Have seen both films separate, and can add my own voice to the consensus that the original double-bill release is superior, not only for the added trailers and cross-references. The two films are of a piece thematically as well, so it really is better to see them as they were originally designed to be seen.

Planet Terror is pretty much one of my favourite films ever. Even better, because more silly, than Rodriguez's adaptation of Sin City. Why do I love it? Well, Cherry Darling is a Go-Go Dancer (not a stripper!!) who wanted to be a doctor. She left her ninja boyfriend because she thought he thought she was worthless. Keeping up? The film is basically about her gaining confidence in herself and taking over from ninja boyfriend in the ninja business. There's a similar kind of story going on with Dr. Dakota Block, a lesbian trying to escape her sadistic husband. Both ladies get their freedom with the help of gentlemen: ninja boyfriend and father respectively. Still, the film can be read as a commentary on female empowerment. Cherry starts off cavorting with the camera, and ends by firing a minigun at zombies. It's fulfillment of a sort, the sort you get in sleazy pulp movies...

Also, the brothers bickering about the secret recipe to the best BBQ sauce in the world. The striving for transcendence, and the barriers in the way. The film ends with their reconcilement and death. In its own way, quite beautiful.

Death Proof is more tricky. The film is divided into two: one set of ladies get mauled by a serial killer, another set of ladies manage to fight back, and we're asked to spot the parallels. The first group are smoked-out, one has been pressured into demeaning herself, one of them is bitter at being stood up. They are weak and die easy. For Stuntman Mike, it's a power thing. He is the driver, the victim is the passenger. Man and wife. His victim begs for mercy, and he shows none.

The second group contains two stuntwomen -- the ladies now have access to those positions of power. Abernathy isn't, but wants to join in, and she sacrifices Lee to do so. When attacked, they fight back, and this time it's Stuntman Mike who begs, and the ladies who show no mercy.

Sidebar: Kurt Russell seems to me to be doing a Quentin Tarantino impression, and Tarantino himself plays a gruesome sadist in Planet Terror. Is Quentin punishing himself for his misogyny? I smell catharsis...

If you were being really pretentious (ahem), you could describe Planet Terror as portraying female emancipation as the ladies being able to achieve fulfillment / transcendence / flourishing -- carving out a small corner of tranquility in a planet full of terrors. Death Proof is like the negative liberty flip to that -- not freedom to do but freedom from. Female emancipation means becoming death proof. It's a bleaker picture, where the gents aren't any nicer, it's just that the ladies are better able and willing to defend themselves. And not all the ladies at that. Lee, the gullible fool, the innocent cheerleader, the actress who must sell herself to magazines, is left to be torn apart by the predatory male. Uncomfortable stuff.

I liked the positive angle more, being a guy who wants guys to be constructive. But writing this, I'm even more convinced that you need both angles. Grindhouse as a whole, then, goes down as one of the more impressive geek films of recent times. And so, inevitably, one of my favourites.

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