After laying an egg at the box office, Robert Rodriguez Planet Terror, his half of the Grindhouse double bill that also featured Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, makes it’s way to DVD. The dozens of people that caught it in theatres will be pleased to learn that the film holds up remarkably well on DVD, in this new “unrated” cut of the film-which will surely please gore fans.
One of the reasons Planet Terror holds up so well is that, as a film, it’s a lot less self indulgent than Death Proof. Rodriguez just wants viewers to have a good time, and it comes across in the film- which is an extremely affectionate homage to seventies exploitation films.
John Carpenter in particular seemed to be a strong influence, as the film is more or less Assault on Precinct 13, or Escape from New York with zombies- although in a good way. Basically, when a poison gas leaks into town, the citizens all begin turning into puss ridden, brain eating zombies. Like Carpenter’s films, the story focuses on a small group of survivors, led by the Snake Plisken-like, El Wray (Freddie Rodriguez, doing a great Kurt Russell), and go-go dancer-turned one legged super badass Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan).
For me, the coolest part of Planet Terror is the cool supporting cast, featuring Kyle Reese himself- Michael Bienn, Jeff Fahey, Tom Savini, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, and even Bruce Willis in an extended, uncredited cameo.
The films runs a few minutes longer on disc than it did in theaters, with a couple of extra scenes added, and a bit more gore.
The film looks and sounds exactly like in did in theaters, although strangely, the aspect ratio is different Projected theatrically in scope 2:35:1. the film is not 1:78. I imagine that Rodriguez shot the film in 1:78, but matted it to the wider ratio, as he did for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The overall look of the film is unchanged, meaning that all the intentional nicks, scratches, color fading, bad splices and missing reels are present. For those not in the know, the film was artificially aged to make it look like the print of the film was found in a dustbin somewhere. I always dug this look, and I’m glad they kept it for the DVD..
The double platter set is naturally stuffed with extras, although none of the fake trailers that were shown in theatres make it to disc, with the notable exception of Machete. They are likely being set for a deluxe version of Grindhouse that I’m sure will come out sooner or later.
The commentary track by Rodriguez is informal and fun, with him covering everything from the casting, down to post production. Also included is an audience participation track, similar to the one included on the deluxe Sin City DVD. Basically, Rodriguez & co. Recorded a particularly lively audience, making you feel as though you’re sitting in the middle of a packed theater.
The rest of the special features consist of several behind the scenes features, which are more fun that the usual epk’s found on most new releases. “The Badass Babes Of Planet Terror” & “The Guys Of Planet Terror” focus on the casting, and include interviews with all the principle actors (minus Willis), who seems to be having a grand old time. “Casting Rebel”, focuses on the director’s son, Rebel, who plays a child who meets an unfortunate, yet bizarrely funny end. “Sickos, Bullets And Explosions: The Stunts Of Planet Terror”- focus on the vfx and stunt work, while “The Friend, The Doctor And The Real Estate Agent” explains how Rodriguez cast several of his friends in key roles. For my money, the real estate agent absolutely steals the film as a sleazy Go-Go bar owner.
Typical of Rodriguez, you also get another installment of his “10 minute film school” series. In this installment, he explains how he achieved the degrade look of the film, which he claims actually made the film seem more violent than it actually is.
While it tanked in theatres, Planet Terror is a hell of a lot of fun, and in definitely worth a rental. All serious Grindhouse fans should save their money for the eventual special edition that I’m sure will also feature Death Proof.