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Grindhouse and The Fond Memories of Saturday Night Drive-Ins

by Crowbar (writer), Los Angeles, April 07, 2007

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The sun is setting, the car is parked on a slight incline as a boxy metallic speaker hangs precariously from the window, and at the edge of the lot sits a monolithic white screen. Outside, kids run to and fro, making new friends while eyeing the junk food at the concessions stands. Teens park in groups, loud and rambunctious, while others sit off in the back of the lot waiting for darkness for their chance to grope and neck. Somewhere on the screen, aliens are landing, zombies want more brains, and scantily clad women are fleeing in terror from the latest stalker. The plots are bad, the acting terrible, but nobody cares because this is a drive-in where socializing and love were the main fun and the movie was second, a place to be alive at the expense of the movie, not the other way around.

Deep in the psyche of Americana, we have lost our love of the drive-in. Lots remain deserted, screens ripped and faded by the sun, and devil grass has split the concrete. We have abandoned the drive-in and as a culture we can't remember why. But that is slowly changing as modern films are embracing the ethereal nature of the lost B-movie.

With Quentin Tarantino's and Robert Rodriguez's double packed punch, Grindhouse, those fond memories resurface and the truth of the great American Drive-In comes to life. The truth is that Hollywood had abandoned the drive-in, not us. With the advent of the big budget epic and the art-house independent thinking man's film, Hollywood has forgotten about the guilty pleasure movies, those awful B-movies that raced across the screen with bad guys, bad women, and bad acting. But these movies were the staple of the drive-ins, the bread and butter of an industry that thrived on guilty pleasures; a place where the movie wasn't as important as the experience.

Grindhouse brings back the whole experience. From the cheesy trailers, the bleak advertisements for that greasy spoon next door to the theatre, the scratchy screen, and retro cheese ball soundtrack, this double feature is a walk down memory lane, a embodiment of summer nights, mosquitoes, and hamburgers in aluminum bags. This movie will not solve the world's problems, will not cause any thought provoking metaphysical epiphany, and will not have one bit of great acting, insightful dialogue, or even a sense of a real plot. And I love it for those reasons and more.

The first feature is Planet Terror directed by Robert Rodriguez. A classic B-movie send-up about a small Texas town located near a military base that comes under attack by mutant flesh eating zombies. There is plenty of seventies over-acted ridiculous subplots, bad dialogue, shotgun pumped action and gratuitous violence. Filled with a wide range of archetypes, from the power-mad military leader (Bruce Willis), turncoat scientist (Naveen Andrews), enigmatic tough guy with a hidden past (Freddy Rodriguez), cynical local cop (Michael Biehn), and a one legged go-go dancer with a heart of gold (Rosie Mc Gowan) with a machine gun leg filled with hot lead. Planet Terror is an over-the-top adrenaline thrill ride which borders constantly on the land of the absurd.

Plotlines are overblown, characters are cranked up to thirteen, and things just blow up for the sake of blowing up. Then, just when you start to figure out what is going on, the film melts and a whole reel is missing and the film continues on with a sense that you just missed something important. Planet Terror is pure pleasure, the equivalent of a chocolate vibrator- the ultimate hedonistic overload.

After the first feature, there comes a slew of coming attractions of faux B-movies created by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Eli Roth (Hostel) and Rob Zombie, whose masterpiece Devil's Rejects brought back the resurgence of B-movie indulgence. These trailers and advertisements are crucial for the feel of this movie and when we watch them we not only laugh at their ridiculousness, but we also laugh at how much we used to enjoy these cheesy movies.

The second feature, Death Proof, switches gears from the high octane thrill ride of Planet Terror to a slower piece that is reminiscent to the early low budget trailer park stalker films of the early seventies. Quentin Tarantino brings in his master stroke of dialogue exposes as we are lulled into cozy evening out at a bar in Texas with some hot and sultry wild women. Then, when they are killed by a car-wielding psychopath (Kurt Russell), the imagery is more brutal, more unnerving than the constant staccato of violence that defined Planet Terror. In Death Proof, Tarantino's film is a dichotomy of B-movie madness compared against Rodriguez's work, and in doing this, they both manage to convey all the high octane, satirical, misogynistic, sadistic, exploitive fantasies that made the seventies grindhouse films so appealing. Death Proof is a tribute to bad plotted stalker films mixed with muscle car frenzy, reefer madness, and tough hot mamas who kick booty.

