Death Proof appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. How in the world do I objectively critique a film with so many intentional flaws? Carefully, I guess.
As the prior statement implied, the major issue here came from print defects. Proof wants to look like a flick that’s been run through the projector about 2000 times. That means plenty of blemishes, scratches, streaks, breaks, gaps and misfires. Every single one was put there on purpose, so it becomes a mistake to really call them “print defects” – they’re stylistic choices. I can’t say they distract because they fit the goofy nature of the production, but they certainly crop up with great frequency.
At least through the first half of the flick, that is. For reasons unknown, Proof almost totally abandons the print defects for the movie crew girls. Why make one part of the movie look like crap and then show few flaws for the other? I have no clue, but it seemed like a weird choice.
Otherwise, Proof looked quite good. Sharpness only occasionally betrayed any concerns. A few shots came across as a little soft, but the majority of the flick seemed well-defined and concise. No jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement.
Colors tended to be a bit oversaturated and heavy, but this was another stylistic choice. The movie wanted a dense Seventies feel and it achieved that goal. Overall, the hues appeared pretty warm and rich, and they were more “normal” in the second half of the movie. Along with the lack of source flaws, that part came without the same level of color stylization. Blacks were deep and dense, and shadows showed really nice delineation. Because so many of the “flaws” were intentional, I couldn’t fault the transfer for them. This was a solid reproduction of the film.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Death Proof, it also succeeded – though it could be a little confused at times. Personally, I think the flick should’ve better embraced its Seventies inspirations and gone with a straight mono mix. That’s what a movie of this one’s ilk would’ve boasted 30 years ago; the decision to give it a worn-out Seventies look but a modern sound didn’t make sense to me.
Not that the film always embraced the multichannel possibilities. Early scenes barely blossom beyond the front center speaker, though that changed before long. Music always boasted really nice stereo imaging, as the mix of songs and score spread to the sides in a clear fashion.
Effects also opened up well, especially during the driving scenes. Those offered easily the most impressive material on display. The cars zoomed around the room in an invigorating fashion and used the surrounds well.
At all times, audio quality excelled. Speech was consistently natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded terrific, as both songs and score seemed lively and dynamic. Effects fell into the same range. Those elements were accurate and vivid. I found a lot to like in this mix.
A mix of extras pops up on this two-DVD set. Disc One only has a few minor components. We get the international trailer for Death Proof as well as an International Poster Gallery with 25 advertising images from around the world. The disc concludes with Sneak Peeks for Planet Terror, 1408, Black Sheep and Feast.
Over on DVD Two, we find six featurettes. Stunts on Wheels: Legendary Drivers of Death Proof goes for 20 minutes, 38 seconds as it mixes movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Quentin Tarantino, stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw, stunt people Buddy Joe Hooker, Tracy Keehn Dashnaw, Terry Leonard, Chrissy Weathersby and Steve Davison, and actors Kurt Russell and Tracie Thoms.
The show tells us about the stunt people, their work on the flick and the various stunts – mostly in the driving domain, of course. “Drivers” offers a decent look at these areas. It gives us some nice shots from the set, and we learn a bit about the stunts and related challenges. Unfortunately, it comes with an awful lot of praise and often just talks about how good – and tough – the stunts are. We get enough useful material to make it worthwhile, but it’s not as rich as I’d like.
We learn about one of the lead actors in the eight-minute and 58-second Introducing Zoë Bell. It features notes from Tarantino, Hooker, Russell, and actors Zoë Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Rosario Dawson. We hear how the stunt woman became an actor here and the issues she faced. I like this show since it lets us know how Tarantino developed the part for Bell and how she fared in the flick. It still comes with too much praise, but it provides a nice look at Bell.
Another actor-based featurette comes to us with Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike. The nine-minute and 33-second piece includes remarks from Tarantino, Russell, and Dawson. The piece looks at why Russell got the role as well as character elements and aspects of his performance. I like the parts that examine the concept of the character and what made Russell good for the role, but we still get too much praise through the piece. It’s a good but not great featurette.
Finding Quentin’s Gals goes for 21 minutes, 13 seconds, and includes statements from Tarantino, Dawson, Thoms, Russell, Winstead, Bell, and actors Sydney Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd. We hear about casting the various actresses, their characters and performances, and a few other cast notes. The parts in which we learn how Tarantino found the women and melded their roles for them are the best. Inevitably, we get some happy talk, but the content makes this one pretty good.
During the eight-minute and 15-second The Guys of Death Proof, we hear from Tarantino, Ladd, Poitier, and actors Eli Roth, Omar Doom, and Michael Bacall. “Guys” acts as a male-centered version of “Gals”, though it’s less substantial just because the movie includes no significant roles for men outside of Stuntman Mike. Still, it’s a good companion piece and it provides more fun notes about casting.
For the final featurette, we get Quentin’s Greatest Collaborator: Editor Sally Menke. The four-minute and 38-second piece offers notes from Tarantino as he discusses the film’s editing process. There’s not much information on display, though. Tarantino throws out a few editing issues, but most of the piece shows the cast outtakes as they greet Menke; she’s stuck away from the set, so this is a way to keep in touch. It’s cute but not terribly informative.
In addition to a trailer for Double Dare - a documentary about stuntwomen that includes Zoë Bell – we get The Uncut Version of “Baby, It’s You” Performed by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This one-minute and 48-second clip shows the actor’s a capella crooning in its entirety. It’s not particularly fascinating as anything other than a way for Winstead to audition as a singer for other movies.
While Quentin Tarantino has always worn his “B”-movie influences on his sleeve, Death Proof digs deep into those roots – with pretty good success. I wouldn’t say it matches up to its better work, but it entertains and creates a fun homage. The DVD offers picture that’s very good within stylistic constraints along with solid audio and a few fairly interesting extras. This is a reasonably positive release for an unusual and enjoyable flick.