The Rob Zombie/Quentin Tarantino ‘Grindhouse’ collaboration was a tribute to everything 70′s; both films were a retrophile’s wet-dream. Naturally, this is what we’ve chosen to kick-off our reviews with, because the Death Proof/Planet Terror duo started a resurgence of the grindhouse trend, and a renewed interest in trash and exploitation cinema. Since I believe in doing things in alphabetical order whenever possible, we’re going to start the Grindhouse review with Death-Proof, –and we’re doing them in two parts because they’re two different films. Lumping them together just doesn’t do them any justice.
Death Proof is similar to Planet Terror in a couple ways; they both manage to pack in as much vintage and retro stuff as possible, and they pile different exploitation themes as well. Death Proof manages to pull off sexploitation (barely), hixploitation, blaxploitation, vigilante, revenge-sploitation, shocksploitation, but most importantly, carsploitation.
There is no sex in Death Proof, so you’re probably saying, ‘wtf?’ Point being, there’s a lot of in your face cockteasing in the film. We’ve got a ton of profanity, shock-value violence, but no tits? And yet, they manage to toss in a lapdance. Kind of unfair, really. The hixploitation bit, –all I have to do is point to Jasper, in the second half of the film; yet another depiction of a perverse southerner. Blaxploitation; I’m not pointing to Jungle Julia here, more in Kim’s direction. She’s the classic vigilante black woman; she carries a gun, doesn’t take shit, loves cars and works as a stunt driver. What a woman!
The vigilante action doesn’t kick up until the fourth quarter, along with some light revenge-sploitation. Shock-sploitation is also kind of light; we don’t see a lot of really graphic violence, but it is there. Example, Julia’s leg coming off, and Pam’s short ride in Stuntman Mike’s passenger seat, or Butterfly’s loss of face, –these were brutal, and pretty shocking, but fairly short, which is why the shock-sploitation is a minor element. Carsploitation is where it’s at; the entire film focused on one badass car, the murder weapon even. In the end, there was the white car vs. black car, good vs. evil, Kowalski vs. ‘the man.’
The muscle cars featured in order of appearance are:
1971 Chevy Nova: Featuring the same, charming license plate as Bullitt’s Mustang, ‘JIZ 109′, Mike’s Chevy is fearsome. He also has the same Daffy Duck hood ornament as Rubber Duck has on his RS700L Mack truck in Convoy.
1972 Chevy Mustang: Is there any polite way to say that this car will make your pussy wet? It was the first in the pony car class, even though it was like Frankenstein’s experiment, composed of leftover parts.
1969 Dodge Charger: Also known as General Lee, the Charger in Death Proof references several different films, –just because the 69 Charger was used in numerous chase scenes. Most notable, its license plate is the same as the Charger’s from Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, ’938 DAN.’
1970 Dodge Challenger: Kowalski’s car, the white Challenger is probably one of the most memorable cars in existence. But its appearance was a little less genuine than the others; the Challenger was built with frameless windows, originally. The car had to be modified for the ship’s mast stunt.
Another interesting point about the cars; for some reason, Mike is always driving an older car than the girls in the latter half of the film. His being a lot older, and kind of washed up, seems to drive the ‘old vs. new’ metaphor home poetically.