SXSW: Grindhouse 101

This morning 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. Except as he told us at the outset, he really doesn’t know a lot about grindhouse cinema. Unlike Tarantino, Robert had a normal childhood filled with movies like Gone With The Wind rather than freakish blacksploitation movies packed full of gloriously cheap T&A. To fill in the gaps, he had AICN founder Harry Knowles wheeled out on stage with him. But truthfully, Robert didn’t need him.

Maybe when he started out making Planet Terror (his half of the upcoming Tarantino/Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse) he was something of a newbie. But he’s since become an expert, after being totally immersed in the cheesy, unrated world of classic crap cinema. And he’s obviously having a lot of fun.

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.

First up was The Green Slime. Watch it:

Next up, blacksploitation grindhouse with… um… Boss Nigger:

Then the shocking, horrifying trailer for They Call Her One Eye:

You get the idea. So what is grindhouse? Rodriguez says that while filming Planet Terror, it came to represent freedom. Freedom to shoot whatever, whenever. Freedom to pack as many ideas in as possible, and damn the consequences. Freedom to put as much screwed up nudity, violence, gore and sex into his film as he wants without worrying about the MPAA. If they don’t like something, he’ll just remove it and add in a splice and call it atmosphere.

Atmosphere is really what Grindhouse is going to be all about. Rodriguez and Tarantino are brining grindhouse cinema back from the grave, complete with missing movie reels, grainy footage, and the kind of insanity you could only see before the ratings system. And they’re not stopping with simply making a grindhouse movie of their own, they’re taking that extra step and encouraging other filmmakers to get in on the fun.

At least that’s my explanation for their Grindhouse cinema trailer contest. Rodriguez has been taking specially made Grindhouse-style trailer submissions from hopeful filmmakers for months, with the intention of picking the best trailers to debut during Grindhouse 101 at SXSW. Hobo with a Shotgun took top prize, but the three best were shown. Here they are. Cover your kids’ eyes and hang on to your butts:

Hobo with a Shotgun

Maiden of Death

The Dead Won’t Die

All three of them are so cool, you can’t help but wish they’d actually get made into movies. Which brings us to the Q&A.

Grindhouse 101 Q&A With Robert Rodriguez

I’ll skip some of the weirder questions Robert got about the best ways to shoot cocks, and get right to the meat of the thing. With no easy way to record it, you’ll have to settle for me simply hitting the highlights.

As long as you’ve got grindhouse trailers on the brain, someone in the audience had the sense to ask Robert whether he’d be interested in helping Hobo with a Shotgun get made. Come on Robert, start a whole grindhouse label! Robert’s answer was non-committal, but seriously man, consider it. I’m dying to see the rest of Maiden of Death.

But the big scoop of the day came when Robert revealed that he’s planning a solo movie for actor Danny Trejo’s Machete character. If you’ve seen any of the kickass trailers for Grindhouse, then you’ve seen Trejo as Machete, a bad ass dude with, well, two machetes. Robert’s answer was, surprisingly, absolutely. He is doing a Machete spin-off movie, and it’s likely going to be direct to DVD. Rodriguez seemed pretty adamant about this, as if the film is already a done deal.

Of course one of the questions Robert almost always gets asked whenever he’s locked in a room with a bunch of movie geeks is whether or not he’ll ever do sequels to Once Upon a Time in Mexico He says, it’s not out of the question. It’s still something he wants to do. His plan was originally to make it the first of a trilogy of movies following Johnny Depp’s blind gunman character. Apparently he even cut fake trailers for sequels using footage from the first movie and showed it to Johnny Depp. Rodriguez says Depp was all in.

Eventually, the talk turned to the future of film, and where Rodriguez saw himself as part of the whole 3-D movement. Robert’s response was, pretty simply, that he started it. He takes credit for resurrecting 3-D and bringing it back to theaters with Spy Kids 3D and Sharkboy and Lava Girl, and he says Hollywood is all over him to do more of it. Though Planet Terror isn’t in 3-D, expect many of his future movies to be completely 3-D productions. James Cameron has competition.

Planet Terror Footage

Amidst all this talk of grindhouse cinema in general, Rodriguez managed to fit in footage from his grindhouse movie Planet Terror. He says the movie isn’t finished, apparently they’re still in sound mixing, but what he showed us was beyond awesome.

First he showed us a scene you’re likely to see in theaters when the movie hits. It’s a freakin kickass road-warrior zombie-fighting scene in which all of his heroes band together and ride down the road in a convoy, blasting zombies and mowing them down with their big truck from hell. Apparently this takes place shortly after Planet Terror’s simulated missing reel. See, Robert is really set on simulating the whole grindhouse experience, screwups and all. The film has been written as if an entire reel is missing. One moment everyone hates each other, the next there’s a jump and everyone has become friends, losers are suddenly awesome heroes, and the attacking zombies are about to be very dead. As Robert says, the section of a movie where everyone gears up to start kicking ass is boring. So he’s giving you the setup and then going straight to the payoff, skipping all the boring junk in between.

The second bit of Grindhouse footage we got a look at it is something you may never ever see. Frankly, there’s little chance it’ll get past the MPAA, not if they want a Rated-R. The footage is a fake movie trailer directed by Eli Roth, intended to run right before the actual movie begins. Eli tackles the one holiday never done up right by horror: Thanksgiving. Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving involves an ax wielding pilgrim who runs around town separating thankful Americans from their bodies. It’s also stuffed with all kinds of really sick sex and nudity. The whole thing peaks when a trampolining naked woman does the splits, and uh… well… comes down on a very large knife. Ouch. Yeah, no way the MPAA is letting any of this past. Wait for the DVD.

With that, class was out. That’s it from the SXSW Grindhouse. Check back on CB late tonight for my coverage of… whatever it is I manage to see the rest of the day. Frankly, right now all I can think of is lunch.

For Cinema Blend’s complete SXSW 2007 coverage click here.

Josh Tyler