Most of us were either too young, or had parents who were too attentive to get in on the grindhouse cinema craze, if you can even call it a craze. It kicked off in the 60s and by the end of the 80s had died out, killed off by the power of home video. Today's grindhouse candidates end up going straight to DVD, along with Bambi II and American Pie 17: Stiffler Goes To Uranus. But for Quentin Tarantino, the grindhouse was where he spent his childhood, obsessing over bad B-movies and films that he probably had no business watching. When he met Robert Rodriguez in the early 90s, he soon won him over to his love of obscure, exploitation films and now it's culminated in a combined attempt from the two to resurrect it.
So what the fuck is a grindhouse movie? Well there's really no such thing. A grindhouse is a place, a type of theater where you once went to watch all the underground crap that you couldn't see anywhere else. This was in the days before the all powerful rule of the MPAA, the days before you could watch porn from the comfort of a beach towel on the floor in your living room. Grindhouse movies were exploitation movies, and exploitation movies have as many genres as there are ways to sin. The most common type usually involved extreme violence, gore, sex, and violence. You know, the good stuff.
Blacksploitation, sexploitation, shocksploitation, nunsploitation, women in prison movies, nazisploitation, hixsploitation, if you can dream it, they made it. If it was shocking, outside the norm, socially unacceptable, you could find it at the local grindhouse. Exploitation movies range from the drug propaganda video Reefer Madness to the women in prison movies Caged Heat, to the realistic murder movies Faces of Death, to obscure kung fu movies like Snake in the Eagle's Shadow starring Jackie Chan. Robert Rodriguez has said that while shooting Planet Terror, his half of Grindhouse, grindhouse cinema came to represent freedom. Freedom to dream up any damn, completely insane thing you wanted and then just shooting it without worrying about or caring how it came out.
The result was grungy, grimey, dangerous theaters hidden away in shitty parts of down showing shitty movies. Movies which might not even have good prints, where picture quality was secondary and film splices and mangled on screen images were the norm. But the grindhouse was the place you went to watch the things you couldn't see anywhere else, and that was just another part of the experience.
That's the experience Tarantino and Rodriguez are trying to resurrect, and they're going all the way with it. Grindhouse isn't just a movie it's a mindset, and for Quentin and Robert's movie atmosphere will be everything.
Below is our guide to everything you need to know to get your head right with being wrong. Sick, twisted, rat infested hellholes approach. Get ready for the return of grindhouse cinema.
The Gates Of Hell (1980)
" Teleporting Zombies! Hanging priests! Bleeding eyes! Organ regurgitation! Tarzan jungle sound effects! Carlo de Mejo with a beard “Just for Men“! John Morghen and his blow up doll! Also well known as City of the Living Dead, this is one crazy movie. In the hands of the late "Godfather of Gore", Lucio Fulci, The Gates Of Hell has a near plotless logic all it’s own as well as characters and subplots that seem imported from several different films. "
Harry, Cherry, and Raquel (1960)
"'Cherry and Raquel. Byproducts of our society, pretty toys to play with, superficial in their makeup but so necessary to our way of life.' Russ Meyer turns Don Siegel’s Coogan’s Bluff into sexploitation, loses a reel or two due to a lab mishap and ends up producing one of his very best films. A tight 71 minute Meyer Montage of phallic rock peaks, wild action and his signature bosomania, Cherry... is an important final step towards the realization of his pop masterpiece, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
Reefer Madness (1936)
"The cult film now known as Reefer Madness was originally created as Tell Your Children, a propaganda film created to warn its viewers about the dangers of marihuana (yes, that's how it's spelled in the film). By taking the "demon weed" users eventually descend into a world of sex, murder, insanity, and bad dancing. Now while I personally haven't used marihuana, I've been around people who have and have never seen murder or permanent insanity. The bad dancing does come in spades though, so that's probably the big lesson to be learned from this film. "
Death Race 2000 (1975)
"Roger Corman comes from the school of movie making that favors quantity over quality, unless you're talking about budget in which case the cheaper the better. If you felt the need to mentally abuse yourself you could sit down to a Corman produced project every night for a year and still not be able to get through his entire body of work. Of course, that doesn't matter since you would likely be driven to stick your head in the oven after just a couple weeks."
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection
"Not everyone appreciates the genius of "Mystery Science Theater 3000". This TV program was a showcase for horrible movies that ran on Comedy Central from 1989 to 1996 and the Sci-Fi channel from 1997 to 1999. It goes a step further than other hosted movie showcases: while we watch the film we get to see and hear three silhouettes at the bottom of the screen riff on the movie we are unfortunate enough to watch."
"Baaddasss is the story of what Melvin Van Peebles, played by his son Mario who also directed and co wrote, did to get his blacksploitation movie Sweet Sweetbacks's Badass Song made. Melvin worked in the all white Hollywood establishment for too damn long trying to get films made, and quite frankly it made him a little crazy. After he establishes some small amount of success in the racial comedy The Watermelon Man, about a bigot who suddenly wakes up a black man, he decides to gamble it all on a little film he dreamed of in the desert called Sweet Sweetbacks's Badass Song. What follows is a beautifully affectionate, yet clear eyed tribute to Melvin Van Peebles from his son, and a political film that never quite works."
