More Than Meets The Mogwai

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Favourite Scene of: DEATH PROOF (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)

Besides Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell)’s tender recitation of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” to Arlene (or “Butterfly”, played by Vanessa Ferlito) on the porch of the after hours Austin bar, there’s one other moment (or glimpse into what’s ticking behind that pompadour) in the first half of Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF that humanizes our unremorseful vehicular murderer, showing him to be an antiquated member of society, aging at a rapid clip with Hollywood seemingly having no use for him or his stunts anymore. It’s a personal favourite, and I’d like to share how it was originally written by Tarantino, as I think it contains one howler of a line (you’ll know it when you see it) that didn’t make either the GRINDHOUSE or Extended cuts of the film; further, when taken out of context from the film’s soon-to-be onslaught of blood-splattered car carnage, it could actually be considered somewhat touching for the respect it gives to this washed-up stuntman and his ratchet of now long forgotten television credits -- that is, of course, before Pam (Rose McGowan), the lovely young lady[ies in the film] kick in and do irreparable damage to his ego by not knowing what the hell he's talking about.

Dennis Cozzalio [at his blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule] had this to say about the scene upon the initial release of GRINDHOUSE in April:

“A character who goes by the name of Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) sits at a bar regaling a group of indulgent young cuties with tales of his past work, throwing out names like “Bob Urich” and Vega$ and, gulp, The Virginian. The young women nod vacantly, but appreciatively, as Mike continues to spin his tales, until he stops for a moment and then asks, “Do you even recognize the names of these shows?” The women, caught, have to admit that they don’t, and Mike is consigned, by all but an unfortunate one of them, to the special zone of irrelevancy occupied by the arcane pop culture of an older generation. In this moment, it’s hard not to see Tarantino himself, as Stephanie Zacharek observed in her review of Grindhouse, as a similar kind of generational proselytizer—Stuntman Quentin—carrying a vast wealth of knowledge of movie history around in that gigantic cranium, preaching the gospel of cinematic and pop culture minutiae and obscure talents to a younger generation that may not so readily relate to his historically minded artist/entertainer’s perspective.”

And, from the pen of Tarantino:

BACK IN THE BAR
Pam's bullshitting with Warren, Stuntman Mike rejoins them.
PAM
(referring to Warren)
You got some voucher here. I asked him what movies you worked on, no fucking clue.
WARREN
Well technically, I don't know he's ever done anything for sure. He shows me a old episode of "High Chaparral", a guy falls off a horse, he says it's him... okay...could be.
STUNTMAN MIKE
Do you know the show "The Virginian"?
Pam shakes her head no.
STUNTMAN MIKE
There was a actor on that show, Gary Clarke, I kinda looked like him a bit. Obviously before I cut -
(referring to the scar on his face)
- myself shaving.
PAM
I like it.
STUNTMAN MIKE
Well damn if you ain't so sweet you make sugar taste just like salt. Well anyway, I did alot of Virginians doubling for Gary Clarke, then that show turned into "The Men of Shilo" and they brought Lee Majors on, and I doubled him.
STUNTMAN MIKE
Then from that point on, I mostly specialized in car stunts. I worked almost the whole third season of "Vegas". I was Robert Urich's driving double. Bob did another show, "Gavilan", he brought me on to that one. Till...
(he focuses on Pam)
Do you know any of these shows or people I'm talkin' about?
She apologetically shakes her head "no".
PAM
Sorry.
Warren approaches.
WARREN
I hate to tell you this, Mike, but dropping Gary Clarke's name don't get Gary Clarke pussy no more.
Stuntman Mike and Pam laugh.
STUNTMAN MIKE
No I suppose it don't.
PAM
So how exactly does one become a stuntman?
STUNTMAN MIKE
Well in Hollywood anybody fool enough to throw themselves down a flight of stairs, can usually find somebody to pay ya' fer it. But really, I got into the business the way most people get in the stunt business.
PAM
And how's that?
STUNTMAN MIKE
My brother got me in it.
PAM
Who's your brother?
STUNTMAN MIKE
Stuntman Bob.
PAM
Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.
Stuntman Mike notices Arlene and Shanna walk out to the porch.
STUNTMAN MIKE
I tell ya' Pam, I think it's gettin' to be about that. But why don't I order you one more boot, and I'll go out on the porch and have one more smoke.
PAM
Sounds good to me.
He smiles and slides off the barstool.
STUNTMAN MIKE
Hey Warren, I think my little hippy friend here's thirsty.

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