Death Proof

Death Proof
Death Proof

Dutch theatrical release poster
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Quentin Tarantino
Robert Rodriguez
Elizabeth Avellan
Erica Steinberg
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Kurt Russell
Rosario Dawson
Zoë Bell
Vanessa Ferlito
Jordan Ladd
Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Tracie Thoms
Rose McGowan
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Cinematography Quentin Tarantino
Editing by Sally Menke
Studio Troublemaker Studios
Distributed by Dimension Films
Release date(s) April 6, 2007 (2007-04-06)
(released as part of double-feature titled Grindhouse)
Running time 114 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Death Proof is a 2007 American action thriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film centers on a psychopathic stunt man who stalks young women before murdering them in staged car accidents using his "death-proof" stunt car. The film pays homage to exploitation, muscle cars, and slasher film genres of the 1970s, and stars Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoë Bell as herself.

Death Proof was released theatrically in the United States as part of a double feature with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror under the collective title Grindhouse in order to replicate the experience of viewing exploitation film double features in a "grindhouse" theater. The films were released separately outside the United States and on DVD, with Death Proof going on sale in the United States on September 18, 2007.

Contents

Plot

Three friends -– Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd), and radio DJ “Jungle” Julia Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) -– drive down Colorado Street in Austin, Texas, on their way to celebrate Jungle Julia's birthday. While bar-crawling, Julia reveals that she made a radio announcement earlier that morning, offering a free lap dance from Arlene in return for addressing her as "Butterfly," buying her a drink, and reciting a segment of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” They are unaware they are being stalked by an aging and sadistic Hollywood stunt double, “Stuntman” Mike (Kurt Russell). After trailing them to a bar, Mike follows the instructions from the radio announcement to get the lap-dance. Despite some initial trepidation, due to having seen Mike's car earlier in the day, and asking if he has been following them, Mike puts her at ease (partly by saying she's chicken), and Arlene agrees to the dance.

The three women prepare to depart, while Pam (Rose McGowan), another intoxicated female bar patron, has been impressed by Mike and accepts a ride home from him, considering him to be teetotaler and a safe ride. Mike takes Pam to his matte black 1971 Chevy Nova, which is a stunt car rigged with a safety cage inside. As Mike drives Pam off, it becomes clear he is trying to kill her, reminding her that his car is "death proof", but only to the driver. Since the passenger side has no safety restraints at all, he kills her by driving recklessly and then slamming on the brakes, which smashes her skull into the dashboard. Mike speeds off, leaving behind photos he took earlier of the three other women, so as not to get caught with any evidence. He eventually comes on their car on an empty road, and drives at full speed directly into it. The force of the impact kills all four women. (There was an older lady driver in the car known as Lena Frank, who they met up with earlier at the bar.)

The local hospital finds Mike with only minor injuries, and asserts that since Mike was sober while the four women were intoxicated, he cannot be charged. This concerns Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, who is convinced Mike is guilty but cannot investigate without evidence. McGraw warns Mike that should this happen again, he'd better "make damn sure" it was not in Texas.

Fourteen months later, three young women, Abernathy Ross (Rosario Dawson), Kim Mathis (Tracie Thoms), and Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), are traveling through Lebanon, Tennessee. They stop briefly at a convenience store, where Mike is resting in his new ride, a 1969 Dodge Charger, and is intrigued by the women. The women, unaware of Mike, pick up their friend, stuntwoman Zoë Bell (who is playing herself), from the airport. Zoe informs them she wants to test-drive a white 1970 Dodge Challenger, exactly the same type of car from the 1971 film, Vanishing Point, which just happens to be nearby. After they get to the car's location, Abernathy tries to convince the owner, Jasper, to let them "test drive" it alone. He refuses at first, but after Abernathy tells him Lee will stay behind (under the false pretense that they are in town to film a porno, of which Lee is the star), he agrees. In the process of all this, Zoe reveals to Abernathy and Kim that she has an ulterior motive in taking the car; she wants to play a game called "Ship's Mast", where she rides on the car's hood using only leather belts to hold onto, while Kim drives it at high speeds.

The three enjoy the stunt, until Mike shows up and rear ends their car at high speed. The two cars engage in a harrowing high-speed chase for a distance before they both spin out on opposite sides of the roads, and Zoe is finally thrown from the car's hood. Mike gets out to brag to the girls but Kim fires a gun, wounding him in the shoulder. As Mike gets back in the car and flees, Zoe shows that she is okay, and the three women agree to get revenge on Mike. Wounded, Mike is not able to outrun the women, and eventually his car is T-boned by the women in their car. The women pull him from the car and beat him savagely in the head until he falls unconscious. After a short credits sequence, Abernathy delivers a final axe kick to Mike's head.

