the trailer for Grindhouse
The hard-core Quentin Tarantino fans who lined up to see the
much-anticipated Grindhouse on its opening weekend in the US seemed delighted
with the filmmaker's £30 million homage to exploitation films. But, to
everyone's surprise, it was the least successful opening of any of Tarantino's
films in the past decade.
It seems too few people wanted to see an ode to a largely
extinct form of cheap, sex-and-violence filled movies popular in the 1950s and
'60s. Especially one that consists of two different films back to back.
In some countries, the films will be shown separately. In
Britain, as in the US, the plan was originally to show them as a double
feature. Now, however, the film has been pulled from the schedules while the
distributors work out what to do with it. "It will definitely be released
here, but we don't know in what form," they say.
"Oh, it was disappointing," says Tarantino of the
poor opening weekend when I meet him in Beverly Hills. "It was
disappointing, yeah." Then he brightens and laughs. "But the movie
worked with the audience."
He should know. He had spent the weekend driving around Los
Angeles area in his yellow-and-black Mustang, seeing the film eight times in
different cinemas to gauge audience reaction.
"People who saw it loved it and applauded, but maybe a
lot of people just didn't want to see two movies," he says.
Grindhouse, which has taken just £12 million at the US box
office in the three weeks since it opened, consists of two bloody, 85-minute
movies: Planet Terror, by Sin City director Robert Rodriguez, a long-time
Tarantino collaborator, and Death Proof from Tarantino himself.
Planet Terror stars Rose McGowan as an exotic dancer whose
career is cut short when her right leg is eaten by flesh-craving zombies, and
she is fitted with a machine-gun prosthetic. Death Proof, which stars Kurt
Russell as a psycho stunt-driver, is Tarantino's "slasher" film,
except the slasher uses a car to kill young women instead of a knife.
To make the film look authentically B-grade, Tarantino and
Rodriguez scratched the prints and edited out "missing reels". They
also included fake exploitation-movie trailers directed by pals Rob Zombie,
Edgar Wright and Eli Roth to run during the "intermission".
For those countries where Death Proof will be released
separately, Tarantino plans to add 30 minutes he had to edit out. "There
is half-an-hour's difference between my Death Proof and what is playing in
Grindhouse," he says. "I wrote my script - I couldn't be prouder of
my script - then I had to shrink it way down to fit inside this double
"I was like a brutish American exploitation distributor
who cut the movie down almost to the point of incoherence. I cut it down to
the bone and took all the fat off it to see if it could still exist, and it
worked. It works great as a double feature, but I'm just as excited if not
more excited about actually having the world see Death Proof unfiltered."
It is hard not to marvel at the 44-year-old filmmaker's
constant enthusiasm. He talks so rapidly that his words seem to tumble out on
top of each other in stream-of-consciousness monologues that are liberally
sprinkled with the names of obscure, B-movie directors and exploitation films
long forgotten by nearly everyone but himself.
A film fan from the time he could talk and walk, Tarantino
has an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies that most experts have never even
heard of, and he likes nothing better than to talk at length about them.
He has an almost touching faith in his own abilities and is
incapable of believing his own movies are anything but flawless. Like a child
looking forward to Christmas, he is eagerly anticipating Death Proof having
its solo première at the Cannes film festival.
"I can't wait for it to première," he says.
"It will be in competition, and it'll be the first time everyone sees
Death Proof by itself, including me."