Return of the Grindhouse
I was not born a movie geek. It came gradually, with careful nurturing at Saturday matinee double-features (at the long-since-defunct Will Rogers and May Theaters in Oklahoma City) and the instruction of others. Back in my high school days, I had a brother in law, since deceased, who schooled me in the world of exploitation pictures: slasher movies, no-budget sci-fi, sex-starved girls-in-prison flicks, biker pics, blaxploitation, hot-rod car chases and on and on.
It was, in a word, paradise.
I immersed myself in them all, with a number of them -- Dawn of the Dead, Death Race 2000, The Green Slime, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blood Feast, Last House on the Left, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls -- becoming as much a part of my formative years as Winnie the Pooh and sneaking peeks at my best friend's father's stash of Playboys. Some of the movies were classics of trash aesthetics; most were not. But almost all were masterpieces of the visceral, bristling with energy, enthusiasm and gloriously driven by matters of the Id.
Often made by people whose talents were outmatched by their imaginations, the exploitation movies I gorged myself on during that period instilled in me a deep and abiding love of cinema, both good and bad.
Somewhere in movie heaven, if there is such a place, that dear departed brother in law, whom I'll call Mitch, must be beaming with the release of Grindhouse, the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino homage to those trash epics of yesteryear.
Even if you haven't seen Grindhouse by this time (and if you haven't, get thee to a multiplex post haste), you probably know the essentials about it. It's a double feature; Rodriguez directs the zombies flick Planet Terror, while Tarantino helms the car chase/serial killer gem, Death Proof. Between the two, there is a slate of wonderful ersatz movie trailers (Don't and Thanksgiving are particular standouts, so hilariously rude you might just lose control of your bladder before all is said and done) and an advertisement for a very dicey restaurant. And throughout this three hour, 12-minute extravaganza, there is unbridled gore, violence, car crashes, rock 'n' roll and insanely hot women.
It is wickedly funny, wickedly gross and just plain wicked. Planet Terror is a kit and caboodle of bad taste that runs the gamut from a go-go dancer with a machine-gun filling in for a prosthetic leg (an iconic, salacious turn by Rose McGowan) to a villain who collects the testicles of his enemies. The more refined of the double-feature, Death Proof, sports an ace performance from Kurt Russell, genuine chills and a car chase worthy of the greatest such scenes in movie history (which, in my book, includes The French Connection, Bullitt, Diva and To Live and Die in L.A.).
But it's the overall vibe of Grindhouse, its singular experience, that makes it such an irresistible, pulpy buzz.
It is celluloid Jägermeister without the boo-face.
It is a hot fudge sundae heaped on the bare midriff of a Vegas showgirl.
It is a piñata burgeoning with narcotics and condoms.
And I can't wait to see it again. Thank you, Quentin and Robert. And thank you, Mitch.