Thursday, February 10, 2011
Grindhouse: Planet Terror/Death Proof
When I heard Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were teaming up to make a double feature of B-movies as a tribute to the grindhouse films of the 1970s, I understood.
I'll admit, I'm a Tarantino/Rodriguez fanboy (Spy Kids and Sharkboy movies excepted — and yes, I even like The Faculty). But this is something different.
Anyone who grew up in Indiana throughout the 1970s and '80s should remember Sammy Terry, the late-night, B-grade horror movie host from channel 4:
I saw so many bad movies because of Sammy Terry, who might be the most compelling and interesting local celebrity around these parts. I used to hide behind the couch when his show started. That laugh, oh, that laugh used to scare the living shit out of me.
To understand the caliber of films he showed, you only need the titles: Invasion of the Bee Girls, The Swarm, and The Face of Fu Manchu.
Despite the awfulness of the films, I still stayed up late on many a weekend to catch Sammy Terry's show. Most of the films were awful, but Sammy's drop-ins were great. He'd provide these wicked little puns while talking to a plastic spider named George, who hung from the ceiling and sort of chirped at him.
I see the Grindhouse films as a tribute not only to an era, but to the campy, late-night hosts like Elvira, Count Floyd, and Sammy Terry himself. To me, there was nobody better.
Several years ago, I decided to dress up as Sammy Terry for Halloween. Long story short:
I bring all this up to show how much I was looking forward to the Grindhouse films. This wasn't just another outing from Tarantino/Rodriguez. This was a tribute.
They even pulled out vintage between-film reels ("Prevues of Coming Attractions") and used special effects and color correction to make these films look like shit. Add some purposely bad acting and writing and here you go. They still probably put more effort into making these films than any real B-movie director not named Sam Raimi.
I can see why the films don't work for modern audiences, though. Not everyone has a strong sense of nostalgia for the period. Not everyone was even old enough (or born enough) to remember how films looked in theaters of the time.
I grew up a mile from a drive-in movie theater. Talk about films looking and sounding bad. But we're talking about an era when audiophile sound and cinephile print quality were not an issue. Most people just wanted to go see a movie. Half the time, it didn't matter what was playing.
That said, when it comes to the Grindhouse films, I don't give a crap what these films are about or how "good" they are because I'm a sucker for nostalgia.
For me, the Grindhouse films are necessary. They get at a part of our country's history that nobody really thinks about (and many would just as soon forget). For a time, this kind of film is how Americans found entertainment at the movies. That should be celebrated, preferably with grande nachos and a Shiner Bock.