Quentin Tarantino Says Audiences Weren’t Ready for ‘Grindhouse’
While the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have always contained exploitation movie DNA, their ambition to bring back the halcyon days of disreputable cinema with 2007’s Grindhouse double feature was a bust. At least it was at the time.
The concept was simple: both directors helmed a feature that harkened back to the glory days of B movies. Comprised of Tarantino’s Death Proof and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, both films were released in theatres as one single entity. Two movies for the price of one. Quality bargain (at least for moviegoers in the territories where the films weren’t released separately).
Death Proofwas Tarantino’s attempt to combine carsploitation with slashers. The film centres around Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a psychotic killer who slaughters women in his “death proof” Chevy Nova and Dodge Charger vehicles. But he gets more than he bargained for when he encounters some tough ladies with a penchant for high-speed chases.
Planet Terror, meanwhile, revolves around a ragtag group of badasses (led by Rose McGowan and her machine gun leg) as they contend with a government-orchestrated zombie apocalypse. Tarantino has a cameo too, playing a creep whose pecker melts off. Now that’s pure cinema!
In an effort to recreate the spirit of drive-in and grindhouse theatre double-bills, the release also featured faux trailers from the likes of Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and Edgar Wright. The trailers were so good that two of them even spawned their own feature-length spinoffs. It was a recipe for success, right? Not quite.
Grindhouse flopped at the box office and both movies received mixed reviews from fans and critics. This was especially true for Death Proof, which remains one of Tarantino’s most divisive and unsuccessful movies to this day. While the films have since found their respective fans over time, people had no idea what was going on back in 2007.
In an interview with Empire (per The Independent), Tarantino admitted that their intentions were lost on more audience members, most of whom weren’t familiar with the history of watching schlocky movies in dilapidated multiplexes.
“With Grindhouse, I think me and Robert just felt that people had a little more of a concept of the history of double features and exploitation movies. No, they didn’t. At all. It meant nothing to them, alright, what we were doing. So that was a case of being a little too cool for school.”
Calling the experiment a flop is a bit harsh, though. Maybe it didn’t make a lot of money at the box office, but Tarantino and Rodriguez’s dastardly double feature had a lasting effect on the pop-culture imagination.
Following the release of both movies, a swarm of faux exploitation movies starting making the rounds. Dubbed as “Grindhouse” flicks, the films sought to bring back the era of film that Rodriguez and Tarantino were trying to resurrect in 2007. Some of them are good. Others are pretty terrible. Regardless of their quality, they wouldn’t exist without the 2007 double whammy.
One of the best movies to emerge from this trend is Jason Eisner’s Hobo with a Shotgun, which chronicles one vagrant’s attempt to clean up of the streets of its filthy scum — with a shotgun. The film began life as a fake trailer that was featured in Grindhouse. Fans demanded a full-feature, and Eisner catered to their demands.
Similarly, Rodgriguez’s Machete, which originated as a fake trailer for Grindhouse, spawned two films starring Danny Trejo as the titular Mexican vigilante. The first film is pretty decent, but the fact two exist shows that Grindhouse created a semi-mainstream appetite for films of this ilk.
At the end of the day, Grindhouse was worth it. Not only are both movies very entertaining, but they created a renewed interest in old-school exploitation flicks and even helped some up and coming talent launch their own moviemaking careers. That’s a groovy legacy to have, in this writer’s humble opinion.
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