BEVERLY HILLS, California — Together, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are regarded by many as the future of cinema. They revive and/or announce massive movie stars (Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Antonio Banderas), bravely move filmmaking forward (“Sin City”) and shoot their films with an independence typically afforded to Spielberg or Lucas. Now, Tarantino and Rodriguez are once again employing their brotherly bond to step into the future — with one collective foot firmly planted in the exploitation heyday of the early ’70s.
As the April 6 theatrical release of “Grindhouse” nears, MTV caught up with the rebellious filmmakers to talk about “Soul Train” memories, screwing with the audience and why they’re thankful for MPAA bathroom breaks.
MTV: Everybody knows what a drama or comedy is. But what exactly is a “grind-house” film?
Quentin Tarantino: Well, I think the term was coined by Variety, if I’m not mistaken. In the urban areas of the big cities, whether it be Los Angeles, New York, Kansas City or Dallas or Nashville, [they were] the old dilapidated movies that showed in the old [theaters]. Exploitation movies would come in and play for a week in one area and go play in another place. But they would also show double features, even triple features. All the exploitation movies, women-in-prison movies, the horror films, the black-exploitation movies, all the wild stuff … the last stop before oblivion would be the grind house.
MTV: Both you guys have extensive collections of these old, often hard-to-find grind-house flicks. Give us a few titles that people should track down.
Robert Rodriguez: “Rolling Thunder.”
Tarantino: A movie that was released in the ’70s, “They Call Her One Eye.” You can get it on DVD under the title “Thriller.”
Rodriguez: “Escape From New York.”
Tarantino: I have to throw in a really fantastic, depraved little gem out there. You can get it on DVD; it’s called “The Candy Snatchers,” and it’s about these guys who kidnap a little girl named Candy.
Rodriguez: [He turns to Tarantino.] There’s one other, that your movie reminds me of. When it gets to the second half of your movie, it’s “White Line Fever.”
Tarantino: The funny thing is that I actually showed Robert that movie to give him an idea of [my] flick. He came down to my house, and I just showed him that one movie. He was like, “Where’s the next movie?”
Rodriguez: [He laughs.] You get so used to that! Grind-house audiences get used to two movies for the price of one.
MTV: What’s your first memory of understanding what a grind-house movie was?
Rodriguez: Well, Quentin experienced it directly firsthand.
Tarantino: Yeah, rather than the theaters itself, it was more the type of movies that were playing there. It was just something about the posters, the newspaper ads … the TV spots for the blaxploitation movies that they would play on “Soul Train,” or the kung-fu spots that they would play [on other shows], those horror-movies TV spots you’d see as a kid on TV. Now they keep that stuff until night. But in the old days in the ’70s, they played all kinds of wild movie trailers during your cartoons … it was like forbidden fruit.
MTV: And you wouldn’t go see movies like these in slick megaplexes with stadium seating.
Tarantino: [He laughs.] No. In some theaters you were really taking your life into your own hands. Some of these all-night movie theaters would be where bums would go just to get off the street! [He laughs.] If I was running away from the cops, I would go to an all-night movie theater.
Rodriguez: I was raised more in the drive-ins. I come from such a big family that my mom would take her 10 kids, because that was the bigger bargain. We’d take the big van — everyone gets in for the one price. I would get on top of the van, watching a Doug McClure double feature. But I’d also watch all the other screens, which had other things we weren’t supposed to watch.
MTV: In your two movies, and the trailers that run in between, you’re constantly screwing with the audience. We get scratches, sound problems, burned and even missing reels. Was it fun messing with your movies?
Rodriguez: Some of these old prints we’d watch would be so scarred-up and so beat-up. … We were watching one horror film where the sound dropped out, and there was no sound, and right before the big scare, it popped back on! It was an accident, but we knew we had to do stuff like that on purpose.
MTV: Each of you also puts up a “Reel Missing” sign, just when the audience thinks it’s about to get a sexy scene.
Tarantino: Well, Robert’s missing-reel thing is a joke. I actually want the audience to get mad. [He laughs.] I want them to vocally scream, “Quentin, you A-hole!”
MTV: Tell us one thing each of you sees in the other’s “Grindhouse” movie that makes you go, “Man, I wish I had that skill.”
Rodriguez: I know mine, but it’s not “I wish I had that skill” as much as it’s “I wish I wasn’t so chicken.” It’s when he did his action stuff, for real. Quentin went out with real cars, going real fast, with old stunt guys who used to do this forever. It’s just really dangerous. I would have been doing that on a green screen.
Tarantino: It’s Robert’s editing skills that I’ve always admired; how he puts his sequences together. In the instance of “Planet Terror,” it all comes down to one shot for me … Rose [McGowan] being pulled away by the helicopter. It’s just so comic-booky, and so dreamy, and so lovingly perfect in every way … [when I watch that], that’s when I’m like, “Maybe this green-screen stuff actually does have a purpose.”
Rodriguez: Yeah, but that girl was pretty for real. She was on a crane; we pulled her on a cable, and she went all the way up. We just added the helicopter later.
MTV: Much was made in the press of your battles with the MPAA. What did you have to cut out to get your R rating?
Tarantino: We weren’t fighting with them. We got an R rating very easily.
MTV: I noticed a big continuity flaw, when Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike is sitting at the bar. First he has nachos in his hand, then his drink, then suddenly nachos again. Did you do that on purpose, just because old grind-house films would be poorly edited?
Tarantino: That was part of the thing. My editor Sally is one of the greatest editors, as far as I’m concerned, in the history of cinema … [but] we actually went out of our way not to worry about the niceties as far as what’s going on outside the car window, are there continuity issues going on, or even nachos versus the glass … I gave myself the license not to worry about that stuff.
MTV: You guys have talked about making the “Grindhouse” name a brand and releasing other movies in this format. How would that work?
Tarantino: Well, we hope to keep doing this for a long time. There’s all these subgenres in exploitation movies and cinema in general that we like, and this gives us a license to explore them all … I do have an idea in my mind for an old-school kung-fu movie that would be shot in Mandarin … there would be a long version of it, with subtitles and all serious. Then I would cut another version way down, like they did in America, and dub it! Not to make it look silly, but you can’t help but benefit from its humorous quality.
MTV: So you’d do half that, and maybe the other half might be a full-length version of one of the “Grindhouse” trailers?
Tarantino: If the audience screams for “Thanksgiving” and “Don’t!” or “Werewolf Women of the S.S.,” and [directors] Rob [Zombie], Edgar [Wright] and Eli [Roth] want to do it, we’re all down.
MTV: Is your military flick “Inglorious Bastards” next?
Tarantino: Yes, that should be the next one down the line.
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