15 Killer Facts About Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films
Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films

Even by Quentin Tarantino’s standards, Kill Bill was a surprise. He’d made a name for himself with a slew of curse words, violence toward ears, and riffs on sleazy genres, but the story of The Bride seeking revenge on the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad was an epic. A movie that couldn’t be contained in one easy piece, it had to be split up into two still-large parts that paid homage to a fistful of genres.

It’s been 15 years since we met The Bride in the first installment. Looking back, there’s an elegant simplicity to how Uma Thurman crafted a character dead-set on killing everyone who left her to die in a creaky church in El Paso, Texas. She had a goal, and she went after it. No sweeping life lessons about the corruption of vengeance—just a question of whether she had the grit and skill to carry it out. To celebrate the film's 15th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about Kill Bill: Vol 1.

1. THEY REALLY SLICED A BASEBALL IN HALF.

During the scene where The Bride gets the sword from Hattori Hanzo, he throws a baseball at her which she cuts in two. They didn’t fake it—though it was Thurman’s stunt double, Zoë Bell, who actually did it.

2. O-REN ISHII’S GENERIC THREAT CAME TRUE.

Before O-Ren Ishii fights The Bride, she mocks her in Japanese by saying, “Hope you’ve saved your energy. If you haven’t, you might not last five minutes.” Four minutes and 59 seconds after O-Ren steps forward to start the fight, she gets part of her head cut off. Turns out The Bride didn’t need to last that long.

3. THE BRIDE’S NAME IS HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.

If you look fast or pause the movie, you don't need to wait until the movie's second installment to learn The Bride's name. Thurman’s character goes by a series of code names throughout the first installment, and her real name is bleeped to keep us from knowing it, but it’s printed clearly on her plane ticket to Tokyo (and Bill calls her “Kiddo,” which turns out not to be a nickname).

4. THE BRIDE’S YELLOW JUMPSUIT IS AN HOMAGE TO BRUCE LEE.

Uma Thurman in 'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' (2003)
Andrew Cooper, Miramax Films

As a nice sartorial tribute, The Bride wears a killer outfit meant to mimic the iconic ensemble Bruce Lee wore in Game of Death. Tarantino also copied a short headlock sequence from Game of Death during The Bride’s fight with Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox).

5. QUENTIN TARANTINO PUT THE MOVIE ON HOLD WHEN UMA THURMAN GOT PREGNANT.

Tarantino and Thurman conceived of The Bride together while shooting Pulp Fiction, so there was only ever one actress to play the role. Then, Thurman got pregnant, so the long-gestating idea got put on hold again. “She got pregnant, and I was like, 'Okay, do I wait or do I not?' But I can honestly tell you that I didn’t have a choice,” Tarantino told the BBC. “Yes, this is my samurai movie; yes, this is my badass chick movie; yes, this is my spaghetti western and my comic book movie. But it’s also my Josef Von Sternberg movie, and if Josef Von Sternberg is getting ready to make Morocco and Marlene Dietrich gets pregnant, he waits for Dietrich!”

6. USING BLACK AND WHITE FOR THE CRAZY 88 FIGHT WAS A PRACTICAL HOMAGE.

The film shifts from color to black and white when The Bride battles the Yakuza in the House of Blue Leaves, which is a nod toward kung fu movies shown on TV in the 1970s, but it wasn’t just an artistic choice. Those movies were broadcast in black and white to get around the censors, and that’s exactly what Tarantino did, too. To avoid an NC-17 rating, and to avoid cutting out any of the over-the-top violence of the scene, he shot it in black and white.

7. THERE’S NO BLOOD IN THE TRAILER.

As the bastion of general audience innocence, the MPAA won’t allow “blood or open wounds” in green band trailers, so Kill Bill: Vol. 1’s advertisements make it look like The Bride was stabbing a barrel of motor oil with a samurai sword and got some on her jumpsuit. I’m pretty sure the people most excited about fictional bloodshed got the message.

8. THERE’S A REASON HANZO SET UP SHOP IN OKINAWA.

Hattori Hanzo leaving his life as a swordsmith behind and opening up a sushi bar specifically in Okinawa is a bit of an inside joke. Okinawa has a reputation in Japan for not having great sushi (they love pork, though) so it’s suggested in the film that an Okinawan sushi bar is the perfect place for Hanzo to hide from his old life. Not to mention the shared love of perfection, craftsmanship, and knives.

9. THEY USED CONDOMS FOR THE BLOOD EFFECTS.

Just like many Chinese action flicks of the 1970s, Tarantino and company used fake-blood-filled condoms to create the bursts of blood you see on screen. He was also particular about the blood recipe. “You can’t pour this raspberry pancake syrup on a sword and have it look good,” he said.

