Favorite Films: Kill Bill 1 and 2

Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo Wielding Her Hattori Hanzo Sword

Of the current batch of U.S. film directors, among the ones I like the most is Quentin Tarantino. Granted his films could be a tad violent, especially the two films in the Kill Bill series; but they are like bloody ballets. It also helps that the films star the lovely Uma Thurman, whom I had always thought was Swedish though she was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

Last night, I was surfing the Showtime channels when I landed around a quarter of an hour into Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004). Although I had seen both parts of the saga multiple times, I took the time to see Uma as Beatrix Kiddo kill several members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad who sprayed bullets into her attempted wedding to an El Paso record shop owner. In Volume 1 (2-003) messy she had sliced Vernita Green, O-Ren Ishii, and the latter’s Crazy 88s gang into sashimi. In Volume 2, she sends Bill’s brother Budd and Elle Driver (played by Darryl Hannah) into a white trash trailer massacre followed by Bill himself—who dies by the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique at a Mexican beach resort.

Along the way, we have an interlude wherein Beatrix is taught advanced martial arts technique by a Chinese immortal named Pai Mei.

Pai Mei Astounds Beatrix Kiddo

This segment is almost a film in its own right, though it does show two things:

  • How Beatrix avoids beings buried alive in Barstow by Bill’s brother, who had shot her in the chest with two shotgun shells filled with rock salt
  • How Elle Driver had one eye poked out as a result of sassing Pai Mei

I don’t know how many more times I will see the Kill Bill films, though I bet I will continue to enjoy them.

Once Upon a Time in Alternate History

10050 Cielo Drive, Site of the Sharon Tate Killings

One of my favorite novels by Philip K. Dick is The Man in the High Castle (1962), in which the United States has lost the Second World War. Germany occupies the Eastern U.S.; and Japan, the Western U.S. In his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Quentin Tarantino dishes up an alternative view of the Sharon Tate killings at 10050 Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills.

I don’t want to spoil the film for any of my readers, so I will hint that in the movie, all the killing takes place next door. Involved are not Sharon Tate and her guests, but Western star Rick Dalton and his stuntman buddy Cliff Booth.

The odd thing is that I actually know the person who occupied the house that is either next door or almost next door. That person was film actor Richard Anderson.

Richard Anderson (1926-2017)

The resident of 10120 Cielo Drive was an actor best known for his role as Oscar Goldman in the TV series The Six-Million Dollar Man. He also had a supporting role in such films as Forbidden Planet (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), The Long Hot Summer (1958), Seven Days in May (1964), and Ted Turner’s Gettysburg (1993). He was our client in the accounting firm in which I worked, and was probably our staff’s favorite client for his lack of pretense, honesty, and overall aura of kindness. When he died in 2017, shortly before I retired, we were all devastated.

So I was amused when Tarantino turns Sharon Tate’s neighbors into wish-fulfillment he-man heroes. I never had a chance to ask Richard about the Manson killings, since it was not considered kosher to pry about painful moments in the life of our clients. But I thought about it from time to time.


On the Surface of Things

Brad Pitt and Leonardo diCaprio in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once of Oscar Wilde’s most memorable observations in The Picture of Dorian Gray is: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible….”

That thought flitted in and out of my consciousness as I watched Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Was it a great film? No, but it caught the feeling of the late 1960s in Los Angeles. I had arrived from Cleveland at the tail end of 1966, and I recalled the strange vibe of the times. There was, first of all, the music. Then there were the hippies. I remember buying The Free Press for a quarter every Friday and reading it religiously. It all seemed to come to a head with Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter murders, also known as the Tate-La Bianca killings.

Margaret Qualley as Pussycat, a Manson Girl

One of the things I remember most vividly is my attraction/repulsion response to hippie chicks. Right around 1969, when the film was set, I remember riding the Santa Monica Bus to my job at System Development Corporation. A very cute young blonde boarded on 14th Street with a very short dress on which was written the word “Bamboo” in red over every inch of its white cloth. Her dress was so short that it was of considerable gynecological interest—such that the bus driver almost involuntarily handed her an obscene compliment. She promptly crimsoned and got off the bus at the next stop. But I still remember her vividly some half century later.

Apparently Tarantino felt the same way about the sudden glimpses of female flesh that appeared in the late Sixties. Even the look of L.A. was lovingly captured, from the smog to the relatively light traffic. I loved that about the film.

There were other things that didn’t work quite so well. More about that later.