Back to the old grind

Genre faves find new kick with hip helmers

The Weinstein brothers’announcement last week that they would join forces with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez on the horror film “Grind House” may have sent some in the biz scrambling for their dictionaries.

The term “grindhouse” was born as Variety slanguage for the seedy, sticky-floored downtown movie theaters that ran double or triple-features of exploitation films almost continuously, so the films would seem to “grind” against one another.

Anyone who saw a movie on Gotham’s West 42nd Street, downtown L.A.’s Broadway or San Francisco’s Market Street in the ’70s knows the vibe.

The grindhouses are gone now, but there’s a lingering nostalgia for the films they showed. Shaw Bros. chopsocky pics, Bruce Lee movies, spaghetti westerns and low-budget horror from the likes of Italy’s Mario Bava are touchstones for some of today’s hip filmmakers.

Tarantino paid homage to grindhouse chopsocky and samurai pics in “Kill Bill,” and there’s more than a whiff of the grindhouse in Rodriguez’s “Sin City.”

The truest reincarnations of the grindhouse, though, have come from rocker-turned-shock-auteur Rob Zombie, helmer of “House of 1000 Corpses.”

When he pitched the pic to Universal, Zombie says, “I said I wanted to make a really sleazy movie — a throwback ’70s grindhouse movie.”

He delivered exactly that: a picture so intense that U declined to distribute it. But when Lions Gate stepped in, they found Zombie had hit a nerve.

Made on a shoestring, “House of 1000 Corpses” grossed a shocking $17 million in the U.S and prime Euro territories and spawned a sequel, “The Devil’s Rejects,” due for release July 22.

Taken together, the success of “1000 Corpses,” “Sin City” and “Kill Bill” point to a demand for those sleazy, violent films, even in this post-Janet-Jackson era of indecency crusaders.

The Weinsteins think so, too. They’re hoping “Grind House” will spawn a series of pics.

And word mavens take note: “Grind House” won’t be the first feature to borrow its title from Variety. “Striptease” and “Punchline” are slanguage, too.

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