When it comes to film series, the majority start going downhill pretty soon after number three. Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Final Destination (although that was pretty poor from the off)….However, there is one which is consistently great – in fact out of ten films, eight have been rated 80% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes; the other two have had over 60%. Which series is it? The films written and directed by Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, to name but a few.
Now, to many people the only thing one Tarantino film has in common with another is that they are both soaked in blood, layered with violence, and then finely decorated with some choice swear words and a couple of deeply verbose monologues. Oh and Uma Thurman. However, according to some fan theories and hinted at by Tarantino himself, the infamous director’s films about vengeful sword wielding brides, bank robberies, cowboys, and vampires is a lot more intertwined than you might think. Hold on to your Hattori Hanzos…
hinted at by Tarantino himself, the infamous director’s films about vengeful sword wielding brides, bank robberies, cowboys, and vampires is a lot more intertwined than you might think.
The most obvious links one will notice between the films are through what is at the heart of every Tarantino movie, its characters. For instance, one of the main characters in True Romance is Alabama, arguably the same Alabama who Mr White mentions in Reservoir Dogs as a previous partner. Then, in Reservoir Dogs, whilst most of the characters are known only by their code names, it’s revealed Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), is called Vic Vega, and Pulp Fiction features the gun wielding, dance grooving Vincent Vega (John Travolta). A mere coincidence? No, Tarantino confirmed they are brothers, and at one point even considered doing a prequel about the two before they died in their respective movies (though he says it’s unlikely now because of the actors’ ages). Also Mr. White tells Mr. Orange he knows a nurse called Bonnie; Jimmie’s wife in Pulp Fiction is also a nurse called Bonny. Pulp Fiction then has a connection to Django Unchained through Captain Koons and Crazy Craig Koons. We could go even further and link all the rest through Tarantino’s fake brands, like those Red Apple cigarettes that appear in a lot of his movies.
In addition to this, there are movies set within these movies which characters like Vincent Vega and Mr White would go to see. The second movie universe created by Quentin Tarantino within the first is more akin to comic books and films that feature supernatural characters. The films that are part of this universe are: Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Kill Bill. Tarantino has gone on record as saying that Kill Bill and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn take place in a ‘movie movie universe’; that is, they are movies that characters from the Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Death Proof universe would go to see in theatres. Indeed, fan theories are rife with the idea that Kill Bill is essentially the failed pilot mentioned by Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, Fox Force Five, with Mia Wallace playing the title role.
So the characters are linked, there are movies set within the movies – even the camera angles and shots are the same. But there is one more notable thing about Tarantino’s film universe: Inglourious Basterds ends with Hitler being gunned to the ground by a pair of Nazi-hunting American Jews in 1944 in a cinema. One of the main protagonists is Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz. As it turns out, Donny Donowitz, ‘The Bear Jew’, is father of movie producer Lee Donowitz from True Romance. Since we’ve linked True Romance to Reservoir Dogs, Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction, Pulp Fiction to Django Unchained etc, etc, this means that almost every movie Tarantino has done is set in the Inglourious Basterds timeline.
Why is this important? Because it means that fifteen years after his first major picture (Pulp Fiction) was released, Tarantino gives the answer as to why all of his movies are so ingrained with violence and pop culture: everybody in this alternate reality grew up learning that World War 2 ended not with diplomacy or strategy, but in a hail of bullets and a burning movie theatre. Hyperviolent slaughter ended the most widespread war in history, so Americans as a whole are more desensitized to that sort of thing. Hence why Butch is unfazed by killing two people, Mr. White and Mr. Pink take a pragmatic approach to killing in their line of work, Esmerelda the cab driver is obsessed with death, etc. The fact that the Nazi high command was gunned down and/or burned alive during a hijacked film premiere would perhaps cause society to lend more importance to pop culture: it’s no coincidence that the son of the man who killed Hitler in a movie theatre went on to become an important film industry figure. If people constantly stop to talk about comic book characters or ’70s rock music trivia during incongruous moments, that’s because in this reality that is important, history-changing stuff.
So there you have it: from Pulp Fiction to Django Unchained, the greatest film series in cinematic history, unequalled in violence, unparalleled in quality and totally unique in every aspect of its storytelling. As Samuel L Jackson said in Jackie Brown: “when you absolutely, postively got to kill every motherf*cker in the room, except no substitutes.”