Is Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill an outright ripoff or a homage full of sampled scenes and ideas from the director’s favorite films all put together based around a story that unites them? No matter what side of the fence you stand on, we thought it’d be a good idea to list as many of the references as we could. Because we can. Because we did. So just read it, please.
1. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is based on Ted V. Mikel’s The Doll Squad: In an interview, Tarantino outright stated “They definitely have that Doll Squad or Modesty Blaise look to them. Those girls just look cool in their turtle necks. Honey West was an American TV show, and that’s in there as well.” Keep in mind — the Deadly Vipers are not the same as the Fox Force Five that are brought up in Pulp Fiction. In that same interview, the director set the record straight: “Fox Force Five were crime fighters. They were secret agents. The Deadly Vipers are NOT secret agents! They are killers! But the idea is very, very similar. It’s like the flipside.”
2. The idea of the “wronged woman coming for revenge” comes directly from films like Lady Snowblood, They Call Her One Eye AKA Thriller: A Cruel Picture and Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion: All three of these movies revolve around a woman who rebels against her male tormentors and balances the scales. Lady Snowblood was born in jail to be an instrument of her mother’s vengeance. The entire end of Kill Bill Volume 1 has so many echoes of Lady Snowblood that it’s nearly a Xerox. Scorpion aims to kill the corrupt police, wardens and lovers who have mistreated her. And Frigga was an innocent girl who was turned into a one-eyed sex slave that mastered the violence she would need to kill everyone in her way. The final film so influences Kill Bill that Elle Driver’s eyepatch-centric fashions are a tribute to that Swedish exploitation classic (you can also see that she’s inspired by Patch from Switchblade Sisters, which was re-released by Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures).
Also, O-Ren Ishii’s look and attitude come directly from Lady Snowblood, as does the song “Flower of Carnage” that is in Kill Bill.
3. The scene where Elle Driver walks with a hypodermic needle is taken from the trailer for 1977’s Black Sunday: Yep. Literally shot for shot. Also, Elle is whistling like Martin from the movie Death Nerve.
4. There are several instances of blood dripping from people’s eyes, which you can either attribute to Halloween 2 or City of the Living Dead: Nobody hates eyes as much as Lucio Fulci. The end of the battle between the Bride and Gogo Yubari involves a board with nails through it that goes right into the brain of the Crazy 88’s member. The blood that pours from her eyes echoes both Michael Myers fate at the end of the original sequel and anyone that comes near the undead priest in Fulci’s flick. Tarantino also echoes the trapped in the coffin scene shots from Fulci’s zombie masterwork when the Bride is buried alive. Tarantino must really love Fulci — he helped re-release The Beyond and used the theme from his movie Seven Notes in Black (The Psychic) in Kill Bill.
5. Gogo Yubari is pretty much Takako Chigusa from Battle Royale: This one is a no brainer, as they’re both played by the same actress, Chiaki Kuriyama, wearing the exact same clothes she wore in that movie. To add one more reference, there’s a visual callout to Deep Red in the big fight between her and the Bride.
6. When Bill and the gang shoot the Bride, the score from A Fistful of Dollars is playing: Because really, Ennio Morricone’s score can make any movie better.
7. The Bride’s kill list comes from the movie The Mercenary: Even more Morricone music — and the kill list — comes from this 1968 Franco Nero-starring spaghetti western which is also known as A Professional Gun.
8. Bill playing his flute is from Circle of Iron: It helps that it’s David Carradine is playing both roles and the same flute.
9. The Bride’s yellow jumpsuit is from Game of Death: If you’re going to do martial arts, you’re going to have to shout out to Bruce Lee, who did it first and probably did it best. Bruce Lee is also echoed when the Crazy 88’s surround the Bride and a move of her wrist sends them all backward, just like in Lee’s Fists of Fury.
10. The sunglasses from the beginning of the original Gone in Sixty Seconds: This film’s hero, Maindrian Pace, has a dashboard lined with sunglasses, just like Texas Ranger Earl McGraw’s in Kill Bill.
11. When the Bride cuts off Sophie Fatale’s arm, it echoes all manner of Japanese samurai cinema. Or the massively gory death of Jane in Argento’s Tenebre: It seems like when anyone gets killed in samurai movies, they spray blood like this. Come to think of it, it happens a lot in Argento’s films as well.
12. One of the Crazy 88’s gets his face split in half, just like a scene in Ichi the Killer: Takeshi Miike makes crazy movies. Movies so crazy that even contemporaries like Tarantino can’t help but reference them. You could also point out that this very same type of murder happens in 1980’s Shogun Assassin, the remix of two Lone Wolf and Cub films that the Bride watches with her daughter later in Volume 2. Also, the actor playing Boss Tanaka, Jun Kunimura, was picked because Tarantino liked how he screamed in Miike’s film.
13. The desert blur of the Bride is from Once Upon a Time in the West: Sure, almost everyone knows that. But did you know that Dario Argento helped write this Sergio Leone movie?
14. The tagline from Death Rides a Horse: The poster for this Lee Van Cleef spaghetti wester says. “The bandits who killed five defenseless people made one big mistake. They should have killed six.” The Bride’s dialogue echoes this when she says, “The DiVAS thought they killed ten people that day. But they made a mistake. They only killed nine.” There’s also a visual reference to this film where the Bride has a flashback to the gang trying to murder her as the music cue from TV’s Ironsides plays.
15. When the Bride escapes from the grave, it’s exactly like Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!: Even better, the grave she’s crawling out of belongs to Paula Schultz, the wife of the bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz from Django Unchained. Her name is also a reference to the Elke Somer comedy The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz.