10. TARANTINO ASKED THURMAN TO WATCH THREE MOVIES TO PREPARE.

Those three movies were: John Woo’s The Killer; Jack Hill's Coffy, starring future Jackie Brown star Pam Grier; and Sergio Leone's timeless western A Fistful of Dollars. That blend also captures the exact balance of the genres Tarantino celebrated in the script. He and Thurman also first crafted The Bride after talking about Coffy on the set of Pulp Fiction.

11. THURMAN GOT SERIOUSLY INJURED DOING A CAR STUNT.

It only came out recently that Tarantino coerced Thurman into driving a rickety blue Karmann Ghia for a pivotal scene that he demanded be done without green screen or CGI. The production knew the car was unsafe and required a stunt professional, but Thurman eventually relented, crashed the car into a tree, and injured her back and knees. Tarantino apologized publicly, and she’s since forgiven him.

12. O-REN WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO GET BEHEADED.

The Bride fatally wounds O-Ren during their fight by slicing off part of her head, but she was originally supposed to cut her head off completely. The problem with that? With her head gone, O-Ren wouldn’t have recognized that The Bride wasn’t lying about having a genuine Hattori Hanzo sword.

13. O-REN IS THE ONLY ONE WHO DIES BY THE SWORD.

The movie places a great deal of importance on The Bride getting the Hattori Hanzo sword to use it in her revenge, but O-Ren is the only one who sees the wrong end of the blade. In the second installment of the movie, The Bride plucks Elle’s eye out and uses the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill.

14. THE BRIDE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO SPARE ANY OF THE CRAZY 88.

Tarantino is meticulous about his scripts, but he’s also wide open to changing things during shoots. That includes the character played by 17-year-old Hu Xiaokui, whose innocent face spared his life, turning him into a witness and figure of The Bride’s (limited) sympathy.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way she’d off a kid with a mug like this,'" Tarantino told TIME Magazine. So, she leaves one alive after the blood bath.

15. BUCK’S CAR IS UNCENSORED ON TV.

Buck the hospital orderly’s infamous “P*ssy Wagon” gets changed to “Party Wagon” in dialogue when the movie plays on network TV (how much of it can even be on TV?), but the networks either didn’t see a need or didn’t want to pay to have the car’s license plate changed digitally. It still reads “PSY WGN.”

8 Haunting Horror Movie Gimmicks

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the 1950s and 1960s, horror movies were making studios huge profits on shoestring budgets. But after the market hit horror overload, directors and studios had to be extra creative to get people to flock to theaters. That's when a flood of different gimmicks were introduced at movie theaters across the country to make a film stand out from the crowd. From hypnotists to life insurance policies and free vomit bags, here's a brief history of some of the most memorable horror movie gimmicks.

1. PSYCHO-RAMA // MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING (1958)

In order to truly become a classic, a horror movie can't just work on the surface; it has to get deep inside of your head. That's what Psycho-Rama tried to achieve when it was first conceived for My World Dies Screaming, later renamed Terror in the Haunted House. Psycho-Rama introduced audiences to subliminal imagery in order to let the scares sink in more than any traditional film could.

Skulls, snakes, ghoulish faces, and the word "Death" would all appear onscreen for a fraction of a second—not long enough for an audience member to consciously notice it, but it was enough to get them uneasy. Obviously Psycho-Rama didn't really catch on with the public or the film industry, but horror directors, like William Friedkin in The Exorcist, have since gone on to use this quick imagery technique to enhance their own movies.

2. FRIGHT INSURANCE // MACABRE (1958)

Director William Castle didn't make a name for himself in the film industry by directing cinematic classics; instead, he relied on shock and schlock to help fill movie theater seats. His movies were full of what audiences craved at the time: horror, gore, terror, suspense, and a heaping helping of camp. But his true genius came from marketing—and the gimmicks he brought to every movie, which have since become legendary among horrorphiles.

His most famous stunt was the life insurance policy he purchased for every member of an audience that paid to see Macabre. This was a real policy backed by Lloyd's of London, so if you died of fright in your seat, your family would receive $1000. Now who wouldn't want to roll the dice on that type of deal? Of course, the policy didn't cover anyone with a preexisting medical condition or an audience member who committed suicide during the screening. Lloyd's had to draw the line somewhere, right?

3. HYPNO-VISTA // HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959)

How do you make your routine horror movie stand out from the crowd? Hypnotize your audience, of course. Thus Hypno-Vista was born. For this gimmick, James Nicholson, president of American International Pictures, suggested that a lecture by a hypnotist, Dr. Emile Franchel, should precede Horrors of the Black Museum, which had a plot focusing on a hypnotizing killer.

