wild’“We knew there would be some things that would be hard for people to watch,” Rodriguez said. “But we’re both fans of zombie movies and we knew we would have to step it up so other fans of that genre wouldn’t be disappointed. We just let our imaginations go wild.”
Additionally, these movies were always accompanied by really cool trailers that were just as entertaining, if not more so, than the main attractions.
“Grindhouse” not only has some great trailers — including “Werewolf Women” directed by Rob Zombie — but it also includes the infamous “missing reels” slate that sometimes appeared on screen when these films were shown at the drive-in.
“Hopes are high that we’ll find them,” Tarantino joked. “I have a detective working on mine and he said maybe there’s a possibility that mine might be in a basement in Holland. There’s talk about Acuna, Mexico — and that might be where Robert’s missing reel is but the English soundtrack is completely gone, so we don’t know.”
Obviously, the making of “Grindhouse” was a fantasy come true for the hyper-hyper Tarantino who never seems to take a breath when he’s talking. His hands move all the time — like he’s directing the Boston Pops on the Fourth of July — and Tarantino’s cadence is so rapid that the people around him often break a sweat just listening to him.
He’s more than a character, he’s an experience in high-def 3-D. And he usually has empowering images of women in his films. They kick ass. Perhaps that’s why just about every actress is willing to risk getting battered and bruised to be a part of a Tarantino film.
“I’ve been such a huge fan of Quentin’s for so many years that it was so fun to read something like this that has so many great female roles,” said Dawson. “Just that dialogue. I don’t care what situations you put your characters in, if you’re riding with Quentin, it’s going to be amazing and so much fun to work on. It’s been an amazing opportunity.
“And it was fun kicking Kurt Russell’s ass, too!”
McGowan, who had the opportunity to work with both directors, concurred.
“Quentin is really fast-paced and pretty hyper, but he’s really in control,” McGowan says. “You really don’t ab lib in his movies, you really stick to it as with Robert, too. Robert’s really intense, really focused and the set’s really quiet because there’s so much going on in his head at the same time he’s behind the camera and shooting. And, he’s basically in his head editing at the same time and he goes home at night and edits. With Quentin, it’s loud and crazy, but controlled because he knows exactly what he wants.”
Possibilities are limitlessIf “Grindhouse” scores big at the box office this weekend, Tarantino and Rodriguez will likely be hailed as outlaw geniuses. “Hopefully, the idea is when that movie’s over and they freeze-frame and you walk out of the theater — that if someone walks up to you and says ‘hey babycakes, howya doin’? You can go ‘Pow!’” Tarantino said.
But regardless of how well the film is received, the two best friends are already thinking franchise.
“One thing that was really funny is that there are many, many different sub-genres that would play at the Grindhouse,” Tarantino said. “There are all of these possibilities. I’ve always wanted to do a blaxploitation movie or women in prison. I’ve always wanted to do a spaghetti western. There are all kinds of things.
“I think the way to start off is to make them horror. That way you wouldn’t have to explain too much. This gives us kind of a wonderful umbrella to do it. The weight of the world wouldn’t be riding on it if it fell into the Grindhouse. It would just be what it is. I wouldn’t have to reinvent cinema in order to do it.”
Miki Turner is a freelance TV producer/writer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at .