Cast

  • Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike McKay: A sociopathic stuntman/serial killer who kills women in and with his "death proof" car.
  • Rosario Dawson as Abernathy Ross: Make-up artist who feels that she is always excluded from the exciting things that Zoe and Kim do.
  • Vanessa Ferlito as Arlene / Butterfly: A close friend of Julia and Shanna, who plan to go on holiday together after spending a night out.
  • Jordan Ladd as Shanna: Friend of Arlene and Julia whose father owns a lake house they are intending to use.
  • Rose McGowan as Pam: A blonde customer at Warren's bar who needs a lift home.
  • Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Jungle Julia: Radio DJ
  • Zoë Bell as Zoe: A stuntwoman from New Zealand who visits Abernathy, Kim and Lee on their days off from filming.
  • Tracie Thoms as Kim Mathis: A foulmouthed stuntwoman and close friend of Zoe, Abernathy and Lee.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lee Montgomery: An upcoming actress
  • Jonathan Loughran as Jasper: The owner of the Dodge Challenger. The character also appears in Kill Bill Volume 1 as the man who tried to rape Beatrix Kiddo in the hospital.[citation needed]
  • Michael Parks as Earl McGraw: Texas Ranger (also the same Texas Ranger in the Kill Bill series, From Dusk till Dawn and Planet Terror).[citation needed]
  • Monica Staggs as Lena Frank: A drug-dealing friend of Julia, Shanna, and Arlene.
  • Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block: An emergency medicine specialist and Sheriff Earl McGraw's daughter. Like her father, Block is developed more extensively in Planet Terror.
  • Quentin Tarantino as Warren: The owner of the bar.

Production

The story for Death Proof developed from Quentin Tarantino's fascination for the way stuntmen would “death-proof” stunt cars so a driver could survive horrific, high-speed crashes and collisions. This inspired Tarantino to create a slasher film featuring a deranged stuntman who stalks and murders sexy young women with his “death-proof” car.[1] Tarantino remembers, “I realized I couldn't do a straight slasher film, because with the exception of women-in-prison films, there is no other genre quite as rigid. And if you break that up, you aren't really doing it anymore. It's inorganic, so I realized—let me take the structure of a slasher film and just do what I do. My version is going to be fucked up and disjointed, but it seemingly uses the structure of a slasher film, hopefully against you.”[2] According to Robert Rodriguez, “[Tarantino] had an idea and a complete vision for it right away when he first talked about it. He started to tell me the story and said, ‘It’s got this death-proof car in it.’ I said, ‘You have to call it Death Proof.’ I helped title the movie, but that’s it.”[1] Of the car chases, Tarantino stated, “CGI for car stunts doesn’t make any sense to me—how is that supposed to be impressive? […] I don't think there have been any good car chases since I started making films in ’92—to me, the last terrific car chase was in Terminator 2. And Final Destination 2 had a magnificent car action piece. In between that, not a lot. Every time a stunt happens, there’s twelve cameras and they use every angle for Avid editing, but I don’t feel it in my stomach. It’s just action.”[2]

Quentin Tarantino acted as cinematographer on Death Proof. Although Robert Rodriguez had previously worked as the cinematographer on six of his own feature films, Death Proof marked Tarantino's first credit as a cinematographer.[3][4]

Tarantino attempted to cast John Travolta, Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Mickey Rourke, Ron Perlman, Bruce Willis, Kal Penn[5] and Sylvester Stallone[6] in Death Proof, but none were able to work due to prior commitments. In an interview, Tarantino revealed that he decided to cast Kurt Russell as the killer stunt driver because “for people of my generation, he's a true hero…but now, there's a whole audience out there that doesn't know what Kurt Russell can do. When I open the newspaper and see an ad that says ‘Kurt Russell in Dreamer,’ or ‘Kurt Russell in Miracle,’ I'm not disparaging these movies, but I'm thinking: When is Kurt Russell going to be a badass again?”[7] Eli Roth, Planet Terror leading actress Rose McGowan and Tarantino himself appear in small roles.

After being impressed by stuntwoman Zoë Bell, who worked as Uma Thurman's stunt double in Tarantino's earlier film Kill Bill, Tarantino wrote her the leading female role. This was her first on-screen acting which Bell initially thought was going to be a cameo role. The character Zoë was based on the stuntwoman herself and includes small stories based around her real life experiences, some with Tarantino. When her name was featured on the film posters opposite Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan, she realized how big the role was.

Death Proof uses various unconventional techniques to make the film appear more like those that were shown in grindhouse theaters in the 1970s. Throughout the feature, the film was intentionally damaged to make it look like many of the exploitation films of the 1970s which were generally shipped around from theater to theater and usually ended up in bad shape. A notable example of one of the film's deliberate jump-cuts is seen at the beginning, when the title Quentin Tarantino's Thunderbolt is shown for a split second before abruptly being replaced by an insert with the title Death Proof, appearing in white lettering on a black background.[8] (Exploitation films were commonly retitled, especially if they received bad press on initial release.)

On the editing of Death Proof, Tarantino stated “There is half-an-hour’s difference between my Death Proof and what is playing in Grindhouse. […] I was like a brutish American exploitation distributor who cut the movie down almost to the point of incoherence. I cut it down to the bone and took all the fat off it to see if it could still exist, and it worked.”[9] An extended, 127-minute version of Death Proof was screened in competition for the Palme d'Or at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.[9][10][11][12] Tarantino is quoted as saying “It works great as a double feature, but I'm just as excited if not more excited about actually having the world see Death Proof unfiltered. […] It will be the first time everyone sees Death Proof by itself, including me.”[9]

Soundtrack

The soundtrack for Death Proof consists entirely of non-original music, including excerpts from the scores of other films. It was released on April 3, 2007, alongside the Planet Terror soundtrack. Both albums featured dialogue excerpts from the film.

Release

Death Proof was released in the United States and Canada alongside Planet Terror as part of a double feature under the title Grindhouse. Both films were released separately in extended versions internationally, approximately two months apart.[13] The additional material includes scenes that were replaced in the American theatrical release version with a “missing reel” title card, such as the lap dance scene. A total of 27 minutes were added for this version. One of the first screenings of Death Proof was made at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on August 20, 2007, with star Zoë Bell attending the screenings.[14] The Dutch poster artwork for Death Proof claimed that the film would feature “coming attractions” from Robert Rodriguez.[15] In the United Kingdom, Death Proof was released on September 21, 2007, and in Australia on November 1, 2007.[16] Explaining the split in foreign releases, Tarantino stated “Especially if they were dealing with non-English language countries, they don’t really have this tradition … not only do they not really know what a grindhouse is, they don’t even have the double feature tradition. So you are kind of trying to teach us something else.”[17]

Critical reception

Death Proof has received a mixed reception and holds a 64 percent on Rotten Tomatoes based on 38 reviews.[18]

Home media

Death Proof was released on DVD in the United States on September 18, 2007 in a two-disc special edition featuring the extended version of the film, documentaries on the casting of the film, the various muscle cars and Tarantino's relationship with editor Sally Menke, trailers, and an international poster gallery.[19] On December 16, 2008, a BD release of identical content followed.

A Japanese DVD release has the films Grindhouse, Death Proof and Planet Terror, with extras and fake trailers, in a six-DVD box set (English with optional Japanese subtitles). Death Proof was also released as a German HD DVD, believed to be the last film published in the now-defunct format.[20]

The Grindhouse double feature was eventually released on Blu-ray Disc in October 2010.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Cotton, Mike (April 4, 2007). "House Party". Wizard Universe. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070927194539/http://www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/004090803.cfm. Retrieved April 4, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b "Online Exclusive: Horror Film Directors Dish About ‘Grindhouse’ Trailers". Rolling Stone.com. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/14022408/online_exclusive_horror_film_directors_dish_about_grindhouse_trailers. Retrieved April 4, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Robert Rodriguez filmography". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001675/. Retrieved April 29, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Quentin Tarantino filmography". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000233/. Retrieved April 29, 2007. 
  5. ^ Sciretta, Peter. "Did You Know: Kal Penn was cast in Tarantino's Grindhouse?". Ifilm. http://www.slashfilm.com/article.php?story=20061121kalpenngrindhouse. Retrieved January 6, 2007. 
  6. ^ Sciretta, Peter. "Tarantino wanted Stallone for Grindhouse". Ifilm. http://www.slashfilm.com/article.php?story=20061204stallonegrindhouse. Retrieved January 6, 2007. 
  7. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (March 30, 2007). "Bloodbath and Beyond". Entertainment Weekly: pp. 27–30. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20015706,00.html 
  8. ^ "VFX World". Grindhouse: Pistol-Packing VFX. http://www.vfxworld.com/?sa=adv&code=319b255d&atype=articles&id=3235. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c Hiscock, John (April 27, 2007). "Quentin Tarantino: I'm proud of my flop". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/04/27/bfquentin27.xml&page=1. Retrieved April 27, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Director Tarantino in competition in Cannes". Yahoo. April 19, 2007. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070419/film_nm/cannes_dc_6. 
  11. ^ "Death Proof". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1028528/. Retrieved June 5, 2007. 
  12. ^ "Cannes Film Festival archives". Cannes Film Festival. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070927204134/http://www.festival-cannes.com/index.php/en/archives/film/4432013. Retrieved June 5, 2007. 
  13. ^ "Alles Over Quentin Tarantino" (in Dutch). March 18, 2007. http://www.ingloriousbastards.nl/grindhouse.php. Retrieved March 30, 2007. 
  14. ^ McCarthy, Todd (May 22, 2007). "Review of Death Proof". Variety. http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=cannes2007&jump=review&reviewid=VE1117933735&cs=1&p=0. Retrieved June 22, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Dutch Death Proof poster art". http://www.a-film.nl/film.php?id=00002002. Retrieved April 9, 2007. 
  16. ^ "Grindhouse Dismantled". April 30, 2007. http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?nid=20659. Retrieved May 10, 2007. 
  17. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Tarantino Chops Feature Length "Death Proof" For "Grindhouse". http://www.rottentomatoes.com/news/1648557/. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  18. ^ "Death Proof (Grindhouse Presents) (2007)". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/death_proof/. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  19. ^ "ASIN: B000R7HY0K". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000R7HY0K. Retrieved June 10, 2007. 
  20. ^ "Death Proof (German Import)". Highdefdigest.com. http://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/2072/deathproof_de.html. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 

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