For 13 minutes, Dr. Franchel talked to the audience about the science behind hypnotism, before attempting to hypnotize them himself in order to feel more immersed in the story. Nowadays it comes off as overlong and dry, but it was a gimmick that got people into theaters back in 1959. Plus, writer Herman Cohen said that eventually the lecture had to be removed whenever the movie re-aired on TV because it did, in fact, hypnotize some people.

4. NO LATE ADMISSION // PSYCHO (1960)

Though this isn't the most gimmickiest of gimmicks, Alfred Hitchcock's insistence that no audience member be admitted into Psycho once the movie started got a lot of publicity at the time. The Master of Suspense's reasoning is less about drumming up publicity and more about audience satisfaction, though. Because Janet Leigh gets killed so early into the movie, he didn't want people to miss her part and feel misled by the movie's marketing.

This publicity tactic wasn't completely novel, though, as the groundbreaking French horror movie Les Diaboliques (1955) had a similar policy in place. This was at a time when people would simply stroll into movie screenings whenever they wanted, so to see a director—especially one so masterful at the art of publicity—who was adamant about showing up on time was a great way to pique some interest.

5. FRIGHT BREAK // HOMICIDAL (1961)

Another classic William Castle gimmick was the "fright break" he offered to audience members during his 1961 movie, Homicidal. Here, a timer would appear on the screen just as the film was hurtling toward its gruesome climax. Frightened audience members had 45 seconds to leave the theater and still get a full refund on their ticket. There was a catch, though.

Frightened audience members who decided to take the easy way out were shamed into the "coward's corner," which was a yellow cardboard booth supervised by some poor sap theater employee. Then, they were forced to sign a paper reading "I'm a bona-fide coward," before getting their money back. Obviously, at the risk of such humiliation, most people decided to just grit their teeth and experience the horror on the screen instead.

6. THE PUNISHMENT POLL // MR. SARDONICUS (1961)

The most interactive of William Castle's schlocky horror gimmicks put the fate of the film itself into the hands of the audience. Dubbed the "punishment poll," Castle devised a way to let viewers vote on the fate of the characters in the movie Mr. Sardonicus. Upon entering the theater, people were given a card with a picture of a thumb on it that would glow when a special light was placed on it. "Thumbs up" meant that Mr. Sardonicus would be given mercy, and "thumbs down" meant … well, you get the idea.

Apparently audiences never gave ol' Sardonicus the thumbs up, despite Castle's claims that the happier ending was filmed and ready to go. However, no alternative ending has ever surfaced, leaving many to doubt his claims. Chances are, there was only one way out for Mr. Sardonicus.

7. FREE VOMIT BAGS // MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)

Horror fans are mostly masochists at heart. They don't want to be entertained—they want to be terrified. So when the folks behind 1970's Mark of the Devil gave out free vomit bags to the audience due to the film's grotesque nature, how could any self-respecting horror fan not be intrigued? It wasn't just the bags that the studio was advertising; it also claimed the film was rated V, for violence—and maybe some vomit?

8. DUO-VISION // WICKED, WICKED (1973)

Duo-Vision was hyped as the new storytelling technique in cinema—offering two times the terror for the price of one ticket. Of course Duo-Vision is just fancy marketing lingo for split-screen, meaning audiences see a film from two completely different perspectives side-by-side. In the 1973 horror film Wicked, Wicked, that meant watching the movie from the points of view of both the killer and his victims.

Seems like a perfect concept for the horror genre, right? Well, Duo-Vision wasn't just employed during the movie's most horrific moments; it was used for the movie's entire 95-minute runtime. The technique had been used sparingly in other films—most notably in Brian De Palma's much better film Sisters (1973)—but it had never been implemented to this extent. A little bit of Duo-Vision apparently goes a long way, because it fell out of favor soon after.

John Carpenter May Be Planning a They Live Sequel

Universal Studios Home Video
Universal Studios Home Video

John Carpenter is one of the horror genre's biggest names. The man behind the original Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, and The Thing, ​Carpenter has had a long enough career to see many of his most popular creations be remade, including this year's new Halloween film, which features some of the original actors returning to their iconic roles to continue a decades-long story.

But in a recent interview with ​Den of Geek, when Carpenter was questioned about whether his cult classic They Live might he ripe for revisiting, Carpenter teased: "Well, I’m not gonna tell you about that, because it might be closer to reality than you think."

​They Live, which came out in 1988, featured the late professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in his signature role as a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the true state of the world and uncover an alien invasion. Like so many of Carpenter's other films, it has continued to amass a cult following in the decades since its release—especially among those viewers who understood and appreciated its underlying political metaphor.

Today's highly divisive political climate makes it a perfect time for a sequel/reboot/reimagining of They Live, and it sounds as if Carpenter might agree.

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