Making a bad situation worse: Grindhouse split in two, Death Proof longer

It's been known for a while that GRINDHOUSE would probably be split into two separate feature films for some overseas markets, where the concept of a double bill was somewhat alien. However, after the film's dismal performance in U.S. theatres, the film will also be split up in England and Australia - territories that had planned to show it in its orignal, double-bill form.

Based on a report in Daily Variety. ReallyScary.Com tells us that Quentin Tarantino's episode, "Death Proof," will be released in the U.K. by Momentum Pictures on September 21, with Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" to follow some undisclosed time later. Presumably, "Death Proof" will be released in the longer cut that Tarantino is taking to the Cannes Film Festival next month.

This is a truly terrible idea. Since GRINDHOUSE bombed, there has been a lot of second-guessing about what went wrong with the movie's U.S. release (audiences didn't understand the double bill concept; they didn't want to sit for three hours, etc), but few people are examining the most fundamental problem: the two feature films simply were not very good.

"Planet Terror" was barely passable as junk entertainment, but "Death Proof" was a nearly complete disaster. The main saving grace was that it was the second half of a double bill, so you could rationalize away the boredom by saying, "Can't complain - it's two movies for the price of one."

It also didn't hurt that before sitting through the interminable opening section of "Death Proof," you had gotten at least some excitment from "Planet Terror" and a few laughs from the phony trailers in between the two films. That little buzz helped sustain you through the pointless rounds of dialogue that padded out the first half of Tarantino's mini-opus.

That effect will be lost when "Death Proof" screens as a stand-alone film, and a longer cut will only exacerbate the problem. There really is nothing to "Death Proof" - it's an idea for a half-hour short, inexcusably padded to feature length.

I mean, think about it: what happens in the film? A group of girls talks a lot in their car and in a bar, and then Stuntman Mike tires to kill them - and succeeeds. Then another set of girls talks a lot in their car and in a cafe, and then Stuntman Mike tries to kill them - and fails. Do you really need 90 minutes to tell that story? Do you really think there's any possible reason for making it even longer. Yes, I know some of you guys are dying to see the lap dance much discussed in the shorter cut - but never shown. But is that really worth the price of admission?

The only interesting aspect to this fiasco is the state of denial it reveals in the filmmakers and the distributors. Like George Bush with his "New Way Forward," no one wants to admitĀ a fundamental failure of their original plan; they keep thinking that tweaking a few strategic details will rescue their misguided efforts from the jaws of disaster.