Kill Bill: Volume 1
R2 - Japan - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (23rd January 2005).
The Film

Whoa, this movie is so cool. All I can say is I can’t wait for part 2 to come out on DVD so I can watch that one. Where do I start? The movie is basically The Bride, left for dead, beginning to take revenge on the people that took part in almost killing her. Quentin Tarentino‘s movie then takes a life of its own as the limbs fall off and the blood flies.
The action is basically what this movie is all about. The first thing you see is a fight, the last thing you see is a fight (more or less), and in between there are many other fights. The longest scene in the movie is a fight. The story is about revenge, and so, fighting is what happens. Well, when you have Yuen Woo-Ping working on your movie, you better go and use him (he’s done ‘Magnificent Butcher’ and ‘Dreadnaught’, and ‘In the Line of Duty 4’ and ‘Tiger Cage 2’, all of which have some incredible fight sequences).
The style is just like what you’d expect from Mr. Tarentino. Some pretty nifty dialogue, although you have to go past the beginning for that. The situations and characters are just what you’d think his mind can come up with. There are a lot of zooms and things, just like the old Shaw Brothers movie used to have. There’s a pretty nifty anime sequence that’s really nice. All the fights are edited very well. It’s a nice blend of style and excitement. I mean, that last fight with all the snow is really nice to watch.
I’m sure every scene in the movie is some kind of reference to another movie Mr. Tarentino has seen some time in his life. I, on the other hand, only saw a few references. The first obvious reference is the big ‘ShawScope’ opening. The next most obvious one is that some of the music/sound is definitely inspired by various old kung fu movies. That sound you hear when Uma Thurman sees the people and remembers who they are, it’s from a ton of old movies. The next most obvious reference (chronologically, I mean) is the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad: how about the Deadly Venoms from those movies. Next up, the yellow rider suit from ‘Game of Death’. The blood splattering comes from any number of Japanese samurai movies (that, along with the strong woman bent on revenge, makes ‘Lady Snowblood’ a big reference/influence). Some of the style of the fights come from the same. Mr. Tarentino even references ‘Pulp Fiction’! Then you get into story elements, like the revenge story. That’s in just about every single kung fu movie every made. If I wanted to stretch it a big, I could say that the metal ball Gogo Yubari swings around is a weird variation on the flying guillotine weapon, or the weapon from ‘Iron Fisted Monk’, or, well, the ‘Flying Guillotine’ movies. Although, those ideas go down the drain because I’ve read that the Gogo Yubari character is inspired by a manga series called ‘Sukeban Deka’. That fight scene shot all in blue reminds me a lot of a scene from ‘Goodbye Mr. Cool’, although I know I’m stretching with that one because the scene in that movie was with a red/orange background. (Actually, in one of the trailers, there’s a training sequence all in silhouette, with a bright orange background, which seems to me like a pretty direct reference to ‘The Assassin’ (unless I remember things strangely).
Sonny Chiba (‘The Storm Riders’, ‘The Bodyguard’) and Gordon Liu (‘The 36th Chamber of Shaolin’, ‘8 Diagram Pole Fighter’, ‘Legendary Weapons of China’) have parts in the movie. These guys are pros. They’ve been doing movies for longer than I’ve been alive so I can’t say anything else. Mr. Liu doesn’t really do anything except fight. Mr. Chiba has a bit more to say and handles himself very sell. Of the other Japanese actors, I readily remembered Jun Kunimura, who’s is in Takashi Miike‘s ‘Audition’, and Chiaki Kuriyama (who plays Gogo Yubari) is one of the kids in Kinji Fukasaku‘s ‘Battle Royale’. (‘Kill Bill’, by the way, is dedicated to Mr. Fukasaku, at least in the Japanese print of the movie) There are obviously more, but I’ll stop here (if you look hard enough you can find some actors in ‘Azumi’, ‘Taboo’ (‘Gohatto’), ‘Ju-On’ (movie), ‘Suicide Circle’ and many others). Mrs. Thurman does a good job fighting and acting. I wouldn’t want to cross her. Lucy Liu, who’s the major bad girl in the movie, is also very fun. Of all the characters, I want to know more about her. I mean, all the characters are great, and all the actors really bring the characters to life. You remember these people after the movie’s over.
The music. Well, the music deserves its own paragraph. Oh, man, does it ever rock! My favorite bit is the music in the first part of the fight between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu. It’s just awesome. (Of course, my favorite bit of music is nowhere to be found on the soundtrack!) Such an incredible mix. The music, editing and action are in such perfect combination. I have no idea where, Mr. Tarentino gets this music. No other director can choose such perfect music for the scene (although Cameron Crowe does that perfectly also).
Okay, this is the Japanese cut, and apparently, this set contains the only longer cut of the movie on DVD now. What’s more? It’s only about a minute and 9 seconds more. The extra time is devoted to violence. Some in the anime sequence, some in the House of Leaves fight. Just more blood, basically.

Video

2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Even though the DVD has more extras than the R1 version, the picture is still awesome. There’s no real problem I saw, with the exception of seeing a little bit of grain a few times. Other than that, the picture is stellar. The colours are all bright and vivid and the contrast is perfect. No matter what colours are on screen, they all pop out perfectly. It’s like your watching an art deco designer gone mental, but it’s all rendered without a flaw. No specks, scratches, what-have-you. Just a great picture.

Audio

This is available in DTS and the track rocks. (You can also have English or Japanese DD5.1.) The rear speakers are used for a few surrounds, a few bits of ambience, but mostly for score. I’m not complaining, though. The score really rocks. The dialogue is always crystal clear, as are all the other sounds in the movie. Every sound comes through like it was intended and all the elements are balanced perfectly. I mean, the music really rocks.

