Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Blu-ray (2008)
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah
Director & Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Studio: Miramax – 052337 & 057630 (separate disc packages)
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9, 1080p HD
Audio: English uncompressed 5.1 (48K/24bit) PCM, English & French DD 5.1, Dolby 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras Vol. 1: The Making of Kill Bill Vol. 1; The “5, 6, 7, 8’s” musical performances; Tarantino trailers & teasers; Extras Vol. 2: The Making of Kill Bill Vol. 2; “Damoe” deleted scene; “Chingon” musical performance
Length: 111 minutes; 137 minutes
You have to put yourself into a different mind set to appreciate this pair of outrageous, violent, over-the-top movies, and I can understand some viewers are averse to that. You must understand that Quentin Tarantino’s filmic world comes from kung fu, westerns, film noir and exploitation movies. He put all his favorite interests together into these two films and pulled out all the stops for a really astonishing visual/auditory trip – and at a technical level higher than nearly all of the films’ predecessors.
It was while shooting Pulp Fiction that Tarantino and Thurman began talking about a film starring mainly herself on a hell-bent revenge trip. Thurman is “The Bride,” who had been e member of a squad of international assassins led by Bill (Carradine). She was also Bill’s girlfriend, and when she found she was pregnant she decided to leave that way of life and get married to an El Paso record store owner. This pissed off Bill no end and with his squad he massacred everyone at the wedding rehearsal except The Bride – who survived in a four-year-long coma.
When she finally revives The Bride sets off on a committed hunt to kill all the squad members, working her way up to Bill. She has been trained during a grueling internship with a ruthless Chinese kung fu master and has learned her killing craft superbly, so one by one she moves ahead toward her former boss. Along the way she learns that her baby girl had been saved and is being brought up by Bill. Tarantino explains in the extras that the first film sets up the mythology of the story and the various characters. Little about the massacre is shown in the first film. The second movie is The Bride’s story, has a lower body count, and is often shot in the style of a spaghetti western – even to the use of evocative pan flute music by Morricone. Tarantino summarizes his first double-feature (he later did one even closer to the exploitation model, with both parts shown together in the theaters) as a look into the heart and minds of violent people. The final scene between Kiddo (her real name in the movie) and Bill has some terrific dialog that fleshes out both characters more fully, with surprisingly little swordplay.
Much of the films were shot in China, although scenes in the American Southwest, Tokyo and Mexico were also shot on location. Tarantino not only wrote the tight and very clever script but choreographed most of the kung fu action, even though a Chinese expert was on the shoot. The musical scores mix a variety of Morricone themes with dramatic themes for the gangsters and various other baddies, plus a live performance by a three-girl barefoot Japanese surf music band Tarantino discovered in Tokyo and imported for the first film. The uncompressed PCM surround track again gets my vote for the most smashing (literally) audio accompaniment. The Blu-ray transfer brings out all sorts of little details that were missed in the standard DVDs. For example, the name of the desert strip club where one of the (initially most sympathetic) of the assassins (who has also left the squad) works as the bouncer. You need to hit the Still or pause button in order to get closer to the screen and read it, but then you can clearly see it’s the My Oh My Club. You do realize of course, you can’t see just one of these two films, although it might be very interesting to see them out of order. One of the many attributes of the pair is the way Tarantino departs so skillfully from a straight-thru linear narrative (but at the end you won’t feel like Last Year at Marienbad either).
– John Sunier