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February 18, 2009
Death Proof Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
1/11/20075/2/2009Village RoadshowQuentin Tarantino
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Kurt Russell

When this movie was released in cinemas it was labeled as Grindhouse with Death Proof and Planet Terror shown as a double feature. For those of you unaware the 'Grindhouse' term is used to describe somewhat sleezy cinemas and movies which were filled with sex, gore and unique subject matter. Quentin Tarantino, along with Robert Rodriguez who directed Planet Terror, decided to make two movies who fit the genre and release them to cinemas as a double feature. With a budget of $US67 million there were high hopes for the movies, but the final American gross was a paltry $US25 million making it one of the biggest failures of recent times, and making the releases outside America patchy at best. Indeed Death Proof didn't hit cinemas here in Australia until November 2007, some seven months after the American release, and the results were, well, almost non-existent.

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Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike.
A deranged stuntman, Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell, stalks his victims from the safety of his killer car, but when he picks on the wrong group of badass babes, all bets are off in an adrenaline-pumping, high speed, white-knuckle automotive duel of epic proportions, where anything can happen!

When Death Proof was released in cinemas as a part of the double feature in America it ran for a rather tight 90 minutes. This extended and unrated version is the same that released as a separate picture and runs for 113 minutes. There isn't any addition to the action sequences - you'd hardly get 23 minutes in total including the finale - but pads out the dialogue. Speaking of which as with almost every Tarantino picture the dialogue is key, and there is a tonne of it. There are long segment with talking between the characters which has always been a staple of his movies, but in this movie, for instance, in the first 45 minutes around half of that time is set entirely within a single bar. It helps develop the characters strongly, but it really leaves little time for 'action' sequences making Death Proof feel a little pedestrian compared to movies like Kill Bill 1 & 2 or Pulp Fiction.

The decision to deliberately deteriorate the video quality of this picture like that you would see in run down theatres is inspired, but probably turned many off seeing this picture. Strangely though by the time we reach the climax of the movie almost all of this deliberate deterioration is removed which makes it almost feel you have entered a different movie. This could have been due to the very short post production time with editing taking little over a month, and a lack of time to 'finish' this deterioration. Who knows?

There were two absolute highlights in this movie. The first is a spectacular car crash that takes place around half way into the movie. Now I won't spoil the result for you, but needless to say, this happens in typical Tarantino fashion. The second highlight is the superb stunt work from New Zealand stuntwoman and actress Zoe Bell at the climax which is out of this world. When watching the movie I thought that Zoe Bell looked a little like Uma Thurman and a little research showed that she actually played Uma's stunt double in the Kill Bill movies. Without the use of CG or wires (at least for the most part as far as we know) this is one of the best practical stunts we have seen in years.

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This crash is spectacular.
As you may be aware the second movie in the Grindhouse double, Planet Terror was also released on Blu-Ray this month, but while that movie gives you the option to select a 'clean' or 'dirtied' viewing experience (ie with or without the scratches), we don't have that option with Death Proof. Why? Well I don't know, but part of the reason could be that the actual negative for this picture was physically damaged to create the effect, rather then digitally. Still I would be certain there's a clean print somewhere.

So is this Tarantino at his best? Well I would have to say no, not really. There's no doubt that we have to applaud the guy for taking major risks with this release (a risk that ultimately failed), and continues to push many boundaries. The movie is just too slow, too dialogue based, and too, well, boring for the most part. Even the two highlights mentioned above can't drag this above average.

If there was ever a transfer which was going to be hard to rate on video quality Death Proof would be it. When making the film Quentin Tarantino deliberately scratched and damaged the negative to give the film a rundown look - similar to that which you would see after a film has been run too many times in a rundown 'Grindhouse' cinema.

Death Proof is presented on Blu-Ray at 2.35:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and even with the deliberate deterioration looks wonderful with a high bitrate, and a sharp image for the most part. There were scenes though that look out of focus slightly, although we can't tell if that is intentional, a part of the transfer or a mistake during filming. Still with all the deliberate deterioration in the movie you'll be hard pressed to call this a 'fault' - if it is one!

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Hanging out in the bar for drinks.

The primary audio track on this disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which is quite an impressive effort. It must also be mentioned that, as with the video, the audio is at times intentionally deteriorated. Still, the dialogue is crystal clear and Tarantino certainly uses music to good effect which keeps the movie pumping. The movie really ends with a sonic boom with the spectacular car chase at the end of the movie.

Other languages on this disc include English, French, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps. Each of these tracks is impressive in quality with no major issues noticed. As with the primary English Dolby TrueHD track there is intentional degradation of the audio in places, that is not a fault of the movie. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish (strange the other audio languages such as Italian and French aren't also covered). The English subtitles were accurate to the spoken dialogue.

One thing that I really did miss from the start of this movie were the mock trailers that screened in cinemas. These included 'Werewolf Women of the SS' by Rob Zombie, 'Thanksgiving' by Eli Roth and 'Don't Scream' by Edgar Wright. While they weren't presented before the movie on this Blu-Ray disc I was hoping they would be included in the extras, but they aren't. While the extra features are disappointingly presented in Standard Definition there are some things here worth having a look at. Here we go...

Stunts on Wheels: The Legendary Drivers of Death Proof (20:39): A rather detailed look at the many stunts that took place in the cars for the movie. There's quite a bit of on-set footage and interviews with Quentin Tarantino.

Introducing Zoe Bell (8:57): No doubt the stunt work by Zoe Bell is one of the most impressive aspects of this movie and this featurette looks at the life of Zoe Bell, and how Quentin uses her in his films including Kill Bill and Death Proof in which she plays herself.

Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike (9:32): Kurt Russell is an actor with around 80 movies and TV shows to his name to date, and this documentary look at why Tarantino casted Kurt Russell as the main villain in the movie.

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The Death Proof Car...
Finding Quentin's Gals (21:13): A rather lengthy look at how Quentin managed to find all the female actresses used in this movie.

Uncut Version of "Baby, It's You" performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (1:46): A short extended scene with Mary Elizabeth Winstead singing from the movie.

The Guys of Death Proof (8:14): Quentin looks at the male actors that he used in the movie. Again, quite interesting with plenty of details as to why people were cast in their roles.

Quentin's Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke (4:36): Editors are rarely truly acknowledge on DVD and Blu-Ray extras and Quentin gives Sally kudos here for Death Proof as well as his previous movies which she has worked on as well. It's still a little brief, and there are some rather pointless moments from many actors saying hello to Sally, but great to see Quentin acknowledging the other people that work with him on his movies.

Double Dare Trailer (2:34): A trailer for the documentary movie Double Dare which looks at two female stuntwomen - include Zoe Bell. I'm going to hunt this down on DVD (although I don't think it's out in Australia) - it actually looks quite brilliant.

Death Proof International Trailer (2:20): The international trailer for the Death Proof.

International Poster Gallery: Only around a dozen still images, in low quality which only fill a fraction of the screen on a HDTV.

Extended Music Only: A jukebox with three audio tracks from the movie in their full versions.

BD-Live: Well there's a link for BD-Live there, but no content is available as yet.

Death Proof is an interesting movie, if you don't like Tarantino styled dialogue give this a wide birth, there's a tonne of it. There's not a lot of action either and to be honest it's not up there with Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill 1&2. Still a solid transfer and decent extras make this a worthwhile purchase for fans of the movie, and the director.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.