I know most of you know about QT and RR’s masterpiece – Grindhouse – and what it stands for but I’ll start with some history about the grindhouse phenomenon.
Where does the Grindhouse term comes from?
The introduction of television greatly eroded the audience for local and single-screen movie theaters, many of which were built during the cinema boom of the 1930’s. In combination with urban decay after white flight out of older city areas in the mid to late 1960’s, changing economics forced these theaters to either close or offer something that TV could not. In the 1970’s these theaters were put to new use as venues for exploitation films, either adult pornography and sleaze, or slasher horror and dubbed martial arts films from Hong Kong.
Grindhouse films characteristically contain large amounts of sex, violence or bizarre subject matter. One genre of film featured were “roughies” or sexploitation, a mix of sex, violence and sadism. Quality varied, but low budget production values and poor print quality were common. Critical opinions varied regarding typical grindhouse fare, but many films acquired cult following and critical praise. Double, triple, and “all night” bills on a single admission charge often encouraged patrons to spend long periods of time in the theaters. The milieu was largely and faithfully captured at the time by the magazine Sleazoid Express.
Have a look at this mix of grindhouse movie trailers:
By the 1980s, home video and cable movie channels threatened to render the grindhouse obsolete. By the end of the decade, these theaters had vanished from Los Angeles’s Broadway and Hollywood Boulevard, New York City’s Times Square and San Francisco’s Market Street. By the mid-1990’s, these particular theaters had all but disappeared from the US. Very few exist today.
Exploitation film is an informal label which may be applied to any film which is generally considered to be both low budget and of low moral or artistic merit, and therefore apparently attempting to gain financial success by “exploiting” a current trend or a niche genre or a base desire for lurid subject matter. The term “exploitation” is common in film marketing for promotion or advertising in any type of film. These films then need something to exploit, such as a big star, special effects, sex, violence, or romance. An “exploitation film”, however, due to its low budget, relies more heavily than usual on “exploitation”. Very often, exploitation films are widely considered to be of low quality, and are generally “B movies“. Even so, they sometimes attract critical attention and cult followings. Some films which might readily be labeled as “exploitation films” have become trend setters and of historical importance in their own right, such as Night of the Living Dead (1968). Some films also might be advertised by the producers themselves as “exploitation films” in order to pique the interest of those who seek out films of this type.
We could talk for ever about grindhouses, the 70’s and exploitation films but let’s get back to our main subject – the Grindhouse project from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.
Grindhouse – the masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez
Grindhouse consists of two very different films. The first, Planet Terror, is directed by Rodriguez and is a horror movie about zombies. The second, Death Proof, is directed by Tarantino and is a thriller about a crazed killer who murders women with his car.
Many people I talked with seem to have missed the main idea behind Grindhouse: the fact that the two movies are, in fact, an homage to a period in the American cinematography. It’s not about the zombies led by Bruce Willis or about the Death Proof car, it’s about art in it’s purest form.
When going to such a movie you expect to see violence, blood and gore, lot’s of it, and Grindhouse delivers that but also gives you so much more.
The missing reels are only a complement to the fact that both of the film’s actual picture quality is intentionally absolutely terrible. The films (more so Planet Terror) are scratched up and tarnished to the point where some scenes are practically unwatchable. You just stop seeing the action on screen, and only notice how beat up the print is. It looks old and worn out. And it works wonderfully, and makes the experience all the more authentic. It’s just like going back in time.
Grindhouse is a place in time where that will grow on you after you visit it for the first time and then you will go back visiting, again and again.