By Leah Poulliot

Actions speak louder than words. This motto goes hand in hand with the popular director, Quentin Tarantino. His dramatic mix of thrill and gore keeps him as one of the most respected directors of this time.  Tarantino’s inspirations spring from a pool of old westerns, crime flicks, samurai movies, and southern culture. The spin he adds adapts history and older films into the new flavor of the 21st century. Analyzing what he puts into his movies and what inspires him is key to how each film is made. Biographical facts, historical information, and obscure foreign films all inspire Tarantino. He knows how to manipulate the past into a present phenomenon, he has created a genre of his own, and started it all as a video store clerk.

 

As a high school dropout and said video store clerk, Tarantino did not show much promise as a young adult. However, he learned his art from the movies he watched. Tarantino had eclectic tastes for old Hong Kong martial arts flicks, Japanese samurai movies, blaxploitation films and spaghetti westerns. Reservoir Dogs, a crime movie, was built upon the blood, action, and thrill featured in some of these films. The film centers around six criminals and one jewelry heist gone wrong. With color-coded aliases to conceal their identities, all are strangers to each other’s past. They are sure the robbery will go off without a hitch, however when the heist begins the police arrive at a remarkable pace. Shocked and dismayed, the few who make it out run to the rendezvous spot. The rest of the movie develops the relationships between the men and unravels the drama in the overall story. One companion reveals that he is the undercover agent, as he dies in his friend’s arms. The friend cries as he shoots the traitor, with the police barging in and opening fire to end the scene.

Brutally devastating but eloquently acted out and portrayed, Reservoir Dogs hit instant popularity during the Sundance Film Festival. The raw emotions and clashing soundtrack interested the viewers. Notably played, Stuck in The Middle With You helped provide the background to a violent murder shot (that I have provided below). Despite these acclaimed reviews and songs, some claimed it to be a full rip off of Ringo Lam’ City of Fire. City of fire details a cop trying to fit into a band of jewelry thieves, in order to expose them. He ends up befriending one, turning the strictly business relationship into a closer one. The robbery goes horribly wrong and a shootout takes place, ending with the rest of the criminals to decipher who the conspirator is. These similarities in plot astounded those who loved City of Fire, but despite this controversy many stayed true to Tarantino’s work and loved it.


Reservoir Dogs was Tarantino’s debut, but Pulp Fiction really captured mainstream attention. Facts behind Pulp Fiction make it interesting from the start.  It became the first independent film to gross over $200 million. Its success due to the interwoven violence and pop culture references. The term “pulp fiction” originated from magazines meaning fantastic stories printed on cheap “pulp” paper. Known for their exploitative stories and sensational cover art, they were a successor to dime novels. Like these dramatic books, this movie was just as outrageous and audacious.The audacity behind the film wasn’t the only selling point, but the genius idea to take popular film concepts and concentrate them into one cinema classic. The original gangster crime lord with his suite-in-tie lackies, the two dumb robbers with a classic gun heist, and the drug-doing protagonists that race the viewers’ hearts all tie in together to form a convoluted yet attractive plot. This was the perfect formula to turn old classics into 20th century cinema art.

 

The little details behind Pulp Fiction add to its drama and intricateness. Tarantino spent three months in Amsterdam writing the script to this movie, putting bits of himself inside the character Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta. Vega says that he spent time in Amsterdam while talking to Mia, making the connection between him and Tarantino. saying he had just gotten back from Amsterdam.  Another fun fact was behind the name “honey bunny”. Amanda Plummer who plays the diner robber is Honey Bunny, has the name of a rabbit that died to Tarantino’s assistant. She exchanged her work to have Tarantino watch her rabbit “Honey Bunny” while she went on set, Tarantino refused and later the pet died. To know who the characters are and what they looked like, just watch the slide show below. This highlights each actors roles and looks.

 

 

With tiny add-ins like those, truly the devil is in the details when it came to movies directed and written by Tarantino. So, it should be no surprise that Pulp Fiction inspired his next double feature, Kill Bill.  During the scene with Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace in Jack Robert Slims, the 50’s themed restaurant, Mia mentions the pilot she was in called Fox Force Five. The characters listed conveniently being a blueprint to the deadly assassins in Kill Bill. The Jack Robert Slims scene and Kill Bill Characters mash together to identify the connection between both movies. This next clip brings both parts together.

