Loud, fast, and proudly out of control, Grindhouse is a tribute to the low-budget exploitation movies that lurked at drive-ins and inner city theaters in the '60s and early '70s. Writers/directors Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) cooked up this three-hour double feature as a way to pay homage to these films, and the end result manages to evoke the down-and-dirty vibe of the original films for an audience that may be too young to remember them. Rodriguez's Planet Terror is a rollicking horror/sci-fi/action piece about a plague outbreak that turns citizens into cannibalistic murderers; it's heavy on the gore and explosions but also features a terrific cast of A players (Freddy Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Marley Shelton) and B-movie vets (Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Tom Savini) and the indelible image of Rose McGowan as a stripper whose torn-off leg is replaced by a high-powered machine gun.
If Tarantino's feature was a nod to the moody, genre-jumping exploitation of the early '70s, Rodriguez's contribution to the Grindhouse aesthetic pays tribute to the manic gorefests from Italy and the States in the early '80s. And much like the film itself, the supplemental features on Terror's double-disc Extended and Unrated presentation have a loose, action-packed and familial vibe that gives fans full access to Rodriguez's one-man-studio approach to moviemaking. The director is featured twice on audio tracks: first, on the feature commentary, which provides a fun tour through the picture's production (as well as information on the upcoming Grindhouse DVD set, which will reunite the two pictures in their theatrical format), and later on the "10-Minute Film School," a fascinating breakneck run through the numerous visual and CGI effects that produced the film's most eye-popping effects, including McGowan's leg/machine gun. Most of the extras echo Rodriguez's informative and entertaining vibe--two featurettes cover the picture's male and female cast (the former offers affectionate tributes to the exploitation vets in the company, including Biehn, Fahey, Michael Parks, and Savini), while "Casting Rebel" is an amusing discussion of how Rodriguez came to bring his own son into the movie, as well as his refusal to disclose the fate of Rebel's character. "Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions" takes a look at Terror's extensive special effects through interviews with stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw and members of the visual effects team, while "The Friend, The Doctor, and The Real Estate Agent" chats with three non-actors, all pals of Rodriguez, who wound up with small but significant roles in the picture. The Extended and Unrated aspect of the set is limited to a few extended scenes and extra splatter (sorry, the infamous "Missing Reel" is not recovered for this set), while Grindhouse fans bemoaning the absence of the film's hilarious faux trailers will appreciate the inclusion of Rodriguez's hilarious Machete spot, with Danny Trejo as a death-dealing, lady-loving tough guy gunning for double-crosser Fahey. The set also includes an "Audience Reaction" track: Essentially, it's a whole track of whoops and hollers that allows the viewer to "experience" the film as if they were watching it in an actual grindhouse from back in the day. Its inclusion neither adds to or detracts from enjoying this DVD, but it's wholly indicative of the level of fun Rodriguez had making the picture--and wants to share with his fans. -- Paul Gaita