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CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — Grave Danger

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He's played an Elvis impersonator on an episode of "The Golden Girls," parodied himself on Margaret Cho's "All-American Girl" sitcom, and served as a guest judge on that taste vacuum known as "American Idol."

Under the column marked "mitigating factors," however, was choosing to direct a Very Special Episode of "CSI" in 2005, when the CBS crime series enjoyed its peak of popularity and phenomenon. Heavily hyped as a two-hour season finale for season five, "Grave Danger" earned the still-going show its highest ratings, and  Tarantino an Emmy nomination (he lost to, well, "Lost").

As a regular "CSI" viewer in those days (I quit when star William Petersen did), I enjoyed the hell out of it. Therefore, its debut on a stand-alone Blu-ray/DVD set is most welcome.

For the episode, Tarantino fashioned a properly cinematic plot: Upon examining a pile of intestines anonymously reported in a Vegas parking lot late at night, CSI Nick Stokes (George Eads) is kidnapped for a $1 million ransom. The kick is that the CSI team has 12 hours, and via webcam, Stokes’ co-workers can see he’s been buried alive in a coffin. (Think of The Bride's similar situation in Tarantino’s "Kill Bill: Volume 2" from a year prior, or now Ryan Reynolds’ predicament in "Buried.")

With Tarantino having created the story, his signature touches abound:
• obscure old song (Bob Neuwirth’s “Lucky Too”);
• blood and guts (at least as much as CBS would allow);
• has-been guest appearances (John Saxon, an uncomfortable Frank Gorshin, Tony Curtis and his toupee);
• an obsession with '70s kitsch ("The Dukes of Hazzard" board game);
• references to other movies ("The Graduate," Lucio Fulci's "Zombie," pal Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever”); and
• dialogue rife with pop-culture name drops (Wimpy from "Popeye").

Therefore, if you’re a Tarantino fan, you’ll more than likely to be satisfied by the indie giant’s take on a mainstream-American show. The disc offers a little behind-the-scenes footage (like showing the six boxes that were required for all the angles), but I would’ve loved to hear a commentary from QT himself.

Now if we can get the same treatment for the Rob Zombie-directed episode of "CSI: Miami," I'd be a happy man. OK, happier. —Rod Lott

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