Extras

Jump to a Fight, here you can see all of the fights. The extras jump directly into the movie’s scenes, so you can hear these in DTS if you want to. You can also choose to watch the final part of the anime sequence. Watching them again is great. They don’t really add anything to the movie, but if you don’t want to hear ‘Wiggle your big toe,’ over and over, well, you don’t have to. There are 6 scenes, and you can also watch the anime sequence. You have ‘The Bride Vs. Vernita Green’ (2:20), ‘The Bride Vs. The House of Leaves, part 1’ (1:47), which is just the fight with Miss Ishii’s personal bodyguards, ‘The Bride Vs. Gogo Yubari’ (3:15), ‘The Bride Vs. The House of Leaves, part 2’ (6:00), which is the insane fight sequence with the 88 goons, ‘The Bride Vs. The House of Leaves, part 3’ (0:37), small bit between The Bride and Johnnie Mo, ‘The Bride Vs. O-Ren Ishii’ (6:01) and finally the anime sequence (0:23). (Oh yeah, all the titles in the extras are my own doing because they’re all in Japanese.)

Anime Making-of featurette, this is roughly 23 minutes long. It’s all in Japanese. The people who worked on the anime sequence talk about doing the sequence. You see some design drawings, some storyboards and some final product. It’s a good extra but I wish there were subtitles.

Behind-the-Scenes footage, this is just 7 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s really great. Most of it is helped along with the wonderful music from the movie, but some of the time is spent with Mr. Tarentino giving out directions. You also see the final product of the scene they were shooting. You get to see some random shots of Mrs. Liu walking, and many of the fight sequences being shot. Needless to say, it’s way too short.

Storyboard Comparison of the Anime Sequence, this is some 8 minutes long. It’s very good and the storyboards are pretty detailed. What’s in the movie is pretty much what was planned, although it’s kind of hard to tell because of the way it it’s shown. Very good, though.

Biographies, completely in Japanese serves me rather little purpose, but, if you can read Japanese, then you’ll be able to see some wonderful information. If I wrote a time, it means there’s an interview that you can watch. On the crew side, you have writer/director/executive soundtrack producer Quentin Tarentino (2:48, he also has a filmography), producer/executive soundtrack producer Lawrence Bender (2:01), composer Robert Richardson, set decorator Yoshihito Akatsuka, costume designer Kumiko Ogawa, martial arts consultant Yuen Woo-Ping and KNB effects. (You guys have no idea how hard it was to find the English names of the Japanese people, considering all the information was in Japanese, and I don’t read the language.) As for the cast, Uma Thurman (3:37, also has a filmography), Lucy Liu (2:03, with filmography), Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah (with filmography), David Carradine, Sonny Chiba (2:37, and also a filmography), Julie Dreyfus (0:53 in Japanese, no less), Chiaki Kuriyama (0:34, at the premiere, I think) and Gordon Liu (with a filmography). All the filmogaphies are full (I think) unless you have someone like Sonny Chiba, who’s been in about 3045 movies, in which case it’s a selected filmography. All the interviews are nice but are short and offer nothing more than a few general thoughts on characters, the movie, what-have-you. Of course, the one I wanted to hear the most, Mr. Chiba’s, is all in Japanese, with no English subtitles.

Galleries, this extra is just two galleries. One is a bunch of photographs taken on set and during filming. They were obviously used for promo stuff. Some picture are obviously posed and they look kind of silly, but others look ‘not-so-posed’ The other gallery is drawings. A bunch of conceptual drawings (include a naked Bride for some reason), some anime storyboards and character designs are found in here. Good set of pictures, but a bit small for my liking.

Theatrical trailers, you have, I think, the bootleg ‘Kill Bill Vol.1’ trailer (2:27), I’m sure the real ‘Kill Bill Vol.1’ trailer (1:43) and the ‘Kill Bill Vol.2’ teaser (0:52). Whatever their legal status, all three of them have scenes that are not in the movie. All of them are great. Nothing else to say.

TV Spots, you have 5 TV spots. The second is about a minute and a half long, the rest are about half a minute long. All of them have scenes that aren’t in the movie and all of them are very good (although the 2 parts of that sentence aren’t related).

Packaging

This DVD is housed in an elegant deluxe box, that is limited to 30,000 sets, and includes the following exclusive collectibles, a bearbrick figurine (imagine The Bride, but as a bear, with some blood splashed on it), a mini replica sword, a T-shirt and a 32-page booklet (which, unfortunately, is all in Japanese). Don’t get excited about the sword, it’s only 1/10th scale, so it’s just about 10 cm long and is in plastic, not metal. It couldn’t even be used a letter opener. The figuring is about the same size. The shirt is the same Okinawa shirt Uma Thurman wears in the movie (well, not the same shirt, but one like it).

Overall

The movie is just so much fun. The fights are very fun and rather exciting. All the elements come together to make one hell of a ride. I mean, not many movies are worth watching just for the music. This is one of them, and the rest of the movie is very good also. It was one hell of a hiatus - Quentin Tarentino took 6 years between films - but it was certainly worth the wait.
Okay, so I was lucky enough to get my insane hands on the region 2 Japanese super edition of the movie. It comes in a kind of big box, with a see-through slipcover sliding over a yellow box. What makes the movie so special is the packaging. The packaging is so cool, I had to give the DVD the high mark. The only downside is that you can’t have English subtitles just for the Japanese parts; either all the movie or none of the movie. I don’t care about that. Toggling the subtitle option isn’t very hard.

The Film: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A+

 


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