Released in 2007 ▪ Review posted March 9, 2014
“After all: a dream is a wish your heart makes.”
Arguably the worst thing to come from a Tarantino/Rodriguez collaboration, Grindhouse could have revived the splatterhouse genre for a modern audience. You probably recall it consisted of two shorter films pushed together, with fake trailers from guest directors in the middle. Different edits of the movie would pop up in different theaters throughout its run, making a single viewing experience incomplete. It was a great idea, but seeing a movie in a theater has changed drastically in the 40-year gap between today and the period this movie earnestly tries to recreate. Accordingly, I was bewildered and disappointed.
It doesn’t help that the two features of Grindhouse—Planet Terror and Death Proof—are the least interesting parts of the movie, completely overshadowed by trailers such as Edgar Wright’s Don’t, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, and Rob Zombie’s contribution, Werewolf Women of the SS. You may have noticed Nicolas Cage is in it.
If there’s one director who does Tarantino better than Tarantino, it’s Zombie. Like Tarantino, he recreates and re-exploits cinematically, but unlike Tarantino, it’s flawless. It’s a shame he doesn’t direct more. He only makes one kind of film, and although he’s only led ten projects, I’ve never seen him produce anything less than amazing.
Among those ten projects is this, a gonzo trailer that suggests a feature-length film about beautiful female Nazis who almost turned the tide against the Allied forces because they were werewolves. I can’t really nail down what the overarching plot is, but that’s OK, because it also features Dr. Fu Manchu.
Of course, helping Nicolas Cage be a crazy, insane, cross-racial character is always a good idea. It works every time (with a notable exception). Digging deep into the lost troves of grindhouse cinema and America’s racial insensitivity, Zombie resurrected Fu Manchu and cast Nicolas Cage in the role.
Fu Manchu was a common villain in 20th century pop culture, but has now (for good reasons) mostly disappeared. In addition to being a horrible stereotype in concept, he’s almost always portrayed on the screen by white men. The whitest white men. H. Agar Lyons, Warner Oland, and Christopher Lee to name a few.
Fast forward to Rob Zombie, who, after blowing away everyone’s expectations with House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, was approached by Tarantino and Rodriguez to make a trailer for an imaginary splatterhouse/exploitation film. Zombie got a chance to adopt the established cinematic habits of the period and genre, and he delivered. He pulled out the big guns, getting Udo Kier into an SS uniform and a white man into a Fu Manchu outfit. And who better to hearken back to a time when exploiting racism for entertainment was openly accepted by the white power structure (as opposed to now, when exploiting racism for entertainment is secretly accepted by the white power structure)? The answer is Mr. Exploitation himself, Nicolas Cage. The argument that it pays to know when and how to use Cage is proven empirically by his ten seconds in Grindhouse.
It’s great. He shouts unintelligibly about Cinnabon and his “vision.” He flips his eponymous facial hair, and laughs maniacally in the way only Nic can. The viewer knows Nic is in on the joke. Nic knows who Fu Manchu is and why he was asked to play him. It’s rather joyous when you consider everything that’s going on behind the scenes. It’s also as close as you can get to seeing Nicolas Cage play Nicolas Cage in a movie. At least, so far.
- How was the movie?
- As a whole, average
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Did his performance make the movie worse?
- His acting was the best part