 


With the blueprint already set up, Tarantino promises Uma Thurman, who played Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, that a script will be in the works for the “Fox Force Five” movie. Renamed as Kill Bill, he hands the script to Thurman on her 30th birthday. It details about a women on a mission to avenge her husband and unborn child. The protagonist, Beatrix Kiddo,  has to fight off a league of deadly assassins in order to kill the boss, Bill. In it’s entirety it ran over four hours, so it had to be cut into two segments. Right off the bat, there are tons of Japanese elements thrown into this film. Beatrix Kiddo, played by Thurman, wields a Hattori Hanzō sword.  The movie portrays him as the finest sword smith there ever was. Oren- Ishii the half Japanese/ half Chinese-American brat has a disturbing backstory depicted in anime. This style is typical and widely popular in Asian culture. Taking anime in full and incorporating it into a real life film is a clash of cultures. Just like Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s characters are intricate and abundant. The slideshow below identifies each individual.

 

 

 

Foreign movies helped inspire Tarantino with the fight scenes and names in Kill Bill. He added elements of Five Deadly Venoms, Lady Snowblood, and Battle Royal. Kill Bill’s assassin’s take nick names after snakes. This is inspired by Five Deadly Venoms, which is an Asian movie with animal code names too. Lady Snowblood inspired the snow scene where Oren- Ishii and Beatrix battle. Battle Royal, often compared to America’s Hunger Games, helped spin the character Gogo Yubari. This young and ruthless assistant to Oren- Ishii is just like the ruthless youth of that movie. All together, these foreign flicks have not penetrated the popular culture bubble. It is brilliant how Tarantino compiles so much of the old and spins it into a new tale for American culture. His adaption of old southern American history into a spaghetti western, brings us to his most recent blockbuster, Django Unchained.

 

Django Unchained reaches from history and old films to compile a modern day, Oscar winning, classic.  Slavery and Southern culture surrounded new djangoAmerica’s past time. Pulling from the love for old Western’s and the history of slavery, Django has a promising start. Tarantino says he used Spaghetti Westerns as his inspiration behind Django. Django being a common name in these westerns, and known for the “D” being dropped in the pronunciation, Tarantino was dumbfounded why people pronounced it D-jango. The correct saying though adds to authentication and proves to fans today that they really know their stuff.

 

 

The original movie Django by Sergio Corbucci is the biggest influence to Tarantino’s reinterpretation. This 1966 film has over 30 unofficial sequels world wide, and due to its ban from the BBFC, British Board of Film Classification, it slowly slipped away into the “cult genre” shadows. It’s racism and gore is hard to appeal to the djangomasses, however that’s probably what appealed most to Tarantino. The original Django really had nothing to do with slavery, rather dealt with a lone cowboy who rescues a women from bandits. Thereon the action continues and the plot thickens as Django battles the bandits throughout the movie. The twist between both movies is that Tarantino puts a more historical value of Django Unchained. He addresses the antebellum south and slavery. Both movies have a damsel in distress but while the original Django battles bandits, Tarantino’s Django is a bounty hunter battle criminals. The snippet below brings together an interview of Tarantino discussing Django and clips from the movie itself.

Tarantino’s movies narrate action, drama, and thrill to create new aged masterpieces.  The information mentioned only scrapes the surface of inspirations that Tarantino used to create his films. He stimulates his audience by redoing what has already been done, but makes it popular to mainstream audience. Originality is key, and that is what Tarantino has. He follows a formula he has crafted, one that makes him unique. He started from an unpromising beginning, his true talent made him into the phenomenon he is today.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited
“City On Fire – Tarantino’s Inspiration for Reservoir Dogs.” Contactmusic.com. Contactmusic.com, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Mcgrath, Charles. “Quentin’s World.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Parkison, David. “Tarantino’s Inspiration and a Masterpiece of the Genre.” MovieMail.com. MovieMail LTD, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
“Quentin Tarantino, ‘Unchained’ And Unruly.” Npr.org. Npr, 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
“Reservoir Dogs Summary.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Rose, Steve. “Found: Where Tarantino Gets His Ideas.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 04 May 2004. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Sciretta, Peter. “VOTD: Reservoir Dogs – Homage or Stealing?” Slashfilm.com. Film RSS, 30 June 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Seal, Mark. “Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction.” Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair, Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
“What Is Pulp Fiction.” The Vintage Library. The Vintage Library, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.