Harry exclusively reviews for your pleasure Quentin Tarantino's Screenplay to KILL BILL!!!
Published at: Sept. 14, 2001, 3:29 a.m. CST by staff
Alright, so it was the second day of the QT5 film festival and right before the lights lowered and the projector lit up to show a mint beautiful print of STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN, Quentin drops by my corner chair.
I hand him the manuscript for my Book… He hands me a 222 page stack of paper that has this on top:
The 4th Film By
Is going to
Based on the Character
of "The Bride" , created by
And that was all handwritten. If it had been any other film than STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN, I would have hobbled my sickly carcass out to the lobby and started pouring through the pages of this 3 lbs of pulp paper.
Quentin smiles and says, "Let me know what you think. Gotta go!"
I reach to flip the first page, when the lights go out and my eyes see nothing. I set the script back and watch as Captain Terrell and Commander Pavel Andreievich Chekov see if the life readings are something they can transplant on Seti Alpha 4. As soon as Khan Noonien Singh appears on screen though… All thoughts of sitting in a stall in the Drafthouse Bathroom reading KILL BILL… Well, its Khan… I know what is good in life.
As soon as the camera finds Spock’s photon torpedo tube which soft landed on the brave new world of Dr Carol Marcus' extraordinary cooking skills and the end titles began…
The lights came up…
My arms leap out before me, the first page is turned and I see a TABLE OF CONTENTS… there’s a PROLOGUE followed by 10 chapters, each individually titled:
2. THE COMATOSE BRIDE
3. THE MAN FROM OKINAWA
4. SHOWDOWN AT HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES
5. YUKI’S REVENGE
6. "CAN SHE BAKE A CHERRY PIE…"
7. THE LONELY GRAVE OF PAULA SCHULTZ
8. THE CRUEL TUTELAGE OF PAI MEI
9. ELLE AND I
10. THE BLOOD-SPLATTERED BRIDE…
I think… Chapter Titles? I thumb the 222 pages and think… It’s a book…
I flip the page and scream… "HOLY SHIT!" then quickly wrap both hands around my mouth and look both ways…2 fellow geeks come running over to see what provoked this autonomic response from me. The script is now in my lap, and I’m trying to look as innocent as my cherub cheeks could allow.
They ask, "What’s wrong?"
I respond, "Really bad back spasm…" and they leave taking pity on me… The ends of my mouth twisting up as I look back down at the page…
KILL BILL starts with a quote from STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN. Not for all the money in the world will I spoil the quote, but dear god… Having just watched the film… For the first words in quotes to be read to have come from the film I just celebrated in a room full of geeks… That evil damn Quentin… He calculated exactly to the moment when he wanted my hands to touch that script. I read on... I get to page five and read:
The BRIDE (VO)
Looked dead, didn't I? Well I
wasn't, but it wasn't for lack of
trying, I can tell you that.
Actually Bill's Last bullet put
me in a coma. A coma I was to
lie in for five years.
When I woke up,...I went on what
the movie advertisements refer to
as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
I roared and I rampaged and I got
bloody satisfaction. In all, I've
killed 33 people to get to this
point right now.
I have only one more.
The last one.
The one I'm driving to right now.
The only one left.
And when I arrive at my
...I'm gonna Kill Bill.
This is gonna rule.
I managed to read 36 pages that night in-between the various films, but when I left the theater at 9am Sunday morning, I went home and collapsed into the sleep of ages… The script laying on my desk… next to my computer… And I was exhausted.
It was two days till I had the time to sit down and just devour the script in a sitting. I settled down into the living room of Geek Headquarters putting VH1 CLASSICS on the TV which happened to be doing a retrospect of 50’s and 60’s Rock-N-Roll… I-Deal music to read this script to…
When Quentin had told me on the phone that this script was 30 years of Grindhouse films squeezed into a Duck Press, I didn’t know what to think. I suppose I thought that we’d have Pimps and Zombies and Graphic Death and Sex and Women in Cages and Kung Fu and Animal Vs Animal Pit Matches and all with an Ennio Morricone / Goblin jam piece score with title song by Isaac Hayes.
I’m not really sure if that was exactly what I wanted from Quentin though. While many of the Tarantino fans felt that JACKIE BROWN was a massive misstep for him, I really dug the film. Sure it wasn’t as purely fun as PULP FICTION, nor was it as deliciously evil as RESERVOIR DOGS… But it was a far more mature work across the board.
If Quentin choose a film to make which would have him regress… I was going to be disappointed. I didn’t want to see a retread of his previous work. I didn’t want him to lose the maturity that I felt he gained with JACKIE BROWN… I wanted to see the Maturity married to the unbridled joy of cinema that PULP FICTION gave us, with a mistress of RESERVOIR’s don’t you dare look away vitality.
Instead, what I got was KILL BILL, which was far beyond anything I was expecting from him. KILL BILL is unapologetically EXPLOITATION! This film is indeed 30 years of Grindhouse Filmmaking in a Duck Press, but… BUT the genius of the script is that Quentin doesn’t give us cardboard cutout characters that often populated the world of the Exploitation films. He doesn’t write peppered characters of black and white tones. What he has done is create a universe where the rules of the exploitation film are every bit the natural order of things, but the people in this world are human beings. Human beings trapped in the situations that only happen to you in Exploitation films. These characters have all the superhuman powers that Grindhouse characters have, but they wake up scarred, bruised and hurt by what they have been through.
