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IN SHORT: Let us now celebrate garbage. [Rated R for strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive language, some sexuality, nudity and drug use. 185 minutes]
Nah, not garbage in the "it stinks" sense. Garbage, in this case, also means movies done on the cheap; long on effects and short on stories and actors with ability. Just the kind that filled theaters that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez filled as young 'uns. Their homage to the double feature attempts to duplicate their youth. One horror film on a double bill with one car-based movie. A pair of trailers fill out the bill, which will help you kill time in a nicer theater than you should be sitting in to see this junk.
Since the West Coast raised Mr. Tarantino doesn't know why his beloved rat trap movie theater (was) called a "grindhouse," here you go with the East Coast version: Lavish theaters were built as vaudeville houses way back at the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth centuries. Silent movies, then radio and the second generation talking pictures came along and, with burgeoning studios building their own theaters (prior to 1949 or so they were allowed to both own and distribute their product) the old houses fell into disrepair and utilized their stages for burlesque. Thus, the "grind." But having real bodies and paying to stage theater costs money so, when there were enough cheap films in the pipeline to keep 'em busy, the strippers got the heave ho.
By the time Messrs. Rodriguez and Tarantino planted in the dollar (or two) theaters of their day, which usually played third run A-list bombs and cheap "films" with bigger makeup effects than story budgets, we'd already been there done that and grown up to expect more developed stories in the films we saw. That's no diss on them for adoring the cheap stuff. We'd seen it differently. The grindhouses of New York's forty-second street had their own audiences. The pre-stoned sat up front. Those getting stoned sat in the dark to light up. Those who couldn't afford hotel rooms made out in the back row or did the deed up in the balcony. A fourth group (mine) was in the theater killing time stretching limited budgets and yelling back at a screen usually filled with body parts and car crashes. Who knew there were those who actually liked that crap???
A quick aside, to avoid answering the inevitable eMail: The reason we didn't get stoned for our turns way back when? -- 'cuz we phased out once and missed the crap entirely. Cheap is cheap, and television provides the same substance for effect for free. 'nuff said.
Our days watching what were called "horror" movies predate the John Carpenter era, so the current idea that the more body parts the better leaves us cold. That's probably why, aside from a spectacular decapitation effect or two, Rodriguez' zombiefilm half of the Grindhouse double feature, Planet Terror, left us cold. We were more inclined to prefer the almost nonstop car frenetics in Tarantino's Death Proof, but were so bored by the time it started we just didn't care. The more enjoyable moments of the "feature" come at the beginning and between features -- trailers, long forgotten and now sheer advertising. The two that you'll see, one called Machete and one featuring Nazi femme werewolves pack more entertainment into their five or so minutes than either feature does.
Then again, we hit fifty the day before and managed to get kissed by beautiful female strangers as the lights went down, so we were on the whole happy with the Grindhouse experience. <vbg> No gen-X'er or younger should bother emailing Cranky to tell us that Grindhouse is the greatest movie ever and then proceed to explain why. As we wrote, "been there done that." Those of the Cult of Quentin -- you know who you are -- can argue until you're blue in the face. We have liked most of all Tarantino's previous work and are not as exposed to Rodriguez so this is a failure of form over function. For us.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Grindhouse, he would have paid . . .
Hey, that's what Cranky paid at the grindhouses in New York. It's only fair.
[Of course, that was in 1980s dollars...]
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