Reel To Real: Can You Really Dig Your Way Out Of A Grave?

Uma Thurman uses Bruce Lee's move to do just that in 'Kill Bill Vol. 2.'

Before Quentin Tarantino started sweet-talking Jason and making trips to “Sin City,” he was crafting mesmerizing cinematic collages with violent (and seriously freaky) results.

No doubt part of the director’s appeal to the folks behind the “Friday the 13th” franchise (see “Movie File: Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis, Natalie Portman, Stephen Colbert & More” ) and the makers of “Sin City” (who recruited Tarantino as a “guest director”) is the twitchy visionary’s ability to create enduring images of unimaginable brutality.

For example, imagine yourself trapped underground, in a coffin, alive. The wood is creaking as the dirt settles on to what could be your final resting place. That’s one of many tight spots Uma Thurman’s Bride (a.k.a. Beatrix Kiddo, a.k.a. mommy) gets into in Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Vol. 2.”

The Reel Story: While on her quest to destroy her ex-boss, the titular Bill (David Carradine), Beatrix finds herself waylaid by his brother, Budd (Michael Madsen), a former assassin who’s now a strip club bouncer (and janitor). After shooting her and tying her up, Budd and a lackey give Bea a “Texas funeral,” nailing her into a wooden coffin and burying her alive. Drawing on the teachings of her master Pai Mai (Kung Fu film star Gordon Liu), the Bride punches her way through the coffin and crawls out of the grave. It’s unflinching and suffocating, but is it plausible?

Can you really punch your way out of a wooden coffin?

The Real Story: It’s highly unlikely, but it’s not as crazy as you might think.

The “one-inch punch” made famous by martial arts star Bruce Lee (you can see Lee delivering the punch in the 2000 documentary “A Warrior’s Journey”), seems to be exactly the punch that Pai Mai gruelingly taught Beatrix in the film.

Lee had trained himself to channel tremendous amounts of energy from throughout his body to his extended arm and into his fist, allowing him to deliver a blow without cocking his arm back. Stand with your arm fully extended in front of you and your fist one inch from a flat surface, then — without rearing back — rotate your torso and push your fist forward.

Not much oomph, huh? Well, Bruce could generate enough force to break boards (or bones). While it is hotly debated whether or not he was the originator, Lee’s nonchalant delivery — seemingly done with just a twitch of his shoulder — made the move his own. In “Kill Bill,” Bea practiced this on a board over and over, breaking every bone in her hand, while Pai Mai taunted her mercilessly.

So perhaps she could have punched a hole in her coffin, but that’s only half the battle. After all, Beatrix is still underground. A cubic foot of soil (we won’t factor in possible gravel and rocks) weighs between 80 and 115 pounds, depending on how tightly it’s packed. Assuming the coffin is buried about six feet under, and is the standard size of 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet by 7 feet, that would put almost 750 pounds of dirt on top of the unlucky lady. While there have been many stories written about people digging their way out of the grave, there do not seem to be any confirmed cases of anyone surviving premature burial.

Even with the best training in the world, that’s a lot of earth to move.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Kill Bill Vol. 2.”

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