Death Proof: Extended and Unrated [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Dimension
Review written by and copyright: Andy James & Noor Razzak (8th January 2009).
The Film

Quentin Tarantino’s fifth film, "Death Proof", was originally supposed to be seen with Robert Rodriquez’s "Planet Terror" as part of their "Grindhouse" feature/experiment. I’m sure we all know how that went down: "Grindhouse" bombed at the box office. So much so that it was barely even released outside the U.S. (there was a touring of "Grindhouse" around the U.K. so far as I know). The two films were split for International release and it seems they are forever to remain this way. There is no forthcoming release of "Grindhouse" for DVD, Blu-Ray (unless you get the Japanese R2 set), internet download or flip-book; as far as U.S. audiences go we only have the separate cuts for both these films, and in the case of "Death Proof" a longer cut. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing...

The film is essentially a horror, of the stalker sub-genre; it just so happens the murder weapon is a car. Tarantino has made this readily apparent himself, in various interviews and even within the film itself. Kurt Russell is Stuntman Mike, our killer and the driver of the car that is “death proof” (for the one driving it). Russell is really doing some of the best work of his career here: inhabiting a character at turns magnetic, frightening, sadistic and cowardly. Stuntman Mike stalks women on the road, playing deadly games with them. After brutally murdering five girls in a head-on collision (where nothing is left to the imagination), he heads out to find more prey. Unluckily for him, he targets three spunky, determined girls: two stunt-women and a make-up artist who begin to enjoy the carnage.

There are most of the usual Tarantino cinematic tics here: his foot fetish (which comes to a bloody conclusion in the first half), dialogue for dialogue’s sake, pop culture references and discussion and the soundtrack made of up old (oftentimes obscure) pop and theme songs. The only usual Tarantino mark missing is his tinkering with chronology, instead allowing the film to progress from A to B. Some of these can have the tendency to become self-indulgent, the dialogue especially; you’ll be wishing the first group of girls would just shut-up and die already. And there is a fine line between “homage” and “rip-off”, one that Tarantino walks well even if the film can appear to be too self-reflexive at times; both of the films he is paying homage too, and to his own films.

As to the honesty to the grindhouse genre, I cannot comment too much: I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t seen enough of these types of films. I can say that "Death Proof" is definitely a film of two halves (quite obviously) – the first half is slower, with more of the grindhouse aesthetic (frame jumps, marks on the stock etc.) whilst the second half is brighter, with no alterations made to the picture and is markedly more thrilling. Well, with an 18-minute chase sequence between two American muscle cars (one with a girl hanging on to the hood/bonnet – Tarantino making good use of stunt-woman/actress Zoe Bell) it would be difficult not to be thrilling. This is not to say Tarantino doesn’t push this for all it’s worth, making it into a white-knuckle thrill ride of a chase.


Frankly if you’re not a Tarantino fan, "Death Proof" is unlikely to change your opinion; it’s too representative of the man himself, too much a paean to a time of action-films now gone. But at least give it a go: it’s a brilliantly subversive genre flick that makes you wait for the pay-off, but that pay-off is worth it.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio 2.35:1 the image is mastered on disc in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and uses AVC MPEG-4 compression. The film was shot with the intent to create a 'grindhouse' aesthetic, this means damaging the picture to include dirt, marks, scratches, specks, excessive grain. The result is faithfully reproduced here and all the elements used to mark the film are intact. The difference between the DVD and this HD edition is that the image is noticeably sharper and looks more like film. The film feel adds to the textures and detail captured in the photography and thus looks more authentic. Colors are slightly over-saturated which is also part of the look. The film's second half is much 'cleaner' and features less intentional damage. Overall the image faithfully recreates the aesthetic which the filmmakers were after and it looks damn good on Blu-ray.

Audio

Genius Products has included five optional audio tracks in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mastered at 48 kHz/24-bit as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks in English, French, Italian and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its TrueHD 5.1 audio, the surround mix is wonderfully immersive. To match the image the audio has been given a 'grindhouse' treatment as well with the occasional drop out and audio flaw normally in-between scenes and cuts. Dialogue is clean and distortion free, ambient sound is well represented and the chase sequence is aggressive in its mix. The film's music also makes its presence felt throughout the 5.1 space and the woofer gets a decent workout from the bass. This track is incredible and displays excellent range from the dialogue to the chase sounds.
Optional subtitles are included in both English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

Genius Products has released this film on Blu-ray with a collection of six featurette, an extended scene, a couple of theatrical trailers, a gallery, a series of extended music cues and some BD-Live features. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

"Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof" is the first featurette on this disc and runs for 20 minutes 39 seconds, and takes a look at the various legendary stunt drivers that all took part in the making of the film, the clip features some cool behind-the-scenes footage of the various stunt scenes that were filmed for the chase sequence as we get some interviews from the key players that take us further into the stunt world. It's a cool featurette to start things off on this disc and worth checking out.

"Introducing Zoe Bell" featurette runs for 8 minutes 59 seconds and is a glorified back-patting session towards the stunt woman, aside from that it provides a basic introduction of Bell who worked as a stunt woman in New Zealand and made a break on Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies (2003-2004) until her star making turn on "Death Proof" where she not only plays herself but does all the dangerous stunts too.

"Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike" is the next featurette which runs for 9 minutes 34 seconds, in this clip the lead actor talks about his character, on playing him and the motivations and inspirations. The film's director also puts in his two cents in this clip which features more behind-the-scenes footage.

Following that is "Finding Quentin's Gals" featurette 21 minutes 14 seconds and is exactly as the title suggest and looks into the casting process of the women of the film as the director talks about his decisions and the reasons these gals were picked and the female cast members talk about the film, their characters and working with each other among other things.

"The Guys of Death Proof" featurette runs for 8 minutes 16 seconds, The gals aren't the only one that get their own clip, the guys are also featured as Tarantino comments on playing the bartender character himself and also talks about the casting of the guys in the film including his friend Eli Roth (who has also recently been cast in Tarantino's next film the World War II action film "Inglourious Basterds" due out later this year). The guys also chime in about the film and their characters, but realistically they are just window dressing (if that) to Russell's performance.

"Quentin's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke" featurette which runs for 4 minutes 38 seconds. Tarantino talks fondly of his long time editor Sally Menke and on their collaboration. He also talks of the short time they had to cut the film, later the clip ends with the cast members shouting out to Sally on camera.

The Uncut Version of "Baby, It's You" Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an extended scene which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds and feature the complete version of the scene.

There's also a "Double Dare" theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 36 seconds and is about a documentary featuring Zoe Bell.

The "Death Proof" original International theatrical trailer is next and runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Next up is the International poster gallery which features 17 image of various lobby cards (not exactly posters) created for the film's International theatrical release.

There are 3 extended movie cues and are music segments which include:

- Ennio Morricone's "Unexpected Violence"
- Guido and Maurizio De Angelis' "Gangster Story"
- Franco Micalizzi's "Italia a Mano Armata"

Finally the disc features some BD-Live connectivity through your player's Ethernet port and for profile 2.0 players only.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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