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Missing the charms of the '70s grindhouses

The Baltimore Sun

With Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse opening today as a tribute to the cheap thrills and tawdry surroundings that fueled their cinematic adolescence, the lament here is that that kind of film-going experience is largely a thing of the past.

Back in the '70s, when those guys were growing up, the so-called grindhouse theaters - run-down buildings showing cheaply made films in surroundings that weren't exactly pristine - kept alive the illusion that movie-going was an egalitarian experience. For a few bucks at most, you could watch a couple of films (sometimes so scratched and poorly spliced together that they barely seemed coherent) and see coming attractions that would definitely make your parents flinch. Heck, you could spend the entire day at the movies; the theater owners didn't care. Sure, the seats were beaten-up and the floors were sticky, but that was part of the subversive charm.

No more. Nothing against well-run theaters with courteous staffs, state-of-the-art projection and safe, secure environs. But wouldn't it be cool if there were still, somewhere in the bowels of the city or the outskirts of suburbia, a classic grindhouse or two? It's just not the same, getting together with a bunch of friends and watching a videotape or DVD in your parents' basement.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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