This isn’t the best movie of the year, but it’s not trying to be. Instead of making two good movies, they’re focused on creating an incredible experience. Grindhouse does that beautifully. If you’re in on the bit, you absolutely won’t have more fun watching anything in a movie theater this year. Watching it in a theater is key though. There’s no way this works on DVD. Grindhouse is all about atmosphere, and you can’t get atmosphere at home on your couch. Get up off your ass and buy a ticket.
South By South West went blood crazy and gave itself over to the grindhouse, when Robert Rodriguez showed up to teach class in Grindhouse 101. Grindhouse 101 kicked off with a brief discussion of what grindhouse cinema is, but it wasn't long before Robert threw us right into the middle of it with a group of back to back to back trailers for classic examples. It's not for the faint of heart.
8 Grindhouse Video Clips - Banned In 67 Countries!
Some of the clips contain footage you've probably already seen, but several of them are brand spanking new. If you're hungry for the full QT/Rodriguez double feature experience, you'll probably want to click the play buttons.
QT directs the second half of the Grindhouse double feature. His film Death Proof follows Kurt Russell as he raises hell and tortures hot young woman in his 100 percent death proof doomcar. Here's a look back at our reviews of some of Quentin Tarantino's most recent, previous films:
Kill Bill Vol. 1
"Kill Bill Volume 1 wishes it was a serious throwback to the obscure worlds of hardcore kung fu and die hard spaghetti westerns. Likely to appeal primarily to the lonely weekend film freak who spends his spare time scouring discount racks and waving around the names of obscure movie titles like a badge of courage, at least it knows its audience. It's not like anyone else has really been hungering for a throwback to badly filmed 70's kung fu. Kill Bill deserves props for managing to be a girlishly silly action flick without sparing the gore. I defy even the most disinterested movie-goer to not find something enjoyable in that. Sometimes it works just to be cool. "
Kill Bill Vol. 2
"The long and short of it is that this movie works in a way the first one never did. It’s as if someone finally got Tarantino to sit down, quit playing around and really tell a story. There’s not so much of a focus on violence and action. Rather, like Pulp Fiction violent things just happen in the course of telling a tale of revenge. Some of the silly, cool, film-geek touches are still there, but they don’t overwhelm the film the way they did with Volume 1. Instead of simply being over the top for the fun of being over the top, everything about this film is more epic, more cinematic, from intense character development and clipping QT dialogue to the more score-like soundtrack. The beauty of it is that Volume 2 manages to be a more serious film without losing any of the kitschy fun of part one. Yes the music is more soundtrack like, but it’s still just as eclectic and uniquely well, Kill Bill. "
Robert Rodriguez directs the first half of the Grindhouse double feature. His film Planet Terror is a classic zombiesploitation splatter flick which follows a group of characters as they fight their way through a bunch of... well... zombies. Here's a look back at our reviews of some of Robert's most recent, previous films:
The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D
"With many children’s movies you end up with a film that might lack something: acting, story, or presentation. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl captures the Triple Crown. With an amateurish 3D gimmick, an unoriginal story and acting that would make Screech cringe, Shark Boy and Lava Girl are best left in the imagination when a director can’t rise to the levels of his own son’s creativity. "
"If you can take what’s being thrown at you, Sin City is an incendiary movie experience. You’ve never seen anything like it. This is easily Rodriguez best movie, and it bears comparison to Tarantino’s (who guest directed a Sin City scene) Kill Bill masterpiece. Both are deeply personal tales of ultra-violence that blast so much originality on screen it’s almost impossible to take. It’s a perfect use of a so far wasted technology, a perfect adaptation of a visceral source material into a movie that succeeds beyond expectation."
Once Upon A Time In Mexico
"Like Desperado, Mexico continues to declare an affinity for entertaining and over the top action bits. Rodriguez has a flair for it, and probably has just as much fun thinking this stuff up as we do watching it. Once Upon a Time is by far his campiest endeavor so far, reminding me in a less gory way of the EXTREMELY campy Tarantino script for Kill Bill. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Where plot and plain common sense fails, Rodriguez delivers flat out cool. Guitar playing gunmen may have been done better in Desperado, but Once Upon a Time in Mexico does just enough on its own to keep things interesting, whether or not it makes any damn sense."
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
"The movie is great fun, and the actors seem to have fun being in it. It has its share of problems, suffering from green screen syndrome (actors poorly interacting with items that obviously weren’t there when the scene was filmed) but most of the movie’s target audience isn’t going to notice these things. Besides, by setting the majority of the movie inside a video game, the film immediately has some license in existing with those kinds of issues. In fact, with the help of some good writing, the movie even becomes a bit of a morality tale, teaching kids a lesson or two before the credits role. "
"Spy Kids is not a smart film, its not an impressive film, and its certainly NOT a big budget film. But it is a lot of harmless fun, the kind of thing anyone can watch without wanting to put a popcorn bucket on their head and hum softly to drown out the pain. Strangely enough, its very akin to Charlie's Angels in feel, minus all the lovely T&A. If the Angels were kids, I'm certain they'd approve."