Take your seats, class: Senior writer Chris Nashawaty continues his in-depth weeklong tutorial on all things Quentin Tarantino for the latest installment of EW University. Check out our gallery of 20 Tarantino movie and movie poster faves , our Quentin Tarantino trivia quiz, and our take on the original 1978 Inglorious Bastards.
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: Playing spot the reference
Any time you sit down to watch a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, you’re not just watching that movie, but all of the movies he’s ever seen. Let’s face it, the guy has never been shy or apologetic about his movie-love. You could say that when Tarantino name-checks some arcane chop socky movie or slyly alludes to a Eurotrash cheapie, he’s giving a shout-out to the cognascenti – his fellow movie geeks – in the audience. In other words, when you watch a movie by QT, you’re actually watching two movies at the same time: the one onscreen and the one between the lines.
Some may find this pretentious and annoying. Personally, I dig it. I always walk out of a Tarantino flick or leave an interview with Tarantino with another dozen films to add to my Netflix queue. And those movies will lead me to other, even more obscure movies. It’s like the gift that keeps giving.
For example, the names of the characters in Reservoir Dogs (Mr. White, Mr. Orange, etc.) are a tip of the hat to 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 123, where Robert Shaw and his band of subway thieves used the same monickers. In Kill Bill, Daryl Hannah’s assassin character wears an eye patch and whistles a theme song when she goes to kill Uma Thurman in the hospital – the eye patch is a nod to Christina Lindberg in 1974’s Swedish revenge film They Call Her One Eye (a.k.a. Thriller: A Cruel Picture), and the theme is Bernard Herrmann’s music from 1968’s British chiller Twisted Nerve. Even the title of Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is an homage to one particular character’s name in the wonderful 1973 Boston-set crime movie The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
The good news (as far as I’m concerned) is that Tarantino is still playing his happy little film-nerd reference games in his latest film, Inglourious Basterds. Here are a few of the ones we picked up on…
*Of course, right off the bat is the title, which is based on the 1978 Enzo G. Castellari WWII movie that we discussed yesterday.
*Brad Pitt’s Nazi-hunting lieutenant character is named Aldo Raine – a combination of one of Tarantino’s favorite actors Aldo Ray (The Green Berets) and Maj. Charles Rain, the name of the character William Devane plays in the brutal 1977 Vietnam-vet revenge movie Rolling Thunder. Extra credit: Rolling Thunder was also the name of Tarantino’s movie label that specialized in re-releasing his personal movie favorites like 1975’s Switchblade Sisters.
*As usual, Tarantino’s film is divided into chapters. The first is titled “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France.” Of course, this is an homage to Italian directing god Sergio Leone’s epic westerns, most obviously 1968’s Once Upon a Time in the West. And if it wasn’t clear enough, Tarantino borrows several music cues from Leone’s go-to composer Ennio Morricone for the Basterds sountrack.
*As we noted earlier with the name Jackie Brown, Tarantino likes to have fun with his characters’ names. And in Basterds, he’s up to his usual tricks. For example, the actor Til Schweiger plays a German sergeant who defects over to Pitt’s team of Nazi-hunting Jewish GIs. His name is Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, which is also the name of a Mexican action and exploitation star from the ’70s (Tintorera). And then there is Mike Myers’ smallish role as a British general named Ed Fenech, which is a nice little riff on the name of ’70s Italian movie starlet/sex symbol Edwige Fenech, who starred in some of the best giallo thrillers of the era.
*Eli Roth, the writer and director of the Hostel movies, plays one of Tarantino’s Basterds. The character is called ‘The Bear Jew’ and he beats Nazis’ skulls in with a baseball bat – like in 1973’s Walking Tall, a movie whose sequel starred Bo Svenson, who was also the star of Enzo G. Castellari’s original Inglorious Bastards (as you can see, we’re getting more involved here…and to make matters even more Byzantine, both Svenson and Castellari have cameos in Tarantino’s film!). At one point in QT’s Basterds, Eli Roth’s character goes undercover as an Italian movie director named Antonio Margheriti, which just so happens to be the name of an Italian exploitation director from the ’70s and ’80s who made such schlocky films as Cannibal Apocalypse and Yor, the Hunter from the Future.
*Finally, there are also a couple of voices that may sound remotely familiar in the film. The voice of Basterds’ narrator belongs to Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown star Samuel L. Jackson, and a voice on the telephone during a pivotal scene near the end belongs, at least to my ears, to Reservoir Dogs’ Harvey Keitel.
For Discussion: Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite Tarantino film and what other references in his films have you picked up on?
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