‘Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror’ Blu-ray Review
Nearly almost 2 years later and we still have not received the Tarantino/Rodriguez Theatrical Grindhouse experience in its entirety. While we continue to wait on the total experience, Weinstein is releasing both Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror on Blu-ray December 16 as individual releases. With that minor gripe aside, this is the ultimate experience in sound, video quality, and special features for both films. Both films brought in $50 million dollars at the box office world wide and $37 million dollars in DVD sales. With a $37 million dollar budget, this is an impressive feat considering the DVD sales almost equal the box office totals.
‘Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror’ story revolves around a zombie/infection that spreads across this small town. Rodriguez pays homage to zombie directors of past such as Romero and Fulci. He takes what made those films so successful infusing elements in his own tale of a zombie infestation. The story of the film begins with Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) quitting her job as a dancer finding her way to the best BBQ restaurant in Texas. Darling meets J.T. (Jeff Fahey) the owner of the restaurant who loves to drink his own BBQ sauce out of a cup. She happens to run into her ex-boyfriend El Ray (Freddy Rodriguez) at the restaurant. After a bit of chatter between the two Darling asks El Ray if he can take her home. On the way home the truck takes a tumble. Little do they know that they are a few infected by the truck, they have eaten off her right leg.
El Way rushes Darling to the hospital where Dr. William Block (Josh Brolin) is going to examine her. As we see earlier in the film Dr. Block is having marital issues with his wife Dakota Block (Mary Shelton) who also works with him at the hospital. The two are at each others throats, mainly because Block believes that his wife is cheating on him. The hospital is getting overloaded with the townspeople coming in by the bus loads due to an infection.
Then add Sherriff Hague (Michael Biehn) in the mix as he is on edge himself. He is the brother of J.T. and there are a few scenes in the film where he continually asks his brother for the famous BBQ recipe. At one point he even threatens his brother to give him that recipe. We also have the military involved like in many zombie films. Their leader is Muldoon (Bruce Willis) who has a few issues of his own. One of his problems has to do with crazy scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews). Wait till you see what Abby likes to collect in a jar.
I will say that I have enjoyed ‘Planet Terror’ immensly. The acting was one of the reasons for my enjoyment of the film. The cast is mixed between A and B-list talent which really comes together very well. Rose McGowan is a real joy as she practically is the showcase of the film. She is able to pull off a rather well rounded performance and still exhibit a very sexy and exotic looking woman in distress that eventually becomes our heroin. With McGowan as a very strong female lead, Freddy Rodriguez plays the male lead in the film. He also does a great job with his character even though we do not learn too much about him except that he is Darling’s ex.
This is one gory film that if you have a squeamish stomach, you may want to pass. There are buckets of blood, puss infected zombies, brains, guts, and limbs being torn apart. This is not a film for the kids or grandma. ‘Planet Terror’ has to be one of the better zombie films to come along since the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ’28 Days Later’. The zombies or infected look like they came out of the film ‘Slither’ to a degree and are very well done.
Movie Content: 4/5
The film is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For those going into this film for the first time, the dirt, print damage, grain, and all kinds of imperfections to the print are intentional. This is to be perceived as a low budget Grindhouse feature film. Colors look exceptionally well and strong despite the intentional print damage. Fleshtones look very good and natural. Blacks are deep. With all these areas of the print being rather strong, it allows for a nicely detailed print. With the film having a bunch of digital work done to it to give it this look and feel, details look good up close and in panned away shots.
Video Quality: 4/5 (this was a rather difficult area to provide a grade on due to the new ‘Scratch Free’ version. My rating is based on the original Grindhouse version of the film since it is Rodriguez’s original intent.)
Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. This is one atmospheric audio experience from start to finish. The rears almost always have some kind of effects. I felt like I was at the center of the action in many of the sequences with bullets whizzing by behind me. Bass is also on the low end of the spectrum, and it sounds so good. It adds that extra oomph to scenes with guns blazing, vehicles, and the ongoing chaos. The soundtrack/score is also excellent setting the tone in many scenes. Dialogue is very good through the center channel. It comes through very crisp, yet it is not clean in certain spots for one reason. Rodriguez wanted to also attain that Grindhouse feel with the audio as he did with the video.
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Scratch Free Print/Audio Quality
One feature found on the Blu-ray that is not available on any of the DVD releases is the addition to remove the degraded look of the print titled ‘Scratch Free’. For those that may not like the Grindhouse look of the film, you can turn it off at any time. The print is pristine with the ‘Scratch Free’ feature on. Colors are more vibrant and bold. With a much cleaner print, black colors are much bolder and details are better defined. Like many Weinstein releases on Blu-ray, there is a gold tint that the print carries with the Fleshtones. There are still some print issues that carry over from the Grindhouse feel during a few scenes (mainly with any Dr. William Block scenes, but they are throughout).
The only issue that I have with this feature though is that it is the film then is only offered in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio mix is much cleaner over the TrueHD track without any distortion that was added to make this feel like a Grindhouse film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is much cleaner overall. Dialogue is even clearer with a much better dynamic range. I will not rate this portion of the ‘Scratch Free’ version just for the fact that this wasn’t the director’s original intent.
Feature Commentary By Writer/Director Robert Rodriguez
Audience Reaction Track
Additional “Scratch Free” Version Included From Newly Discovered Negative
Machete Trailer (begins before feature presentation)
10-Minute Film School (11:50) [HD]
The Badass Babes of Planet Terror (11:49) [SD]
The Guys of Planet Terror (16:30) [SD]
Casting Rebel (5:38) [SD]
Sickos, Bullets, and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror (13:16) [SD]
The Friend, The Doctor, And The Real Estate Agent (6:40) [SD]
Planet Terror International Trailer (2:17) [SD]
An International Gallery [HD]
The Extras are presented in both standard and high definition. The majority of the extras are in standard definition. I found the 10-Minute Film School to be very interesting on how some of the scenes were put together with Rose McGowan’s missing leg. The main feature commentary with Robert Rodriguez is a real treat.
Special Features: 4/5
The Final Word
‘Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror’ is a very good zombie film with tons of action, buckets of blood, and some great performances. The film is presented in two versions, the original Theatrical release and the new ‘Scratch Free’ version. While the ‘Scratch Free’ version looks best, it loses the Grindhouse look and feel. It is nice to have both versions for those that want to choose between the two. This 2 disc Blu-ray release is a nice upgrade over the previous DVD release.
Overall Rating: 4/5 (Purchase)