DVD Review: Planet Terror

Dimension
Movie ••• Picture •••• Sound •••½ Extras ••••½

It's testimony to both Robert Rodriguez's strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker that the extras on this two-disc set actually deliver more laughs and thrills than the mock horror movie they're meant to supplement. Rodriguez's "10-Minute Film School" (in which he reveals the amazing secrets behind his wildly imaginative stunts and effects), the hilarity that ensues whenever he chats on-camera with Grindhouse collaborator Quentin Tarantino, even the good-natured fun of the on-set footage scattered throughout an hour-long documentary - all outshine the thinly plotted and gore-soaked Planet Terror. Although the film fully delivers on its promise of a no-holds-barred return to the glories of cheap '70s exploitation movies, it's not really enough to suck us in.

Fortunately, the movie's visuals - perfect in their willful imperfection - hit the bull's-eye on this beautiful transfer. Rodriguez mixes dust, scratches, various brightness levels, and film-print damage to give the transfer an amazingly lived-in look, without which the entire Grindhouse concept would have tanked further. It's a bit jarring, therefore, to hear the accompanying soundtrack in pristine and modern Dolby Digital 5.1, but Rodriguez still manages to hold onto a not-too-detailed aesthetic that vaguely recalls days gone by.

Just for laughs, an optional "audience reaction track" is included, so the inevitable catcalls and guffaws of the old midnight-movie experience live again on DVD. Rodriguez's fact-filled commentary seems almost tame by comparison. [NR] English and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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