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Death Proof

German theatrical release poster
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Quentin Tarantino
Elizabeth Avellan
Erica Steinberg
Robert Rodriguez
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Kurt Russell
Rosario Dawson
Vanessa Ferlito
Jordan Ladd
Sydney Tamiia Poitier
Tracie Thoms
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Rose McGowan
Marley Shelton
Marcy Harriell
Eli Roth
Zoë Bell
Cinematography Quentin Tarantino
Editing by Sally Menke
Studio Dimension Films
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release date(s) April 6, 2007 (2007-04-06)
(released as part of double-feature titled Grindhouse)
Running time 90 minutes (US)
114 minutes (Int)
Country United States
Language English
Preceded by Planet Terror

Death Proof is a 2007 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 is a tribute to muscle cars, exploitation, and slasher film genres of the 1970s. The film stars Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rose McGowan.

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. The budget of the film was an estimated $53,000,000.

Contents

Plot

Three friends – Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and radio disc jockey “Jungle” Julia Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) – are driving down Colorado Street in Austin, Texas to celebrate Jungle Julia's birthday. While drinking at Güero’s Taco Bar, Jungle 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.” As the women bar crawl to another bar named The Texas Chili Parlor, the scarred “Stuntman” Mike (Kurt Russell), a Hollywood stunt double, quietly stalks them; only Arlene catches a quick glimpse of Mike’s matte black 1970 Chevy Nova, with a white skull and crossbones on the hood. When Pam (Rose McGowan) canvasses the bar patrons for a ride home, Mike offers to give her a ride, assuring her he is a teetotaler and a safe ride.

Mike eventually convinces "Butterfly" to give him the lapdance she promised and takes Pam up on his offer to drive her home. Stuntman Mike has seemed to be a normal, if overly intense, guy, but as he locks Pam into the passenger compartment, Mike looks directly into the camera and cheerfully smirks. Pulling out of the parking lot, he asks for directions, and when Pam says right he sighs and says they’re going left, and he wished she had said left so she wouldn’t get scared right away. He reveals himself to be a sadist, and begins to ride at extreme speeds and swerve the car around, thrashing Pam around the box. She pleads with Mike to let her out of the car, but Mike ignores her and informs her that the car is “100% death proof, but to get the benefit of it, honey, you really need to be sittin’ in my seat!” He then slams on the brakes, smashing her skull on the dashboard and killing her. Then it’s “time to find me my other girlfriends,” and he tosses his voyeur photographs of the girls out the window so the police will not find evidence of premeditation. Mike then chases after the other four girls. Finding their car on an empty road, he speeds past them and spins his car around. He proceeds to race at the girls’ car head-on at full speed with his headlights off, and turns them back on at the last moment. Mike crashes into them, killing all of them.

At the hospital, it is revealed that Mike suffered only minor injuries. Because the girls were driving while intoxicated and Mike had not consumed any alcohol or marijuana, he is cleared of all criminal charges (Pam’s death is likely attributed to the collision), angering Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks), who knows the stuntman is guilty, but decides not to investigate due to the lack of evidence and energy he thinks could be better spent elsewhere, such as following the NASCAR circuit. He suggests that if "Stuntman" Mike were to "do it again" he'd "make damn sure" it wasn't in Texas.

Fourteen months later, Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Abernathy Ross (Rosario Dawson), and Kim Mathis (Tracie Thoms) are traveling through Lebanon, Tennessee and stop at a convenience store where Mike has stationed himself in his new ride, a 1969 Dodge Charger. When Kim goes inside, Lee moves into the driver’s seat and starts listening to her iPod with Abernathy still trying to sleep in the backseat. Mike then gets out of his car and begins to tickle and tries to lick Abernathy’s bare feet which are hanging out of the car window. When she wakes up, Mike pretends he bumped into her while looking for his car keys. He gets into his car and takes off. Abernathy catches one last glimpse of Mike’s car speeding off, which the other two don’t notice, before the three depart.

The trio pick up their friend, stuntwoman Zoë Bell (playing herself), at the airport, who informs them she wants to test-drive a white 1970 Dodge Challenger, the exact same car from the movie Vanishing Point. Later, she reveals her true motives: she wants to play a game called “Ship’s Mast,” in which she will hang onto the car's hood with two belts while someone else drives at high speeds. When the girls reach the barn where the Dodge is being sold, Kim reluctantly agrees to help with the stunt and Abernathy tags along, while Lee finds herself left behind to placate the car’s owner, Jasper (Jonathan Loughran).

The three remaining girls find their endeavor to be cut short by Mike who slams into the back of their car quite a few times before sending Zoe flying off of the hood. He is forced to flee after he is shot in the arm by Kim; the three decide to take revenge on Mike and chase after him. Mike is tending to his wounds when Kim rams into his car, Zoe beats him momentarily with a pipe and he flees yet again. The roles abruptly change as Mike goes from the hunter to the hunted. After a lengthy chase scene, the girls eventually cause Mike's car to flip over and his arm to snap in two. He screams in pain as the girls rip him out of the car. They administer a vicious beating on Mike eventually ending with a roundhouse kick delivered by Zoe; Mike is thrown to the ground. After a brief credits segment, the film returns to the three girls cheering. We then see Abernathy lift up her leg and crush Mike's head with her boot.

History and development

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]

Production

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, Micky 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.

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]

Theatrical 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 grind house is, they don’t even have the double feature tradition. So you are kind of trying to teach us something else.”[17]

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.

DVD release

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.[18]

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.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Cotton, Mike (April 4, 2007). "House Party". Wizard Universe. http://www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/004090803.cfm. Retrieved 2007-04-04. 
  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 2007-04-04. 
  3. ^ "Robert Rodriguez filmography". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001675/. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  4. ^ "Quentin Tarantino filmography". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000233/. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  5. ^ Sciretta, Peter. "Did You Know: Kal Penn was cast in Tarantino's Grindhouse?". Ifilm. http://www.slashfilm.com/article.php?story=20061121kalpenngrindhouse. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  6. ^ Sciretta, Peter. "Tarantino wanted Stallone for Grindhouse". Ifilm. http://www.slashfilm.com/article.php?story=20061204stallonegrindhouse. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  7. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (March 30, 2007), "Bloodbath and Beyond", Entertainment Weekly: 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 "Quentin Tarantino: I'm proud of my flop". Telegraph.co.uk. April 27, 2007. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/04/27/bfquentin27.xml&page=1. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  10. ^ "Director Tarantino in competition in Cannes". Yahoo. 2007-04-19. 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 2007-06-05. 
  12. ^ "Cannes Film Festival archives". Cannes Film Festival. http://www.festival-cannes.com/index.php/en/archives/film/4432013. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  13. ^ "Alles Over Quentin Tarantino" (in Dutch). 2007-03-18. http://www.ingloriousbastards.nl/grindhouse.php. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  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 2007-06-22. 
  15. ^ "Dutch Death Proof poster art". http://www.a-film.nl/film.php?id=00002002. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  16. ^ "Grindhouse Dismantled". 2007-04-30. http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?nid=20659. Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  17. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Tarantino Chops Feature Length "Death Proof" For "Grindhouse". http://www.rottentomatoes.com/news/1648557/. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  18. ^ "ASIN: B000R7HY0K". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Grindhouse-Presents-Death-Proof-Russell/dp/B000R7HY0K/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-2540482-2985634?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1181333208&sr=1-1. Retrieved 2007-06-10. 
  19. ^ "Death Proof (German Import)". Highdefdigest.com. http://hddvd.highdefdigest.com/2072/deathproof_de.html. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 

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