I’ve been so busy doing crazy nerd stuff lately, I almost forgot to tell you about this very cool double bill at the New Beverly Cinema last week. It was a one night only screening of the European cut of QUENTIN TARANTINO’S DEATH PROOF (never before screened in the U.S.) and one of the greatest and most intelligent car chase movies ever made, VANISHING POINT (1971). Being a big fan of both films, as well as a HUGE gearhead, I had no choice but to jump behind the wheel of my own muscle car and race to the theatre to catch a double dose of MOPAR madness!
For those of you who are not in the know, MOPAR stands for MOtor PARts that are exclusively made by CHRYSLER and used on certain vehicles under the CHRYSLER, DODGE and PLYMOUTH banner, which had it’s heyday in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Cars like the CHARGER, SUPER BEE, ROAD RUNNER, DEMON, GTX, BARRACUDA, DUSTER and the CHALLENGER are all classic MOPAR’S that ruled the streets with their big block engines (440-6, HEMI), bright paint jobs (HEMI-ORANGE, SUB-LIME GREEN) and incredible designs and engineering. They were among the coolest and most badass muscle cars of that, or any other era in American automotive history. Drive one and you’ll understand why nothing beats Detroit metal and no imported tuner car can hold a candle to them.
The white 1970 DODGE CHALLENGER is a major part of both DEATH PROOF and VANISHING POINT. DEATH PROOF references VANISHING POINT a lot and is the reason ZOE BELL wants to ride on the hood of a CHALLENGER so much. The ’70 CHALLENGERS in both films are pushed to the limit of their awesome powers and are featured in incredible car chases.
Before DEATH PROOF started, we received a pretty awesome surprise. QUENTIN TARANTINO was in the house and came up to the stage to introduce his film. If you’ve never seen QT talk about one of his own movies before, his enthusiasm is infectious and makes you love the film in question even more.
QT is such a huge nerd that he actually wore his own costume from DEATH PROOF to the screening! He talked about how this was his cut of the film that was shown at Cannes in 2007 and released in Europe. He was very happy with the fact that DEATH PROOF is really loved and admired in France, where it is known as BOULEVARD DE LA MORT. After his intro, he took a seat in the packed theatre with the rest of us and we all sat back and watched DEATH PROOF. It was fucking great!
I loved DEATH PROOF back in 2007, when it was released as the second feature of GRINDHOUSE, along with ROBERT RODRIGUEZ’S PLANET TERROR. I remember thinking that it was not only the better overall film between the two, but that it was also the only thing about GRINDHOUSE that wasn’t a parody of some sort. I was expecting it to be a slasher movie with a car (which the first half is), but I didn’t expect it to turn into a cross between a 70’s car chase epic and a RUSS MEYER film (which the second half does brilliantly). It rounded out the whole GRINDHOUSE experience and elevated it to a level of high art, while totally appealing to my love for 80’s slasher films, hot girls and muscle cars, all in one film! I love how the first act (there are only two) is a slow build and you’re not really sure what’s going on until the big car crash, where Stuntman Mike’s motivations become all too clear. The final car chase is brilliant and exciting, but most importantly, it is a showdown between not one, but two of the greatest classic MOPAR’S ever created. THE 1970 DODGE CHALLENGER VS. THE 1970 DODGE CHARGER, which is the muscle car equivalent to KING KONG VS. GODZILLA!
After the movie, QT took the stage and conducted a 45 minute Q and A session, where he talked a lot about the film and how much he enjoyed making it. There were a few cast and crew members in attendance, including former Basterd, OMAR DOOM. All the great music from the Texas Chili Parlor scene is from QT’S own jukebox AMi, which is the one in the movie. He also said, that listening to the laughter and applause from the New Bev audience for his movie was music to his ears and he thanked us for that. I hadn’t seen DEATH PROOF in awhile and I must say that after watching it by itself in the theatre, it is truly a great movie. Next up was ZOE BELL’S favorite movie…
VANISHING POINT is about a man named Kowalski (played by BARRY NEWMAN) who takes a job to drive a brand new, white ’70 Dodge Challenger from Colorado to California. When he picks up some speed from his drug dealer for the trip, they make a crazy bet on how fast he can get there for the cost of the drugs. Almost immediately the cops are on his tail as he drives top speed through the state, but they can’t catch Kowalski in his killer Challenger and he becomes a folk hero with the aid of a blind disc jockey, played by CLEAVON LITTLE.
VANISHING POINT is like one long car chase of a movie with an existentialist riff on alienation and how freedom has been sacrificed for conformity in the post-industrial age. Seriously, this is one deep movie! Kowalski is a hero, simply because he refuses to stop for the police and I love the living shit out of it for that. The ending of this movie is the perfect statement of non-conformity. If you’ve never seen it before, you must!
That was one great double feature with an awesome surprise appearance by QT! Programming those two together was genius. Thanks again New Bev! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to look through the latest Auto Trader for an old MOPAR to fix up!