Julio Oscar Mechoso
Trivia Rose McGowan originally suggested her friend Rey-Phillip Santos for the role of El Wray. Instead it went to Freddy Rodríguez.
The original title for Planet Terror was "Project Terror".
Robert Rodriguez specifically wrote the part of Dakota for Marley Shelton after working with her on Sin City (2005).
Robert Rodriguez wrote the first 30 pages of the script for Planet Terror (2007) back in 1998.
John Carpenter, who composes the scores to his own films, was originally chosen to compose the score to Planet Terror. Robert Rodriguez ended up taking over the job as composer instead, though excerpts from Carpenter's Escape from New York (1981) score would appear throughout the film.
While on set, Robert Rodriguez would play the soundtracks for Escape from New York (1981) and The Thing (1982) to set the mood for the movie.
Rose McGowan is germaphobic, and had to have the stripper pole sanitized before doing her go-go dance routine.
Partly to avoid traumatizing Rebel Rodriguez with knowledge of his disturbing death scene, Robert Rodriguez shot several scenes with Tony surviving all the way to the end of the movie. Some of this is seen on the DVD, but apparently the only complete edit with this footage is a private copy of the Rodriguez family's.
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Planet Terror (2007)
4th Dec 07
When a biochemical weapon turns inhabitants of a small Texas town into murderous mutants, a handful of resourceful survivors team together escape with their lives. Or something.
Horror fans can be a very difficult lot to please, and more often than not they feel short-changed with good reason. When something new and exciting arrives, it doesn’t stay fresh for long. Saw was great at the beginning, before the greedy franchise jaws saw the potential to munch away any well-earned dignity. J-horror was so exciting back in the 90s, before the time when we knew exactly what we were going to get - it wasn't a case of if a creepy, long-haired girl appeared, it was a matter of when. And remakes? Don't get me started. Despite a few excellent exceptions the whole thing reeks of desperation and greed, and it is likely that the trend will continue for as long as it can, so all we can do is sit back and watch in disgust as our beloved genre regurgitates itself time and time again.
Every now and again however, someone - in this case Robert Rodriguez - makes a movie that, while not a remake, respectfully indebts itself to all the great stuff we were reared on - the essence of what got us into these movies in the first place. And what an essence it is. Those of you who have seen Planet Terror will hopefully know exactly what I'm talking about. This is pure celebration of the genre. Plus, it's got John Carpenter written all over it.
Rodriguez pitches his incredible cast of characters in a small Texan town amidst a backdrop of infected mutants (think Lenzi's Nightmare City with more goo) - the result of an experimental bio weapon being unleashed. This disparate group of characters comprise a go-go dancer, husband-and-wife doctors, crazy babysitter twins, a sheriff, his brother 'JT' (who makes the best barbeque in Texas), a smooth super-cool hero who never misses, and a few more for good measure. There is almost too much going on here - the breakneck pace is in keeping with the over-populated cast and the whole thing is so ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny that you forgive it for everything. It appears to revel in not having much of a plot - it's just driven by lashings of tasty ultra-violence and tasteless gross-out fun. Expect everything from heads with no brains ("a no brainer") to huge, pulsating abcesses being squeezed into people's faces.
Originally part of Grindhouse (er, as if you didn't know), Planet Terror is a lot rougher around the edges than Tarantino's Death Proof, and has been more warmly embraced because a) it focuses on action rather than dialogue, and b) it's pure fucking explosive carnage all the way. Although it does feature some character-based dialogue driven scenes, it's not what sticks in the memory afterwards - you're more likely to remember how Tom Savini keeps shooting uninfected people by accident, or how great Mary Shelton is when she's trying to negotiate driving after her jealous hubbie has injected her hands with her own anaesthetic - this is pure gold.
Sadly, it doesn't feature the best thing about Death Proof (Kurt Russell), but with a cast like this who needs Snake Plisskin? Rodriguez has gone all lesser Rob Zombie on us and gathered together a rock solid cast which includes Michael Beihn, Josh Brolin, Jeff Fahey, Tom Savini, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks and Bruce Willis in his bloodbath exercise and every one of them is excellent. Each character is funnier and quirkier than the next, and everyone comes across so well thanks to a killer script, which almost entirely comprises classic quote material. I still laugh when I think about those barbeque recipe scenes.
Here, Rodriguez has the freedom of the 'grindhouse disclaimer', permitting him to get away with anything he wants - if he chooses to replace Rose McGowan's leg with a huge machine gun (surely the most iconic image of the movie), which actually functions despite no explanation of how it triggers, he can do it. He also has the freedom to wear his influences on his sleeve, and thankfully a movie like Planet Terror almost demands that he does. A love for everything we grew up on is obvious, especially the films of walking cigarette and synthesizer enthusiast John Carpenter, whose love of Western influences manages to permeate pretty much his entire oeuvre. Rodriguez is another man obviously in love with the genre, his gunfighter/outlaw obsession here given life via El Wray (Freddie Rodriguez) - every bit the unstoppable gunslinger as Eastwood, Wayne, hell, even Plisskin himself.
On a personal note, I always thought it would have been nice to see Carpenter have a stab at the zombie genre; the closest he came was with Prince of Darkness. Suffice to say there is no need to wait for JC to go all undead on us, because Rodriguez has done it for him here, and probably done a much better job. Incidentally, JC was asked to get his favourite Casio keyboard out of retirement to score the music for Planet Terror, but for some reason Rodriguez ended up doing the music himself. It's a great score, too - often heavily indebted to prime era JC while the main themes merely show Rodriguez doing what he feels comfortable with.
In keeping with the whole Grindhouse experience, the aesthetic is manipulated to give it that post-modern authenticity of early 1980s - the texture of the film looks like it has been fed through a grubby 42nd Street projector a million times, then dragged across the floor and across the street to be used again in another fleapit movie house. In this day and age, it's nice to see a perspective celebrating the organics of film itself - it's rough around the edges rather than mastered to perfection, a bit like 70s full-sugar Coke compared to 00s mineral water. Hell, there's even a 'Missing Reel' (sorry for the inconvenience) in the middle where we should learn about El Wray's history, but we're denied this and it doesn't seem to matter at all.
When I saw Planet Terror in the Frightfest all-nighter, the general reaction was less enthusiastic than I felt it deserved (except for Savini of course). What everyone was expecting I'm not sure, but what they got is not only the better half of Grindhouse, but one of the coolest, funniest, and most explosive horror movies in ages. Get it.
Planet Terror is preceded by a trailer for Machete starring Danny Trejo - quite possibly the best movie never made.
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