Friday, July 27, 2007

Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007)

Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007)


Robert Rodriguez's latest feature "Planet Terror" (2007) is his attempt to re-create the feel of his (and Tarantino's) much-beloved grindhouse days, when moldering movie theaters with ripped seat cushions and unsavory smells might show a double feature of, oh, say, Gerry de Leon's "Women in Cages" (1971) with Jesus Franco's "Vampyros Lesbos" (same year) (I'm not sure they ever actually did such a pairing, but it makes a nice progression). In American theaters, Rodriguez's movie was paired with Quentin Tarantino's own homage to exploitation films ("Death Proof")), stitched together with a slew of fake trailers (Edgar Wright's "Don't," Eli Roth's "Thanksgiving," and--funniest of all, at least on paper--Rob Zombie's "Werewolf Women of the SS") and released as a three-hour extravaganza, the closest you'll ever get to the sights, sounds, feel and smells of a second-run theater in the glory days of the '70s and '80s.

The movie didn't do well in the United States; apparently audiences liked not smelling urine in the aisles, liked knowing that the stickiness in the seats is caramel and not something altogether less savory; I also suspect that the audiences preferred their movies to clock in at a shorter running time (the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the recent "Transformers" were pushing it, but didn't push too hard). Many didn't get the joke--people were leaving after the end of "Planet Terror" until theater managers had staff posted at the exits reminding people that a second feature was still to come. Splitting the film into two discrete features for Asian--and Filipino--audiences is probably a smart move; we're not familiar with the double-feature concept, and I doubt if we'd sit still for anything longer than two and a half hours.

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