Tarantino savors sweet revenge

Published Oct. 12, 2003|Updated Sept. 1, 2005

Quentin Tarantino discusses the fine art of revenge with the zeal of a wine connoisseur going on about a 2000 Bordeaux.

Vengeful rage is at the heart of Kill Bill _ Volume 1, a two-part saga starring Uma Thurman as a former assassin exacting grisly retaliation against ex-comrades (David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Madsen) who left her comatose after slaying her entire wedding party and her unborn daughter.

"You've heard of mother's love. This is mother's fury," Tarantino said.

Kill Bill, whose conclusion hits theaters in February, is awash in references and homages to Tarantino's beloved Italian spaghetti Westerns, Japanese samurai movies and Hong Kong martial-arts flicks, in which vengeance is a common theme.

Tarantino also cites the sci-fi revenge tale Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, opening Kill Bill with that movie's "Klingon proverb": "Revenge is a dish best served cold." The line actually first appeared in the 18th-century French novel on which Dangerous Liaisons was based, but Klingons are well-known literary usurpers.

"I've always loved revenge movies," Tarantino said. "You don't need to be told that much about a revenge movie, a revenge story. You've seen them before, you know what they're supposed to do. . . . Where you have the five people who did me wrong, and I'm going to track them down one by one and make them wish they never did."

Tarantino's favorite vengeance movie? Rolling Thunder, a 1977 gorefest starring William Devane as a Vietnam vet avenging his family's murders. "I saw it on a double feature with Enter the Dragon, and it's better than Enter the Dragon," Tarantino said.

On par with Rolling Thunder is 1973's Coffy, featuring Pam Grier, star of Tarantino's Jackie Brown, he said. In Coffy, Grier plays a nurse going after druggies who turned her sister into a junkie.

"Talk about getting an audience into a bloodthirsty state," Tarantino said. "This movie could wake somebody up out of a coma."

Other Tarantino faves:

John Boorman's 1967 thriller Point Blank, with Lee Marvin getting payback on his two-timing wife and her lover, who left him for dead. Tarantino also loves a 1970 remake of Point Blank called Vengeance, by his favorite kung fu director, Cheh Chang.

Death Rides a Horse, which tops Tarantino's spaghetti Western revenge list. The 1968 Italian flick stars Lee Van Cleef as a mysterious gunman on a mutual mission of revenge with a man tracking his family's killers. In Kill Bill, Tarantino borrowed a melodramatic snippet of Ennio Morricone's movie score to accent Thurman's rage when she encounters her opponents.

Lady Snowblood, a 1973 Japanese samurai adventure about a young woman bred since birth to seek revenge against hoodlums who butchered her family and raped her mother. Tarantino uses a tune from Lady Snowblood, sung by star Meiko Kaji, as musical backdrop in a showdown between Thurman and Liu near the end of Kill Bill _ Volume 1.

Finally, 1990's Revenge, starring Kevin Costner as an ex-Navy pilot squaring off against a wealthy Mexican and his goons, who left him for dead and tortured his mistress. Revenge was trashed by critics, but Tarantino loved the flick, which was made by Tony Scott, who went on to direct True Romance from Tarantino's screenplay.

"I'm a huge fan of that movie. In fact, that was the reason I was supportive and really tried to make it happen that Tony directed True Romance," Tarantino said. "I was like, I want the man who did Revenge to do my movie."