A Tale of Two Grindhouses


Four years ago, a team of young filmmakers produced their own low-budget exploitation flick, Grindhouse. The whole project cost $4,000, won a festival award and got a decent review from Daniel Wible at Film Threat.

Cut to last weekend, which saw the release of another Grindhouse directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. A wacky romp that trades heavily on obscurantist allusions to films past, their movie cost The Weinstein Company nearly $100 million in production and promotion. The idea apparently came from double bills screened at Tarantino’s personal theater.

Once again, all the blogosphere buzz didn’t seem to help the opening weekend take — NewTeeVee contributor Karina Longworth rounded up the coverage of the film’s less than boffo box office. But that wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the film’s release.

Amidst the hype Stephen Tramontana, who produced and directed the earlier film, accused Tarantino of ripping him off. Before and after the production, Tramontana says he approached director Quentin Tarantino about the project in the hope of getting some help from an industry star and known advocate of obscure schlock.

It’s not the first time Tarantino’s been accused of being overly liberal in his use of homage. “This man has a history of outright stealing shit and it’s time for someone to just call him out on it and not waiver,” Tramontana declared in a follow-up to his original accusation, both posted on the “The Real Grindhouse” web site.

In an effort to deflect criticism that he’s just making the accusation in order to sell more downloads of his own film, Tramontana has said that any sales of the $0.99 download will go to an independent film fund. Tramontana’s only other recourse is to take Dimension Films to court, which seems unlikely.

Ultimately, this case only serves as an illustration of exactly why no one in Hollywood will read your unsolicited script or watch your low-budget flick — they might find themselves liable down the road to a similar allegation.

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