Planet Terror - Extended and Unrated
Studio: The Weinstein Company
US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 105 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1
Audio: English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Optional Spanish and English SDH
The Film - out of
Along with his good friend Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez has taken cinema back to the gritty, visceral and exploitative days of the 70’s. These two wildly inventive filmmakers have been responsible for a number of films that have paid homage to the cinema of that decade in ways great and small. The closest relative to their Grindhouse feature pairing, a double feature that began with Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof” and closed with Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, is From Dusk ‘til Dawn. Rodriguez created a quirky, bloody and immensely enjoyable horror flick that was equal parts violent, bloody and cool. With Planet Terror, much of the grimy energy on display in From Dusk ‘til Dawn is back.
Planet Terror follows the same plotting rulebook that Death Proof used. The plot can be summed up in a single sentence – Toxic gas turns people in a small town into Zombies and the survivors must battle their way out of town to safety. Not original at all, but if it was, it would not be the caliber or substance of story that you would expect to see in cheap theater double-feature experiences.
Robert Rodriquez is a director of considerable drive and skill. His films always blend stylized action with subtle sensibilities and hints of outrageousness. For his part of the Grindhouse project, he has taken all of his storytelling skills and thrown them into overdrive. Every element or signature of his has been upped beyond normality and by doing so, he has brought to the world a pitch-perfect ‘nod of the hat’ to the exploitation cinema of days long ago. Pulling out all the stops, this Zombie tale goes for the jugular with delightful persistence. The familiar setting of a small town and a rogue military group (led by Bruce Willis in a superb cameo), doing dealings with a ruthless businessman/scientist (LOST’s Naveen Andrews) is ripe low-budget fodder. When the deal goes sour and the toxic gas is released into the air, the town folk start to become ill and eventually turn into the hideously ugly undead, stammering awkwardly toward the living and devouring their flesh and brains.
The story of course has its heroes. Rose McGowan plays Cherry, a go-go dancer who has decided to quit that profession. She meets up with an old boyfriend this night, El Wray (played by Freddy Rodriquez), who happens to be a remarkably skilled fighter. The rest of the cast is filled with Jeff Fahey (JT) as the BBQ joint owner relentlessly searching for the perfect BBQ sauce recipe, Michael Biehn as the town sheriff, Josh Brolin as a hospital doctor and abusive husband to Marley Shelton, a fellow doctor. Ensemble casts always seem to provide the necessary bunch of heroes and losers, some of which prove just as dangerous to the group as the outside threat.
The imagination in play here is worthy of smiles and applause. The absurdity of Rose McGowan, who loses a leg to the Zombies, but later is able to attach a machine gun to her stump and dispatch with incredible precision, hordes of advancing undead, is a joy to watch. The bloody disgusting prosthetic effects and explosions of blood and limbs are in such grand quantities, that the envelope has been pushed so far, it is no longer in sight. As with Tarantino’s Death Proof, Planet Terror is filled with directorial indulgence as Rodriguez acts with the abandon of a 14 year old and has what is obviously a magnificent time.
This half of the Grindhouse double feature is definitely the more entertaining. Everything from the odd character obsession during the gas outbreak scene to Josh Brolin’s stalker-husband-zombie creep-fest and the hard to forget machine gun leg, are more playful, outlandish and amusing. This film also uses the fake film degradation effects to a greater extent and the mock trailer for ‘Machete’ before the real feature begins and the ‘Missing Reel’ (complete with apologies from the theater owner card), all help make this a truly unique movie watching experience.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating experiment that is Grindhouse, and as much as I felt that Death Proof was a wickedly cool and amusing film, its partner has managed to come out on top as the true gem in the double-feature experience.
Planet Terror is presented with in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film was shown in theaters framed at 2.35:1 to match that of Death Proof and has been restored to its original ratio for this release. As with Death Proof, even though the film was shot on HD, the image has been affected in post production to recapture the look and feel of well worn prints from the Seventies. The reproduction of film damage, heavy lines and popping ranges from light to heavy and suits this film very well. The image, through the distortions is clearly sharp and although the colors have been deliberately drained at times, they shine when they are supposed to. For the production and the artistic intent, the video quality fits the film to a T.
With a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, Planet Terror has numerous times to show off the audio goodies. There are multiple explosions, a massive amount of gun shots and all sorts of engine growls through the film that show off a good level of bass, meaningful LFE and active ambience. I enjoyed the crackles present in the center channel as another way of augmenting the low-budget feel of this cinematic throwback fun.
Disc One :
Feature Commentary by Writer/Director Robert Rodriguez: - This is a good commentary track, lively and informative. The director points out many of the scenes added to the cut for this home video release and how conscientiously he worked to stay loyal to the Grindhouse ideal with this project. He describes a process he uses of taking still photography of natural settings that he sees and likes, then using those images to set up and shoot scenes in his films. It is interesting to hear him describe the process of building the characters in this film, how he wrote at least one complete scene for each character, found the actor or actress he wanted for that role and then completed the writing for that character based on the character and style of the person cast.
Audience Reaction Track: - This is one of those special features that is intriguing in concept and a fun idea, however, in practicality, there really is no good reason to watch the film the whole way through while an audience reacts unnecessarily loudly to gross out scenes and the many giggle moments the film is riddled with. Once you have heard them gasp at goo and reel at a shock once or twice, you have pretty much gotten all you can out of the idea.
International Poster Gallery:
Sneak Peaks: Trailers for Death Proof, 1408, Halloween and Black Sheep
Disc Two :
10 Minute Film School: - (11:50) - Writer/Director Rodriguez pulls back the curtain on the visual and special effects employed in some key scenes from the movie. Very revealing for such a short special feature.
The Badass Babes of Planet Terror: - (11:48) - Rodriguez discuss the process for creating and casting the ‘babes’ that populate Planet Terror.
The Guys of Planet Terror: - (16:30) - Rodriguez discuss the process for creating and casting the ‘guys in Planet Terror. Where Tarantino’s Death Proof was filled with an abundance of female characters, Planet Terror is, in balance, full of guys.
Casting Rebel: - (5:32) - Rodriguez spends a little time talking about the casting of his son, Rebel, in the film. Rebel is young and fearless and looked exactly right for this role.
Sicko’s, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror: - (13:16) - This feature covers the people behind the many stunts in the film. In these 13 minutes, you really do get a real sense of both the craft and danger of stunt work.
The Friend, The Doctor and the Real Estate Agent: - (6:41) - The director shares how three smaller roles in the film was filled by his friend, his actual doctor and his real estate agent. Very interesting as each one of these did a fine job in the film.
The Grindhouse idea may not have caught on quite as Tarantino and Rodriguez had hoped, but their adventure in the throwback entertainment of low-budget, damaged print ridden schlock-horror and exploitation filmmaking has been an utter success. Planet Terror, in this extended version, shows off its influences from the likes of John Carpenter, in the framing of shots, the brooding score and many of the creature effects that are clearly homage to 1981’s The Thing. Everything is a blast in Planet Terror. It is excessively gory, deliciously ill-behaved and entirely faithful to the experience of cheap movie going. I loved it.