16. The axe throwing scene from Navajo Joe is redone in the Crazy 88 fight: This Burt Reynolds-starring film also lent two more Morricone songs to the Kill Bill movies: “A Silhouette Of Doom” and “The Demise Of Barbara, And The Return Of Joe.”
17. Buck’s line is from Eaten Alive: “My name is Buck and I’m here to fuck” was originally said by Robert Englund in this Tobe Hooper film.
18. The Bride’s dialogue references Bury Me an Angel: When she says that she went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a roaring rampage of revenge, she’s referring to the tagline from this 1972 flick.
19. The Acuna Boys come from Rolling Thunder: Tarantino also took the name of his production company from this film.
20. The orange sky when the Bride’s plane flies into Japan is from Goke Body Snatcher from Hell: Tarantino specifically wanted that color to echo one of his favorite movies.
21. The Five Point Exploding Heart Technique comes from a bunch of movies starring Gordon Liu: This deadly strike, also known as Dim Mak, is used by Liu in the films Clan of the White Lotus and Executioners of Shaolin. As for Gordon Liu, he shows up as Johnny Mo, the leader of the Crazy 88’s in Volume 1 and as the Bride’s master Pai Mei in Volume 2.
22. The plot is a lot like The Bride Wore Black: A widowed woman hunting down the five men who killed her husband on her wedding day and then crosses their names off a list of them one-by-one? Yeah, that sounds a lot like Kill Bill. Tarantino claims he never saw this, but maybe he saw Jess Franco’s remake, She Killed in Ecstasy.
Ready? BONUS ROUND!
23. The final tracking shot of the Bride at the end of Volume 2 is taken shot for shot from the Greta Garbo movie Queen Christina.
24. The Shaw Brothers logo opens the film, despite them having nothing to do with it.
25. The animated sequences were inspired by the film Aalavandhan.
26. The Tokyo miniatures came from Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.
27. Sonny Chiba played Hattori Hanzo before on the 1980 TV series Shadow Warriors.
28. The last Crazy 88 is told to go home to mother, just like in Yojimbo.
29. Chapter 2’s title is literally “The Blood Spattered Bride.”
30. Bill’s line before the wedding, “Mind if I meet this guy, I’m a little particular about who my wife marries” is almost identical to a line in His Gal Friday.
31. The Bride’s real name comes from Lana Turner’s character in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
32. There’s a shot taken directly from The Searchers.
33. Tarantino wanted the fight between the Bride and Elle Driver to be like the Japanese monster movie The War of the Gargantuas.
34. Elle Driver’s writhing pain after that fight echoes Daryl Hannah’s demise as Pris in Blade Runner.
35. Music from The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is heard in the scene where Bill confronts Budd.
36. Several lines of dialogue from Coffy are used in the movie.
37. When the Bride says, “I would jump on a speeding train with a motorcycle for you,” that’s a clear reference to Michelle Yeoh in Police Story 3: Super Cop.
At the end of the movie, there are also RIP notices for Charles Bronson, Lucio Fulci, Sergio Leone, Shaw Brothers regulars Cheng Cheh and Lo Lieh, Django director Sergio Corbucci, Lee Van Cleef and Willian Witney, the Master of the World director that Tarantino has said is a lost master.
There’s nothing new under the sun. Don’t believe me? Watch the amazing video series Everything is a Remix, including the Kill Bill episode that inspired us to write all of these out!
Whew! That’s a lot about Kill Bill and I know I skipped some stuff, like Budd having a poster for Mr. Majestyk in his trailer and the references to Zabriskie Point. What else did I miss? Let me know!
Diego Pippi from Facebook sent this comment: “i would like to add just some gossip. in the scene from dario argento “tenebre” the actress that get killed is the ex-wife of italian prime minister silvio berlusconi (at that time they weren’t married yet). in this movie she get killed in a very nastyway and for this reason that movie disappeared from the italian TV for many years (berlusconi was also the owner of 3 of the 7 main channel available in italy in the 80s and 90s). they got divorced few years ago after the bunga-bunga scandal that got a lot of press all over the wolrd. berlusconi was a sort of donald trump, a little bit more well mannered and less dangerous but just because italy is a lot less powerful than USA. by the way good article and sorry for all my mistake!!”
Don Conley said: “The arm getting sliced off was also featured in Andy Warhol’s Dracula (1973). Many of these references are cited by QT himself in the running commentary on the dvd – i.e. the orange sky from Goke…”
Sam Hain shared this image from Samurai Fiction.
Robin Bougie from the amazing Cinema Sewer even replied: “I was pretty sure the Hanzo reference came from QT’s love of the Hanzo The Razor movies, but I guess it’s true that Hattori Hanzo was a real dude that inspired those movies as well, and he could have just been referencing that. Someone should ask him.”
Andrew Leavold let me know this: “Ooh don’t forget the dialogue between Sonny Chiba and his son was taken directly from the two straggler samurais in Cirio Santiago’s Death Force (Cirio and one of the actors, Jo Mari Avellana, hung out with QT when he visited Manila in 2007).”
D’Arcy Rix-Hayes also told me: “Think you’re missing Avenging Eagle, great Kung Fu flick, for some of the Pai Mei stuff.”
Tarantino is quite the magpie but I prefer the way Stephen Chow references films to make a joke but still manages to make something new out of them. Love on Delivery has some very funny scenes and Kung Fu Hustle even manages to blend cartoon chase scenes into live action.
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