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March 8, 2009
Planet Terror Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
1/11/20075/2/2009Village RoadshowRobert Rodriguez
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
& VC-1
Dolby TrueHD 5.1MA15+Rose McGowan

Back in 2007 a double feature was released in cinemas in America and billed as Grindhouse, it included two movie - Death Proof and Planet Terror. For those of you unaware the 'Grindhouse' term is used to describe somewhat sleazy cinemas and movies which were filled with sex, gore and unique subject matter. Quentin Tarantino, along with Robert Rodriguez who directed this movie, Planet Terror, decided to make two movies who fit the genre and release them to cinemas as a double feature.

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That is Bruce Willis in Planet Terror.
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 Planet Terror didn't even get a release to Australia cinemas as far as we can tell, which is a shame as it is a superior movie to Tarantino's Death Proof.

After an experimental bio-nerve gas is accidentally released at a remote U.S. military base in Texas, those exposed to the gas turn into flesh-eating, mutating zombies out to kill. An assortment of various people who include stripper Cherry, her shady mechanic ex-boyfriend Wray, a strong-willed doctor, the local sheriff, and an assortment of various people must join forces to survive the night as the so-called "sickos" threaten to take over the whole town and the world.

From the energetic opening dancing scene with Rose McGowan it doesn't take too long until this movie kicks into full gear, and it won't take too long before your seeing swarms of zombies getting their heads blown off and blood splattering the screen. The finale is absolutely out of this world with some awesome stunts including some glorious stunts with Rose McGowan and her machine gun leg. Oh, and just wait until you see Tarantino's cameo role, and what happens to him. Never have I thought someone needs to keep their pants on more!

The cast is brilliant too. Rose McGowan headlines, but the movie also includes Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, Michel Biehn, Naveen Andrews, Stacy Ferguson and Freddy Rodríguez. ONe thing with all these actors is that they all seem to be having fun. They know this is a Grindhouse styled picture, they know it's over the top, but gee do they seem to be enjoying their roles. Stacy Ferguson from the Black Eyed Peas isn't in the role for long, but she makes an impression - as does Freddy Rodríguez - especially as he slices and dices his way through the hospital.

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Fergie from Black Eyed Peas in Planet Terror.
If you like action movies then Planet Terror should be near the top of your list to check out if you haven't done so. It's bloody, over the top, but always entertaining and this is one of the best times we've had watching a Blu-Ray disc since we started reviewing on the format.

If there was ever a transfer which was going to be hard to rate (besides the Grindhouse sister movie Death Proof) on video quality this movie would be it. As with Quentin Tarantino's picture, Robert Rodriguez has also deliberately deterorated the picture quality by adding in scratches, dirt, frame skips and so on. It makes determining the picture quality in Planet Terror extremely difficult, but in the clearer moments it's clear that the image is sharp, colours rich and detail in shadows brilliant.

Some of you may have noticed at the top of this review that we have listed the video as AVC MPEG-4 & VC-1. That is true. You see if you select the scratched and deteoriated look from the theatrical presentation then the movie is encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, while if you play the newly discovered 'clean' version it is encoded in VC-1. How bizarre... The clean version looks fantastic as well and while some of the intentional degradation remains, this cleaned up version clears off 90% off the deteoriation for a visually clean, and impressive result.

As with the video, the audio is at times intentionally deteriated. The main audio track is a brilliant Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which sounds delightful. Being such and action packed movie there are plenty of explosions and gunfire to shake your room, while the dialogue remains clear throughout.

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Yes, that is a machine gun leg!
Somewhat disappointingly if you're playing the 'clean' version of this movie with much of the intentional dirt and damage to the picture removed then you will be limited to the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track encoded at 640kbps. That's not saying it's a bad track at all, but you won't have the option of the Dolby TrueHD track.

Other languages on this disc include English, French, 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 for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish. The English subtitles were accurate to the spoken dialogue.

I was fairly impressed with the extras available on this disc, in fact there is so much content that they have spread this release over two discs...

"Scratch-free" version of Planet Terror: By selecting this option you can watch the movie without all the dirt and scratches that appeared in the theatrical version. Some rough cutting and the "Missing Reel" remain, but it's provides a much cleaner viewing experience if you didn't like they intentional damaged film look. Sadly, by selecting this you no longer see the fake 'Machete' trailer before the movie, and can't listen to the Audio Commentary or Audience Reaction Track here.

Commentary by Writer/Director Robert Rodriguez: Robert Rodriguez is an interesting filmmaker, and his commentary on this disc really is entertaining and well worth a listen with plenty of details about the production, cast, and storyline.

Audience Reaction Track : This entertaining track captures the cheers, laughs and hollers from a live audience. It seems a little 'manufactured' at times, but is entertaining if you've seen the movie before and want a bit of something different.

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Naveen Andrews from Lost (right).
And now we move onto the second disc which contains plenty of additional content. The one slight downer is that most extras are only presented in Standard Definition.

10-Minute Film School with Robert Rodriguez (11:50/HD): Running for closer to 12 minutes this is a great look at how many of the visual effects in the movie were handled and how the movie was enhanced with visual effects. Brilliant.

The Badass Babes of Planet Terror (11:49): Rodriguez has a look at the female actors in Planet Terror including interviews with the actresses.

The Guys of Planet Terror (16:30): This time Rodriguez looks at the male cast in this movie including reasons for casting each actor, rehearsals and how the script was, or wasn't, adapted for the particular actors.

Casting Rebel (5:38): A look at Robert Rodriguez shooting the role of Tony - which is played by his 5 year old son Rebel Rodriguez.

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Hot Chicks on a bike!
Sickos, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror (13:16): This featurette looks at - as the title suggest - filming the stunts in planet terror. Plenty of on-set footage is included and it gives a good idea of how, even on this relatively low budget film, the stunts can be large in scale.

The Friend, The Doctor and the Real Estate Agent (6:40): Rodriguez talks about casting non-actors in some of the main roles in the movie.

Planet Terror International Trailer (2:17): The international trailer for the movie - sadly only in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

International Poster Gallery: 34 posters and images from the film and the fake trailer for Machete.

Planet Terror really is a very enjoyable movie. It's violent, gross and certainly over the top, but if you love action movies then you'll be in heaven. A great transfer and some solid extras make this a disc worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


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