What happens to the "Bride" in the first few pages of the script… Well, ya know how THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES watched his entire family be murdered by a bunch of Kansas Red Legs? His home burnt to the ground? His face scarred by the butcher of it all? Then he watches as his entire unit of freedom fighters turn themselves in only to be machine gunned to death before his very eyes? Well, that ain’t nothing.
What "The Bride" goes through… Well, it is the sort of thing that you never fully recover from. You never forgive. And for all time, a piece of you will always be missing.
The rumors going around was that Bill was a pimp and that "The Bride" was his top whore. This is way wrong!
"The Bride" was once a part of a band of the top female assassins in the world working for the world’s greatest assassin… BILL. Now "The Bride" was the top assassin. They fucked her over real bad. REAL BAD, and now she is going to hunt down every last one of them and exact bloody satisfaction on each of them.
You’ll meet O-Ren Ishii as Cottonmouth, Vernita Green as Cobra, Budd as Sidewinder, Elle Driver as California Mountain Snake and BILL. Oh sure, there’s a ton of other people you’ll meet. There’s the Crazy Eighty-Eights, Mr Barrel, Pai Mei, Hattori Hanzo and… well, there’s so much more.
What this film has that you’ve never seen in a Quentin Tarantino film is that thing they always talk about around a table, or between two characters… That scene he shows you the beginning of, the end of and always tells you about later… Well this time… This time he’s going to show you those scenes of legend. That stuff that makes you sit up and scream, FUCKING A!
You know how PULP FICTION was non-linear for no particular reason other than to be a stylistic bit of cool? Well Quentin’s structure here is breathless… By using the CHAPTER format, Quentin will sometimes build a chapter leaving something unfinished, begin the next chapter years before perhaps, but it always comes together to provide us the audience with the information that we need to understand how the character can move forward today… in the linear part of the story. This isn’t handled as FLASHBACKS… these are merely the beginnings of new chapters… and it works fantastically.
This script is hardcore action and cool. And it is original as hell. In the past two years at the last two QT fests here in Austin, I’ve seen a great deal of the films that Quentin has taken inspiration from. Scenes have not been lifted. Characters have not been lifted. Themes, subtle elements taken for inspiration and taken further than we’ve ever seen.
Remember when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg took the Serials of old… Put them all in a blender, took a new story… mixed it all together and came up with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK… Sure it was derived from dozens and dozens of B-serials, but what RAIDERS did… Well it did better than anyone had seen before…. Or since.
THAT is exactly what KILL BILL is meant to be to the exploitation genre.
This script reads like COOL CUBED. The kung fu and samurai action doesn’t read like MATRIX-fu. This isn’t pick ya up on wires while 99 cameras shoot you from all around… The kung fu that Quentin describes is Bruce Lee in the Japanese School meets Sonny Chiba’s Streetfighter visceral cartilage pops meets Jackie Chan’s SNAKEFIST IN EAGLE SHADOW meets LIGHTNING SWORDS OF DEATH!
How do I know?
Well the reason this script is 222 pages long is that he describes every nuance of the battles. Hell… When "The Bride" takes on the Crazy Eighty-Eights while O-Ren Ishii, Mr. Barrel, Yuki Yubari and Go Go Yubari all watch… well it runs 22 pages and by the time you get to the end… You are left dazed… wondering if Quentin Tarantino has the capacity to peel that action off the page and onto the screen in a fashion that will make you look at FIST OF LEGEND and go… Hhahahahahaha… As written, it is there. Depends who he has as his fight choreographer and how he frames the shots… but the concepts and action that he has in his head on this page… breathtaking.
It’s brutal and punishing. She fights not only with astonishing skill, but through single-minded determination.
This fight… The chapter titled – "Showdown At House Of Blue Leaves" – might very well end up being a thing of legend if he nails it.
The film takes place from China to Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Austin to Mexico. There are moments that feel as terrifyingly brutal as the toughest moments of FULCI… And the thing that will just kill you is that you like these characters.
The ‘Bad Guys and Gals’… They’re cool… You like them… The Bride liked them. All of this… All of these fights are brutal because noone is played like a comic book character. Everyone had motivations and reasons. And everyone wants to live. And they are all trained to be the biggest badasses that have ever walked the Earth.
Surprises, by the bushel. He plays with all the toys of cinema here. This is a film geeks wet dream. When you see how he handles his Cantonese scenes… When you visit the Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz… When you experience the cruel tutelage of Pai Mei… My friends, if he nails this. If he makes this script come to life with the energy that it was written with… Then by God… You’ll be screaming and cheering in the theater the whole time.
Come the turn of the year… we should begin to see the casting come together, as spring begins training and the summer brings cameras rolling. The script is as quotable as anything he’s ever written… there are moments of fancy and heartache… moments of elation and depression… and there is a great deal of retribution, for revenge has never been served like this…