If there’s one director in Hollywood who likes to push through the Fourth Wall, reference obscure flicks only he’s ever heard of, comment upon pop culture and, in general, make meta-self-referential movies, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Everyone knows Tarantino likes to push the boundaries in his films and impart an all-knowing authority to his characters. In fact, that directing trait was evident in his very first movie, Reservoir Dogs during the infamous “Madonna” scene.
No other director would have had the nerve to have his characters so blatantly discussing the relative “Virgin or Whore” sensibility of Madonna as seen in her own music in such a straight-forward manner. The fact that he was able to pull off such an inspired but weird scene has set the tone for all of his movies. But what about the pop culture nuggets he hides in his films? What about the meta-references we don’t even notice the first time around?
With The Hateful Eight in theatres now, we take a look at 10 of the biggest easter eggs found in his movies.
10. The Hateful Eight: That Title
It seems almost impossible to believe but Tarantino has only released eight films in his entire career. He has, of course, written a whole bunch more, including From Dusk to Dawn, True Romance and Natural Born Killers, both movies that owe a ton to his style as a director. He’s also directed segments of various cooperative movies inspired by film-maker friends like the Death Proof section of Grindhouse done with Robert Rodriguez and a segment of Four Rooms. But, since his directorial debut in 1994, he’s only done the eight features on his own. Given Tarantino’s obsession with film history, it’s no surprise that this one has eight in the title, just like Fellini’s 8½ was numbered based upon the number of that director’s releases. We know it’s no accident either that Tarantino used a numbered title for this “Western.” Sound like The Magnificent Seven, anyone?
9. Reservoir Dogs: Big Kahuna Burgers
Tarantino loves to mess around with Hollywood convention. After all, he’s been successful doing it for over 20 years. One of the things he really enjoys doing started way back in his very first feature. Rather than use product placement, a concept that began around the same time Tarantino began directing, he has created an entire universe of fake product placement. It all began with his “invention” of the “Big Kahuna Burger” fast-food chain which first popped up in Reservoir Dogs. Now we’re sure a part of that was because Tarantino’s first flick was pretty low-budget and low-buzz. Nobody was offering him money for product placement at the time. But he’s both continued and expanded the tradition. Big Kahuna Burgers have shown up in Pulp Fiction as well. Even more widely scattered across the Tarantino ‘verse are Red Apple cigarettes, which can be found in a bunch of movies you should watch again.
8. Reservoir Dogs: Referencing Characters in the Tarantino ‘Verse
Making mention of characters in one Tarantino movie who are related to characters in another is classic Quentin. He started doing it way back in his first film. If you watch closely, you’ll hear tons of references by characters over the years that date back to Reservoir Dogs or are actually from that film. Like the fact that Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde is actually Vincent Vega’s (John Travolta’s gangster in Pulp Fiction) brother. Mr. Blonde’s parole officer has the same last name as a detective in Natural Born Killers. Coincidence? We think not. Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White from ‘Dogs even brings up a former partner named Alabama. Fans of True Romance, a very Tarantino-esque movie Tarantino wrote, will recognize that as the name of Rosanna Arquette’s character. There are way more connections like these ones but you get the point.
7. The Hateful Eight: The Thing Homage
Sure, Kurt Russell, who starred so magnificently in John Carpenter’s 1982 classic, is in Tarantino’s new movie as well. But Russell’s been in a lot of movies. The real homage comes in the way Tarantino sets his movie in a similar physical space (a frozen wasteland in both), imbues it with much the same paranoia as The Thing and even has an ending that owes its inspiration to the end of that movie. As if that weren’t enough, he also brought in the well-known Ennio Morricone to create a score for the film that mirrors Morricone’s own score for The Thing. And as if even that weren’t enough, there are three cuts from The Thing’s soundtrack included on The Hateful Eight soundtrack as well. Obsessive much?