We knew that Satan's Cheerleaders, Dolemite, Blackula, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Slither, and Hill's Have Eyes were films that had no social redeeming value and we enjoyed them anyway. Somewhere in the past, movies began to take themselves too seriously, we took ourselves too seriously, and we let the drive-in fade into American history. I thank Tarantino and Rodriguez for bringing back to memory nights under the stars, laying on blankets on the roof of the station wagon, watching zombies eating up society, and knowing that the world I live in just might be alright after all.

If you want a taste of nostalgia, a laugh at what used to entertain us the most; if you can see those metallic speakers, if you can look with wonder and awe at the great monolithic screen sitting across the crumbly lot, and smell the popcorn wafting up from the concession stand, then go see Grindhouse and enjoy the best part of life.

Yourself.



About the Writer

Crowbar is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on Grindhouse and The Fond Memories of Saturday Night Drive-Ins

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By Tumerica on April 07, 2007 at 04:35 pm
Love your writing, Crowbar! Look forward to more of your work.
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By Ariel on April 07, 2007 at 05:19 pm
Very nice review, I'm definitely gonna check this movie out.
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By Steven Lane on April 07, 2007 at 10:46 pm
What a cool article. A great review and some great thoughts of days gone past. As to drive-ins, I agree with El G, it was primarily economics that did the deed on them. The coming of age of the multiplex theatres put a lot of the old ones out of business. Also, a lot of drive-ins felt the axe due to something that isn't talked about too much, real estate values. Pacific Theatres which owned most of the LA drive-ins found themselves sitting on some wildly appreciating acreage. Independent small town drive-ins like Victorville, Ca, that were built on outskirts of town suddenly found themselves in the center of town. I was the manager of a "grind-house theatre" in 1968. "Grindhouse" then meant, a theatre that usually showed 3 films, was open all day and most, if not, all of the night AND changed films at least twice a week. The theatre I ran was the Majestic (a former vaudeville and stage venue) in Santa Monica. After a complete remodeling, it later re-opened as the Mayfair, again as a stage theatre. It's shuttered but was still there the last time I looked. Crowbar, you know downtown, there were a bunch of them on, what I think was, 4th street and Main. The Banner and Regent come to mind. Homeless and addicts could buy a seat in the middle of the night for 50 cents to sleep or do their business. I image the shells of the theatres are probably still there. Again, great article, and I can't wait to see the movie. I liked the original "Hills have Eyes". lol It was made for about a dime and was pretty cool when it came out.
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By Schittzu on April 08, 2007 at 01:29 am
I remember those nights and mosquito bites. I was one of nine we didn't see a movie until it had been through the cinemas, made its money and fell to the drive-ins. "Old Yeller" was the first movie I ever saw. Summer was drive-ins. As a teen we'd load the car and trunk and look for a car of guys with potential to park next to and then flirt through the movies. And because we weren't old enough, the snack bar had Near Beer so we could pretend while pretending. Indoor cinemas had only one back row '-( I worked at several drive-ins in their last days and dreaded their passing. We loved X-rated movies because they didn't get out of their cars during intermission. We hated Disney movies because exhausted parents sent ALL the kids to the snack-bar with not-enough money. They were a part of my youth and as with my youth, I miss them. Great article Crowbar.
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By Annonymous on April 08, 2007 at 01:43 am
Guys, his article was based on opinion not facts. Reading it brought back the sense of when. It was meant to evoke what we felt back then, in that respect it succeeded greatly.
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By Crowbar on April 08, 2007 at 02:22 am
no duh, it was opinion... that's what a movie review is... opinion....thanks for the opinions everybody...
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By V on April 08, 2007 at 11:01 pm
Chocolate Vibrator? Can you get those???
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By Steven Lane on April 08, 2007 at 11:43 pm
Wow, Grindhouse ground to a halt, only $11 mil over the weekend. A big disappointment, I guess the 3 hour running time came into play.
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By Steven Lane on April 09, 2007 at 10:16 pm
El G "complete pricks" is a complement to the Weinsteins. They are completely evil.
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