I know that some of what I’m going to touch on today is going to overlap with past topics, and so I beg your indulgence. But recent DVD releases have prompted some thoughts on the phenomenon of double-dipping. This is not something that is by any means exclusive to the cult movie scene, but plenty of it goes on here. Consider the umpteen “definitive” editions of Halloween that Anchor Bay has trotted out. But I want to look at a three cases, two of which are admittedly mainstream (though not unrelated to this column’s field), with the third representing an overt stab at cult immortality.
We can deal with the first quite quickly, as it represents one of the most egregious, insulting approaches to double-dipping I have yet to hear of. The current release of David Fincher’s Zodiac has the unmitigated gall to advertise a feature-packed director’s cut to be released in 2008. How’s that for a kick in the face to anyone who bought this? Bring the DVD home, pop it in the player, and be confronted with a product that promotes its own inferiority. That’s some kinda nerve. And the mere fact that it is so brazen points to how unfortunately commonplace the phenomenon has become.
Sometimes, though, one can wait, and wait, and wait, and wait for an anticipated double-dipping that remains eternally over the horizon. Case in point: Kill Bill. After the release of the Volumes 1 and 2, it was received wisdom that, sooner or later, another release would appear with the film reassembled into a single whole. Years have gone by, now, and there is still no sign of this happening. The commercial benefits of such a release are obvious, so the absence of this disc is as mysterious as it is frustrating.
And then we have a kind of reversal happening with the separate releases of Death Proof and Planet Terror. I’ve already made my feelings pretty clear on Grindhouse, so I don’t belabour the point too much here. But briefly: neither film needed to be extended. Planet Terror was just the right headlong rush in its theatrical form, and its deliberately cheap, disposable identity is hardly going to be improved by extending its running time. And God help us, we need a longer Death Proof like fish need pogo sticks. Tarantino pushed audience patience (not to mention ability to remain awake) pretty far in the short version. Yet more dialogue that sounds less like characters speaking, more like a director engaged in an endless monologue is completely uncalled for.
But forget all that. My principle concern with these two release is that doubts now arise as to whether we will ever see a home video release of Grindhouse itself. If not, a piece of cinematic history is being erased. The double-bill wasn’t perfect, but much of it was enormous fun, and playing the two discs back to back simply doesn’t amount to the same thing. This is the same sort of thing as making Greedo shoot first or digitally replacing guns with walkie-talkies. Grindhouse, promotional bafflegab to the contrary, existed as a single entity and had its own life as such. The current state of affairs seeks to extinguish that life and that fun, and that is a complete shame.