Magazine article Metro Magazine

Tarantino and the Re-Invention of the Martial Arts Film: From the Opening Annoucement 'Shot in Shawscope' to the Closing Music, Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003), Is Steeped in Martial Arts Folklore. from Its Plot and Casting through to the Many Action Set Pieces, the Film Exudes a Studied Asian Cool, despite the Fact It Was Directed by a Former Video Store Geek from LA

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Tarantino and the Re-Invention of the Martial Arts Film: From the Opening Annoucement 'Shot in Shawscope' to the Closing Music, Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003), Is Steeped in Martial Arts Folklore. from Its Plot and Casting through to the Many Action Set Pieces, the Film Exudes a Studied Asian Cool, despite the Fact It Was Directed by a Former Video Store Geek from LA

Article excerpt

Every frame is full of cinematic references: the Italian gore of City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci, 1980) and the brutal feminist vengeance of Thriller: A Cruel Picture aka. They Call Her One Eye (Bo Arne Vibenius, 1974) loom large, but it's from the martial arts film that Tarantino draws most of his inspiration. From modern classics like Battle Royal (Kin ji Fukasaku, 2000) and the films of Takashi Miike to the old classics of The Shaw Brothers and Sonny Chiba, along with Lady Snowblood (Toshiya Fujita, 1973) and the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Quentin Tarantino's tribute to 1970s' grindhouse classics is a smorgasbord of blood-soaked references. These influences are modernized and streamlined, but Tarantino never loses sight of the essence of what made them so memorable in the first place. In casting some of his heroes, he again accentuates the similarities between his film and its predecessors, and helps Kill Bill join the legacy of martial arts motion pictures he was so desperate to emulate--or recreate.

Hiring the legendary Sonny Chiba as the swordmaker Hattori Hanzo was a masterstroke. Since starring in a succession of wonderful kung fu films in the seventies, including the Streetfighter series, Chiba has rarely been seen on the big screen. In fact when The Streetfighter (Shigehiro Ozawa, 1974)--along with its sequels Return of the Streetfighter (Shigehiro Ozawa, 1974) The Streetfighter's Last Revenge (Teruo Ishii, 1974) and Sister Streetfighter (Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, 1974)--was released on laserdisc in the nineties, it was Tarantino's quote extolling the film's virtues that graced the sleeve, 'The Streetfighter ... It's been a long time coming. I speak for all my friends when I say thank God the wait is over.' (1) It was the continuation of a love affair between Tarantino and martial arts films, and the beginning of his attempts to bring them to a modern Western audience. Tarantino had been a huge fan of The Shaw Brothers, Bruce Lee and Chiba, and now he was giving something back. The first release on his Rolling Thunder DVD label was The Mighty Peking Man (Meng-Hwa Ho, 1977) a giant-monkey-on-the-rampage movie by the Shaws, and it is also no coincidence that Uma Thurman wears a yellow and black tracksuit in Kill Bill Vol. 1 's House of the Blue Leaves massacre, replicating Bruce Lee's attire in Game of Death (Robert Clouse, 1978).

David Carradine, the actor playing Bill, has been even more influential in bringing martial arts to Western audiences. Carradine is known to millions as Kwai Chang Caine from the seventies' TV sensation Kung-Fu (Jerry Thorpe, 1972). The show blended westerns and martial arts epics like The Water Margin (various, 1977)and Carradine's flute-playing sensei became a poster icon for the decade, joining Bruce Lee on many a teenager's wall. Carradine lent a graceful beauty to his kung fu style and went on to make such classics as The Silent Flute (Richard Moore, 1978). After years in the wilderness, Tarantino has resurrected the legend's career; his position in the film as a great man with an illustrious kung fu fighting past helps draw the audience in and is perfect casting. However, when I spoke to Carradine I got a different explanation:

There's a lot more to Tarantino than his love of those genres, and a lot more to our working relationship. We are both alien visitors from other planets, and possibly, both some kind of genius, forced to associate with mere mortals. Main thing, though, we both have a mission, like The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980). And, yeah, it worked. (2)

Surprisingly, Tarantino's first choice for the role of Bill was Warren Beatty. As you watch Carradine lead the Bride (Uma Thurman) to meet her tutor Pai Mei (Gordon Lu), you could not imagine Beatty ever fighting the white-haired teacher. In a scene cut from the final version of Kill Bill Vol. 2, you get to see Bill strut his stuff killing a gang with his trusty samurai sword; again, Beatty would have been ridiculous in this scene. …

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