The other day we reported that the fate of Quentin Tarantino’s “Planet Terror” would ride highly on how well it played at Cannes this week. According to the Hollywood Reporter boos and applause would mingle at the end of the new 113-minute cut of the film, which features Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a riveting portrait in grizzled, pathological evil, stalks two sets of beautiful young women in his “death proof” stunt car. Inside you’ll find details on what was added to the film and the Reporter’s thoughts on the addition. “Death Proof” was one half of the US release of Dimension Films’ Grindhouse, with the other being directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Planet Terror”).
From the Hollywood Reporter:
The new version clocks in at 113 minutes. Only two notable additions have been made to “Death Proof,” one in each act. In both, Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike, a riveting portrait in grizzled, pathological evil, stalks two sets of beautiful young women in his “death proof” stunt car.
In the first act, these chicks, out for a night of heavy partying in Austin, Texas, are lead by Sydney Tamiia Poitier’s bad-ass drive-time radio DJ and local celebrity, Jungle Julia. The ongoing intrigue is whether any male listener to her program is going to take up her challenge that evening to buy a drink for her female companion — Vanessa Ferlito’s ‘Butterfly’ — while quoting a Robert Frost poem and thereby win a lap dance.
In the earlier version, Butterfly agrees to give the winner, none other than Stuntman Mike, that lap dance. But this proves to be one of the print’s “Missing Scenes,” as some projectionist long ago snipped it for his own private collection. In the Cannes version, that scene is no longer missing. Let’s just say that Ferlito’s sexy dance routine proves worth the wait over these several months.
In the second section of the movie, 14 months after Stuntman Mike’s car has killed all the girls in a head-on collision, he has moved on to Lebanon, Tennessee. Here he stalks a new set of hot babes — this time crew members of a movie shooting locally — as well as one stuntwoman. This proves to be Stuntman Mike’s undoing as they are better at this game than he.
The addition here doesn’t really add much. Before the game gets underway, there is an encounter between Mike and his new intended victims at a roadside convenience store. The sequence goes to black and white. While one woman goes to buy a magazine, Stuntman Mike menacingly plays with the dangling bare feet of another girl as they hang from the backseat window. About all this adds is an opportunity for Mary Elizabeth Winstead to sing, quite well by the way, the classic rock ballad “Baby It’s You.”
The final chase duel of the Dodge Challengers in the thrilling climax still bothers you a bit since some logic drops away. Stuntman Mike’s car is reinforced everywhere since it is a stunt car. The girls’ Dodge is not. So how does it survive?
You can shrug that off to movie magic, but more problematic is how the women allow Stuntman Mike to toy with them in the initial moments of the showdown. By simply applying the brake, their car could fall suddenly behind so New Zealand stuntwoman extraordinaire Zoe Bell, basically playing herself, can climb down off the hood where she has been fooling around in a deliberate death-defying stunt.
Oh well, Tarantino would probably argue that logic was always missing in grindhouse movie action, and he wouldn’t be wrong. If “Death Proof” is his way of marking time before his next big project, it is certainly interesting that at this stage of his career he can throw together such a compelling and funny time marker.