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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Timothy E

Timothy E

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Posted December 31 2008 - 04:19 AM


Studio: Dimension Studios
Year: 2008
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: Dolby TrueHD, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Release Date: December 16, 2008

The Movie
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Death Proof (aka Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt) is the second half of the double feature Grindhouse, released theatrically in the United States, with the first half being Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror. Grindhouse was Rodriguez and Tarantino’s tribute 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 Death Proof has been deliberately designed to appear like a scratched and damaged celluloid print.

Death Proof is the story of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), an aging movie stuntman who stalks and kills young women with his indestructible cars. Death Proof actually appears to be 2 different slasher movies, both featuring Stuntman Mike, spliced together to create one film. The movie opens with a fancy title card flashing “Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt” for a millisecond before a plain black and white title card displaying “Death Proof” is spliced clumsily into the film. The first half of the film has multiple scratches, dirt, and debris consistent with aging celluloid. By contrast, the second half of the film is virtually pristine, with only a few apparent edits, which cements the illusion that the second half of the movie is a sequel filmed several years after the first movie and later spliced together into one film.

This extended and unrated version of Death Proof includes a couple of scenes that were not included in the original Grindhouse double feature, and some existing scenes have been extended with additional dialogue or other footage. There is a new bridging sequence joining the 2 halves of the movie together that was not included in the original Grindhouse theatrical edition. The bridging sequence stands out as being filmed entirely in pristine black and white following the dirty and scratched print quality of the first half of the film. At the conclusion of this sequence, the film turns to full color and remains virtually clean for the remainder of the film.

Some of the changes from the theatrical version may be for the better, but that is not always the case. The “lap dance” scene that was infuriatingly cut from the theatrical version is included here. A good case can be made that the omission of this scene in the original version was artistically better, in that your imagination can fill in the missing scene on a grander scale than the actual scene itself. The scene is not a bad one, it simply is not as lurid or exciting as you might hope or expect.

Although I am a Tarantino fan, I did not find this to be one of his better films. The trademark dialogue and eclectic film score are apparent here as in other Tarantino movies, but I was disappointed that the plot is pretty thin. This perceived weakness may demonstrate the difficulty in making a movie as a tribute to a genre that never was strong on plot in the first place. Film buffs will spot some stylistic and thematic similarities in this film to Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Chick Habit by April March stands out from the other music in the film score, and this is the song that plays over the main menu of this Blu Ray edition.

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The movie is in 1080p high definition in a wide-screen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is excellent, taking into account that the first hour of the movie is deliberately filled with scratches, dirt, and debris. The second half of the movie is of pristine quality. This dichotomy creates the impression that the second half was a sequel filmed years after the first half and then edited together into one film. The amount of grain is appropriate throughout the film and assists the illusion that one is watching a scratched celluloid print of this film on the big screen.

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The Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks both do good service to the movie. Death Proof is heavy on character dialogue with most of the revving engines and crunching steel reserved for the latter half of the movie. The rain scene makes good use of all of the speakers, however, much of the soundtrack comes through front and center in the dialogue.

Special Features
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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 is a scene in the second half in which the girls greet Zoe as she comes through the arrival terminal at the airport. This scene is shown very briefly in the international trailer.

Also missing are the fake trailers that were shown with this movie as part of the Grindhouse double feature with Planet Terror. At least Planet Terror on Blu Ray includes the Machete trailer, whereas this film has no trailers other than its international trailer.

The special features include all of the following:

Stunts On Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (20:39): Director Tarantino talks about the different generations of stunt drivers that worked on this movie, along with behind the scenes footage of various parts of the car chases, and interviews with the drivers themselves.

Introducing Zoe Bell (8:57): Zoe Bell was Lucy Lawless’ stunt double on Xena: Warrior Princess and Uma Thurman’s double on the Kill Bill movies, and she plays herself in this movie.

Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (9:32): Tarantino and Russell talk about the inspirations for his role as Stuntman Mike.

Finding Quentin’s Gals (21:13): Quentin Tarantino speaks in depth about casting each of the female leads, who also offer their anecdotes about being cast in this film.

The Uncut Version of “Baby, It’s You” by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (1:47): Features Winstead’s complete performance of “Baby, It’s You” in one uninterrupted film take.

The Double Dare Trailer (2:35): Trailer for documentary about legendary stuntwoman Jeannie Epper and Zoe Bell.

Death Proof International Trailer (2:20): This trailer plays up the sinister aspects of Kurt Russell’s character.

International Poster Gallery: Features 17 different lobby cards for Death Proof.

Extended Music Cues: This option presents complete audio on 3 music tracks: Unexpected Violence by Ennio Morricone, Gangster Story by Guidot and Maurizio De Angelis, and Italis A Mano Armata by Franco Micalizzi.

BD Live: As of the date of this review, there are not yet any BD Live features offered online for this title.

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Fans of Tarantino or exploitation films will certainly want to add this one to their permanent collection. It is disappointing that the studio failed to include any deleted scenes or fake Grindhouse trailers with this edition. I will watch anything that Quentin Tarantino writes or directs, but I believe this is not one of his better films. Subplots are set up and then are left unresolved, deliberately so I suspect to imitate the uneven quality of most exploitation films. The problem inherent in making a tribute to bad films is that slavish imitation of that genre may also create a bad film. Death Proof is not a bad film by any means, it is just not a great film. Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have both made other films in this genre that are much better. (Pulp Fiction and From Dusk Til Dawn come immediately to mind.) Tarantino has previously set the bar so high for himself that Death Proof cannot help but be a disappointment. The good news is that a bad Tarantino film still surpasses the quality of most other films. Death Proof has some great car chase scenes, snappy dialogue, and memorable music. If your expectations are not too high, you can get ready for a wild ride.

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted January 20 2009 - 04:13 AM

I watched this (twice!) over the weekend and really liked it. However, I thought the first half was much better than the last half. I too wish they would release the full Grindhouse experience. Either way, I will pick up both at some point as I only rented it.