6. Pulp Fiction: Foreshadowing Kill Bill
You ever wonder why Tarantino cast Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies? We think the answer lies in her character in Pulp Fiction. Playing the wife of gangster Marcellus Wallace, her character is a wannabe actress who once was offered a role in the pilot of a TV show called Fox Force Five. This “fictional-to the Tarantino ‘verse” show featured five women as assassins and agents. In Kill Bill, her main protagonist, Beatrix Kiddo, is a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a group of five women who ‘actually’ do all of the things the “fictional” Fox Force Five did on their TV show. Hmmm…
5. Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2: Five Fingers of Death Homage
We all know Tarantino loves, loves, loves himself some classic Kung Fu. References to martial arts movies are scattered all over his oeuvre but nowhere more so than in the Kill Bill movies. And the one movie that keeps cropping up is 1972’s Five Fingers of Death. First, Uma Thurman’s protagonist, Beatrix Kiddo, always fights one of her former Deadly Viper colleagues to the sound of the siren from Five Fingers. Second, he films a shot of the Shaw Brothers logo in Kill Bill. The Shaw Brothers produced more Hong Kong martial arts movies in the 70s than any other company. Gordon Liu, who played both Johnny Moo, leader of the Crazy 88’s karate gang and legendary martial arts teacher Pai Mai, was a huge star of multiple Shaw Brothers’ releases in the 70s. If you still don’t believe us, Tarantino himself has ranked it as one of his favorite movies of all-time in many interviews.
4. Inglourious Basterds: Trunk Shots
He’s used this particular cinematic angle so many times and in so many ways it’s kind of silly of us to refer to it as only a Basterds device. But there you have it; the scene with Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine and Eli Roth’s Donny Donowitz (“The Jewish Bear” character so infamous from the movie) is as indicative as any other. Basically, Tarantino loves to film characters in extreme situations and how they respond (think Uma Thurman in a coffin) and this is one method he keeps going back to for resolution. He’s used it for varying effect (sometimes the person in the “trunk” is the one you have to look out for) in a ton of his movies, from Pulp Fiction to Jackie Brown to Death Proof (his Grindhouse contribution), among others. We have a feeling he won’t be stopping anytime soon.
3. Django Unchained: Cowboy Dentists
Like all of his movies, Django has more than its share of either black humor or just outright weird comedy. But Django also has a nod hidden in it to some straight-up Western comedies of yesteryear. Christoph Waltz (who made his Tarantino bones as the Nazi officer in Inglourious Basterds) plays Dr. King Schultz, a dentist. Interestingly enough, since dentists aren’t usually protagonists in Westerns, Don Knotts played a dentist as well in the semi, sort-of classic cowboy comedy The Shakiest Gun in the West. We’re sure Tarantino has seen this one – pretty much everybody of a certain age has whether they wanted to or not. Even more interesting, though, is that the Don Knott’s film was a remake of an even more classic Western comedy, Bob Hope’s The Paleface. That’s quite a nod to Hollywood history.
2. Jackie Brown: Foxy Brown
We’re pretty sure everyone knows this one, especially given Tarantino’s love of Blaxploitation movies from the 70s (is there any genre the director doesn’t love?) but just in case you missed it… Pam Grier stars in Jackie Brown as the titular character, a stewardess who runs afoul of drug lords, federal agents, cops, mobsters and just about everyone else. Pam Grier starred as Foxy Brown, a woman who wants revenge for the death of her federal-agent boyfriend by drug lords. Tarantino wrote the title part specifically for Pam Grier. Any questions? We thought not.
1. Tarantino’s Foot Fetish
We’re not quite sure if this is an Easter Egg but it sure is prevalent in his movies. You need look no further than the infamous “Cinderella” scene in Inglourious Basterds when Nazi Colonel Landau checks out (in an extended, fairly creepy sequence) Bridget’s foot with the incriminating shoe from the tavern shootout. Imagery like this crops up constantly in Tarantino’s work. There are certainly stranger fetishes out there so we’ll give the director a pass on this one.