Timing the gag to perfection in “Planet Terror,” a sex scene between Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan) and Wray (Freddy Rodriguez) is interrupted when a sign comes up saying “Missing Reel.” When the movie starts up again moments later, they’re both getting dressed. Quentin Tarantino recalled a 1976 spy thriller that he and Rodriguez were watching one night when the idea for the meta joke started to materialize. Tarantino told EW:
“We were watching this Oliver Reed, Richard Widmark movie called ‘The Sell-Out,’ and it was missing a reel right in the middle. And I’ve come to like it that way. I don’t even want to know what happens in the missing reel. I like having to figure it out.”
It was actually the revered Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater of “Dazed and Confused,” the “Before” trilogy, and “Boyhood” fame who cemented the idea to include a missing reel in “Grindhouse.” (“It was Rick Linklater’s idea that we do the missing reel,” to quote QT directly.) The meta gag wound up being the perfect way to both lampoon and celebrate exploitation movies from the drive-in era.
“Planet Terror” wasn’t the only spot where the “Missing Reel” sign pops up, though. In Tarantino’s original version of “Death Proof,” Arlene’s (Vanessa Ferlito) lap dance for Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) at the Texas Chili Parlor is cut out of the film, altogether. Rodriguez perfectly summed up the feeling they wanted audiences to have when the “Missing Reel” suddenly popped up. “It’s like you went on a 20-minute bathroom break and you come back and all hell’s broken loose.”