Monday, 28 July 2008

The "Death Proof" Theory...

Having just watched Death Proof for the fourth time (same amount of times for the equally rocking Planet Terror), I thought I'd sit down and actually blog out my theory regarding one aspect of Death Proof, a theory which I've held since I first saw the film.

Right at the beginning of the flick you get a split second of the title, the 'real title', which is "Thunderbolt" if memory serves, but it obnoxiously cuts to a rough-as-a-badger's-arse white-text-on-black insert with "Death Proof" printed on it.

Now indeed, in the true nature of grindhouse cinema, many films would go by many names - flicks such as Last House on the Left or The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue would have a slew of names at different showings as they toured the country, seemingly seeking for the best, audience-pleasing moniker.

However - I have another theory, which links to this title change. In the world of 'the filmmakers who made Death Proof', or rather the filmmakers who rest somewhere between our reality (as we sit there and watch Death Proof, which was one half of the fantastic Grindhouse experiment) and that of the characters in the film (i.e. Stuntman Mike and so on).

In this world, there were at least TWO Stuntman Mike movies - most likely made a few years apart, considering the sheer volume of print damage to the first half of the flick (everything from the titles to the last frame of Earl McGraw's exposition-spouting hospital-walk).

Now, "Thunderbolt" - featuring the girls in the bar - was the first Stuntman Mike movie, but it would have only been quite short, most likely somewhere between 70 and 80 minutes. This film would have gone on to be quite successful, and obviously got a lot of wear and tear on the circulating prints.

Then - a new Stuntman Mike movie (perhaps simply "Thunderbolt 2") - featuring the girls from the set of the movie being shot in Lebanon, Tennesse. This second half of Death Proof, features far, far less print damage - so it's a brand new flick practically (maybe only touring a handful of states at this point).

So - we come to one particular exhibitor, and he fancies getting one over on everybody else, and creating what he'd class as some sort of third Stuntman Mike movie, which is actually a mish-mash of the two actual Stuntman Mike movies.

The second half of Death Proof, as I've said, barely features any print damage - except in the first few minutes (this is in the extended cut that you and I have been treated to by Tarantino). Why might this feature more print damage? Repeated viewing of this transition from first flick to second flick, by this phantom exhibitor who has spliced the two Stuntman Mike movies together into his own creation - titled "Death Proof".

As for the black & white chunk, who knows - perhaps there was an interesting story behind that. Perhaps the exhibitor, while cutting away in his fag-smoke-choked projector room, accidentally wrecked that portion of the print, and had to find another print as best he could - only sourcing a black and white version of the clip he needed. Either that, or it was just a mistake in his copy of the print for "Thunderbolt 2".

Death Proof is a film that is very divided, right down the middle. It's one set of chicks, then it's a new set of chicks - but always Stuntman Mike. The tone from one half to the next is different, the chicks are also very different - first half they're pure victims, the second half they're pure ass-kickers, as if they each represent a different era of cinema and female audience attendance.

This is how I like to think of Death Proof anyway. There have surely been cases of exhibitors making their own cuts to movies, indeed I swear I've heard/read such stories.

Also, considering that many of the movies from the era RR & QT were celebrating would focus far more on dialogue, but advertise mainly according to one or two key set pieces. In DP's case the trailers zoned in on the car action - mostly ignoring the chick-chat-out-and-about majority (which is actually in-keeping with grindhouse advertising).

I've always considered Death Proof to be a very shrewd, and perhaps more intricate movie in terms of referencing its source material.

Perhaps my theory isn't the case at all, but I think there's a strong case for that line of thinking, and I fancied sharing that ... it certainly fits the vibe of the film itself at least.

No comments: