The publicity for Death Proof describes it as 'The 5th Film by Quentin Tarantino', but what we're getting here is really only half of the story. Earlier this year Tarantino teamed up with Robert Rodriguez to present Grindhouse, a three-hour extravaganza celebrating the scuzzy B-movie tradition which so enraptured the two filmmakers during their formative years. The idea was to offer two movies for the price of one, with Rodriguez's zombie movie Planet Terror preceding Tarantino's Death Proof, and a batch of fake trailers for similarly trashy fare popping up in between. In addition, the spirit of the grindhouse cinema experience was evoked by the scratchy prints, mismatched film stock, missing reels and deliberate continuity errors. Depending on your point of view, Grindhouse was the most eagerly anticipated film of the year, or an ill-advised vanity project. Judging by the film's miserable box-office returns, it turned out to be the latter.
In an attempt to rescue something from this mess, the two films have been separated, expanded and will now be released in isolation. Tarantino's Death Proof is the first of the pictures to arrive on these shores (Planet Terror has not yet appeared on the radar), with around twenty minutes of footage being added to his original Grindhouse cut, and one wonders if that extra padding is directly responsible for the film being such a tedious drone of a movie. There were many reasons why I hated Tarantino's Kill Bill – specifically the ghastly Volume I, although the second part left me cold too – but I could never justifiably accuse those films of being boring. Death Proof, on the other hand, is lethally dull in ways I could never imagine from this once vital director.