The Songs of Summer 35-37: The Music of ‘Death Proof’
Here in Michigan, summer giveth, and summer taketh away. Yesterday was a hot, muggy sunny day, a real sticky summertime day. Cut to some lovely overnight thunderstorms and we awake this morning to clouds, rain, and a chilly breeze with temps only in the low 60’s. That’s summer in Michigan to a T. My point? I guess I don’t have one, other than I’m loosely picking my daily Song of Summer based on what’s going on with the weather. And in Michigan, when it’s cool and rainy, a good place to take refuge is at the multiplex, catching a summer flick.
I love summer movies, probably more than I love the fun in the sun…I watch a hell of a lot more movies in the summer than I spend any time at the beach. The beach motif is more a state of mind, but movies…movies are the real deal. I’ve got a list of films that, to me, mean ‘summer.’ In fact, I just may have to do a ‘Movies of Summer’ list. Maybe next summer. As I type this, I’m beginning to think I may have some kind of OCD thing going with lists.
One of my favorite summer movies is Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof‘ from 2007. Released as part of a double bill with Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Planet Terror’ as ‘Grindhouse,’ the filmmakers tribute to the low budget horror and action flicks of the 1970’s that give them so much of their inspiration, complete with fake trailers. While Planet Terror is OK (a bit too violent and gory for me to truly love), I can watch Death Proof every summer. And I do, because it’s a summer movie.
What makes a summer movie to me? It’s not super heroes and lots of explosions, though those are cool. It’s a subjective thing, an indefinable feel to a movie that determines whether it makes my summer movie list. Quentin Tarantino movies tend to usually have that thing that makes me love watching them in the summer.
Death Proof is the story of a group of attractive young girls in Austin, Texas who cross paths with a mysterious stranger in a kick-ass 197a Chevy Nova SS 396, modified as a stunt vehicle for movies, making it ‘death proof.’ Not to give too much away, but this stranger, Stuntman Mike, is in fact a stuntman. A stuntman with a very strange, very deadly side hobby that involves his car. I’ll just leave it at that.
Death Proof was panned as being Tarantino’s weakest film, with too much dialog. I’ll accept that it may not be his best movie, but it’s one that I’ve watched probably the most. It’s got a lot going for it; a really cool long-take pan shot in the restaurant; some great Tarantino dialog (only Kevin Smith is wordier), and one of the wildest car chases ever caught on film. Critics be damned, I find it to be highly entertaining, with an unhinged performance by Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike. If you’ve never seen it, grab a cold six-pack of Shiner Bock, sit back and enjoy the ride.
The other thing I love about Death Proof is its soundtrack. Quentin Tarantino is known for picking just the right songs for his movies, and Death Proof is no exception. So…being that it’s summer, and Death Proof is one of my favorite summertime movies, let’s add it all together and make some of the Death Proof soundtrack tunes my Songs of Summer. I couldn’t pick just one, so we’re going to live dangerously and throw 3 songs onto the list. In one day!!
First up is ‘Hold Tight‘ by a band with possibly the worst tongue-twisting name in music history: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Recorded in 1966, it was a minor hit in the UK, but didn’t do much over here. It’s a great pop song with roaring fuzz guitars. Used in the film in a very, very pivotal scene. Those poor girls….Oh, those poor poor girls:
Up next is a song from another memorable scene, in which Stuntman Mike is treated to an unexpected lap dance at the Texas Chili Parlor. ‘Down in Mexico‘ by The Coasters:
And finally, the tune that plays at the end of the film. ‘Chick Habit‘ by April March. When I first heard this song in the movie, I thought it was another older song from the 60’s. Nope. April March is an indie pop artist, and the song was released in 1995. Amazing song:
The whole soundtrack, like all of Tarantino’s soundtracks, is outstanding.
Summer’s what you make it. Some days, it’s sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in. Some days, it’s floating down the river in a kayak or canoe. And some days, it’s killing an afternoon in a darkened theater.