Studio: Dimension Studios
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby TrueHD, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Release Date: December 16, 2008
( out of )
Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is the first half of the double feature Grindhouse, released theatrically in the United States, with the second half being Death Proof, aka Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt. Grindhouse was Rodriguez and Tarantino’s homage to the exploitation films of the 1960s and 1970s and the theaters that showed those films, and even included fake trailers for other non-existent exploitation films. The original exploitation movies were shown in seedy cinemas in which the quality of the celluloid was atrociously consistent with the quality of the theaters showing these “B” movies. The film prints were typically spliced together with scenes, or even entire film reels, missing from the presentation, and Planet Terror has been deliberately designed to appear like a scratched and damaged celluloid print.
Planet Terror is the story of Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), a go-go dancer who reunites with her true love and has the worst (and best) night of her life. This film is the gold standard of survival horror flicks, and is filled with over-the-top stunt scenes and flesh crawling gross-out sequences. Many fine character actors are along for the ride, including Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Bruce Willis, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, and many others. Rodriguez seems to have a gift for casting good actors, since even the neophyte actors he recruited for this film seem like talented character actors of the kind that would be right at home in an exploitation flick.
This extended and unrated version of Planet Terror expands some of the scenes that were included in the original Grindhouse double feature. In the theatrical version, a title card flashes briefly on the screen midway through the film to inform the audience that a reel is missing, and the story then resumes with some developments that have obviously transpired in the missing reel. The missing reel is still not included in this version, primarily because it never was filmed in the first place. The next film reel following the missing reel contains some expository dialogue between 2 of the lead characters that basically summarizes the plot developments in the missing reel. In theaters showing exploitation flicks, it was not unusual for the projectionists to cannibalize the film and retain the juicy parts for their private collections, to the detriment of the audience. It was also not unheard of for an entire reel to go missing and for the theater owners to show only the portions of the film on hand. Rodriguez deserves credit for structuring his screenplay in such a way that the missing portion of story seems surprisingly to enhance the entertainment value rather than detract from it. In addition to writing and directing Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez also composed the main theme of the film, which adds favorably to the mood of the movie.
( out of )
The movie is in 1080p high definition in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. The theatrical version was apparently displayed in a 2.35:1 ratio. This Blu Ray version is more complete since it includes footage from the top and bottom of the screen that was cropped in the theatrical version to match the aspect ratio for Death Proof.
The picture quality is excellent, taking into account the scratches, dirt, and debris that are deliberately apparent. The film quality is deliberately grainy, even moreso than in Death Proof, but the amount of grain is appropriate to the illusion that one is watching a scratched celluloid print of this film on the big screen. The graininess of the picture actually enhances the special effects, which becomes apparent in viewing portions of the film included in the special features.
This Blu Ray also includes a Scratch Free version of the film from a "newly discovered negative". This version is virtually pristine, with only a few minor imperfections. Of course, the "newly discovered negative" is an artifice, since the Scratch Free version is the original print before Rodriguez deliberately applied dirt, debris, and scratches to the print. The video quality on the Scratch Free version is excellent.
Viewers should be aware that the Machete fake film trailer is included at the beginning of the regular version but is not included in the Scratch Free version.
( out of )
The Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks both do good service to the movie. Planet Terror is filled with an abundance of gunfire and explosions to clean the dust off your speakers.
This version includes a director’s commentary by Rodriguez that is better than most such audio tracks. Rodriguez has such a love and enthusiasm for film that his comments are usually fascinating.
Also included is an audience reaction track which imitates the applause, snickers, and catcalls of a rowdy film audience. This option seems interesting initially but is not the best way to watch the movie, at least not for this reviewer. That is not to say that this feature uninteresting or is not worth trying out, however.
The audio on the special features on Disc Two are exclusively in English Dolby Digital 2.0 and no subtitles are available on the special features.
( ½ out of )
Notably missing from the special features are deleted scenes. Additional footage is known to exist that was not in either the theatrical or this extended version. As just one example, there were alternate scenes filmed in which one of the characters who dies midway through the story actually survives to the end of the movie. Portions of these scenes are included in the special features, but it would have been great to have these included in a deleted scenes section, or even integrated back into the film by a branching version of the film.
The Machete trailer is included at the beginning of Planet Terror, but the other fake trailers that were shown with this movie as part of the Grindhouse double feature are still missing. The Machete trailer is so entertaining that it is almost worth the price of admission by itself.
The special features are located exclusively on Disc Two, except for the alternate video and audio tracks discussed above, which are on Disc One. Can anybody provide a rational explanation why so many 2 disc Blu Ray sets are being released when Blu Ray technology is supposedly capable of so much storage space on one disc? I would not mind so much except that the loading times on most Blu Ray players are still so interminable that the wait becomes noticeable when switching back and forth between the movie and the special features.
The special features (on Disc Two) include all of the following:
10-Minute Film School (11:50): Director Rodriguez offers a fast-moving overview in less than 12 minutes of how various special effects were created for the movie.
The Badass Babes of Planet Terror (11:49): Rodriguez and the female actors provide interview comments regarding the casting process.
The Guys of Planet Terror (16:30): Rodriguez and the male actors provide interview comments regarding the casting process.
Casting Rebel (5:38): Rodriguez talks about casting his son Rebel Rodriguez in this film. This featurette includes portions of scenes deleted from the movie.
Sickos, Bullets, And Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror (13:16): Features interviews and behind the scenes footage of the numerous stunts in this film.
The Friend, the Doctor, and the Real Estate Agent (6:40): Rodriguez talks about casting some of his acquaintances in roles in this film. Rodriguez obviously has a talent for finding fresh and interesting faces for minor roles. I wondered who these actors were when I first saw Planet Terror, and their performances were of such high quality that I never realized until seeing this featurette that these people were new actors.
Planet Terror International Trailer (2:16): Trailer for the film.
International Poster Gallery: Features different lobby cards for Planet Terror.
BD Live: As of the date of this review, there are not yet any BD Live features offered online for this title.
( out of overall)
I cannot help but compare this film to From Dusk Til Dawn, an earlier collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino that is also in the survival horror genre. If you liked that film, you will probably like Planet Terror. Planet Terror does not have the same wit and snappy dialogue as From Dusk Til Dawn, but what it lacks in those departments, it more than makes up for with its intense action sequences. It is disappointing that the studio failed to include any deleted scenes or fake Grindhouse trailers with this edition, other than Machete. There is a deluxe Japanese Grindhouse DVD set that includes all of these extras, and we can hope for a Blu Ray version of that set released in North America someday in the near future. If you cannot wait for that inevitable set whenever it may appear, then this edition will hold you over until that day.