What Made 'Bill' Kill: Quentin's Blood-Spattered Rundown

Spaghetti Westerns, blaxploitation and kung-fu flicks.

When Uma Thurman invited Quentin Tarantino to help her accept one of the three golden popcorns collected by "Kill Bill" at the MTV Movie Awards, the stage — in all fairness — should have been a bit more crowded.

After all, Tarantino has made no bones about the fact that both volumes of his bloody revenge saga borrow liberally from plenty of lesser known, though no less potent, films from all around the world. The nods to Bruce Lee are overt — from the yellow tracksuit Thurman wears (seen in Lee's swan song, "Game of Death") to the Kato masks worn by the Crazy 88 fighters — but if you really want to get at the heart of what makes "Kill Bill" tick, you have to dig deeper, as several of Tarantino's actors did during shooting.

Daryl Hannah was familiar with some of Tarantino's reference points, but after making a request for more specific information, she found herself watching everything from the Japanimation shoot-'em-up "Cowboy Bebop" to the sexually explicit Swedish thriller "They Call Her One Eye," the origin of — you guessed it — the eye patch she sports in "Kill Bill."

"I asked him for some movies [because] nobody really has the film education that Quentin has," Hannah reported. "Nobody holds that much information in their heads but him. I wasn't familiar with all of the different influences he was specifically drawing from because there are so many."

The way Hannah whistles while walking down the hallway in "Vol. 1"? That's from an English thriller called "Twisted Nerve." Hannah's examination of the ancestry of Tarantino's latest pair of movies even had her exploring the filmography of one of her co-stars, Sonny Chiba, whose seminal "Street Fighter" series from the 1970s is revered by martial arts fans worldwide.

There are dozens of movies that "Kill Bill" owes a debt to, and while we certainly can't list all of them here, what follows is a bit of information about a handful of the films that helped shape "Kill Bill" into all of its Japanese-samurai-Hong-Kong-action-kung-fu-blaxploitation-anime-spaghetti-Western glory.

  • "Coffy" (1973)
    Starring: Pam Grier
    In "Coffy," drug dealers and pimps meet violent ends as Grier's vigilante heroine goes on a rampage when her little sister is injured by a batch of bad heroin. Tarantino, of course, is such of a fan of Grier's work in the blaxploitation genre that he cast her as Jackie Brown in the 1997 movie of the same name.

  • "Death Rides a Horse" (1968)
    Starring: Lee Van Cleef, John Phillip Law
    Law plays a character named, well, Bill, who sets out to kill the robbers he watched kill his family in the type of cowboy revenge story that could only have been crafted by Italians. "It's a terrific spaghetti Western," beamed Tarantino.

  • "Gloria" (1980)
    Starring: Gena Rowlands
    During the making of "Kill Bill," Uma Thurman drew equal inspiration from "Coffy" and this movie, in which Rowlands uses extreme force to protect a young girl from the mob. "Gena Rowlands and Pam Grier are two of the only women I've ever seen be truly women [while] holding a weapon," Thurman said. "There were men that I found inspiring, but [when it comes to] strong, sexy, determined women who just look completely convincing in their every movement, those two take the cake."

  • "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966)
    Starring: Clint Eastwood
    Quentin Tarantino has famously called this — part of Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone's trilogy that also includes 1964's "A Fistful of Dollars" and the following year's "For a Few Dollars More" — "the best-directed film of all time." Leone reportedly cast the then-unknown Eastwood because he couldn't afford Charles Bronson or Henry Fonda. " 'Kill Bill Vol. 2' is very much in the spaghetti Western style," Hannah noted. "So I'd say that [if you liked 'Kill Bill,'] you should definitely rent 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' "

  • "Lady Snowblood" (1973)
    Starring: Meiko Kaji
    "Lady Snowblood" is chock full of blood, gore and heavy-handed drama. "You should definitely check out [this] female samurai movie," insisted Tarantino. "Meiko Kaji is really terrific." The movie spawned a sequel the following year, which carried the subtitle "Love Song of Vengeance."

  • "Master of the Flying Guillotine" (1975)
    Starring: Yu Wang
    Tarantino said to pick this up if you're looking for movies that inspired him "in the kung-fu department." Wang reprises his role from a movie called "One Armed Boxer" in a complex and surreal plot with action galore. "It actually just came out on DVD and it's a magnificent, fun movie," promised Tarantino.

  • "Navajo Joe" (1966)
    Starring: Burt Reynolds
    Sergio Corbucci, another of Tarantino's favorites from the spaghetti Western genre, directed this movie, which stars Reynolds as a guy who avenges the murder of a loved one. "It's a great revenge Western, it's terrific," Tarantino said.

  • "They Call Her One Eye" (1974)
    Starring: Christina Lindberg
    After a mute young girl is subjected to a variety of brutal cruelties, from the loss of an eye implied by the title to a brutal gang rape and the subsequent grief-stricken suicides of her parents, she masters several weapons and — noticing a theme here? — gets her revenge.

  • "Twisted Nerve" (1966)
    Starring Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett
    A mentally disturbed man who regularly reverts to his 6-year-old self goes on a murder spree. "Every time the guy starts whistling, you know he's going to kill somebody," said Hannah. "Having watched that whole movie, and how creepy that was, it wasn't just a song that I'd learned [for 'Vol. 1']. It was a really creepy song that gave me this horrible feeling that I had sort of absorbed from watching the film."

  • "Chinese Vengeance" (1973)
    Starring: Kuan Tai Chen
    Though director Cheh Chang worked in the martial arts genre, Tarantino likens him to an Oscar-winning director known for Westerns. "Chang was sort of like the John Ford of kung-fu films," Tarantino said. " 'Vengeance' is quite terrific."

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