Here’s a news bite that seemed to slip under the radar last week: Quentin Tarantino released his official Top 20 Spaghetti Westerns of All Time list. We could put it here, but in the interest of saving space (also, precious reading time), let’s just say it starts with Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and ends with Machine Gun Killers by Paolo Bianchini. There are also several films in between. Read ’em all here at Open Culture (via Thompson on Hollywood).
It’s that number one spot I’m most interested in. And so is Tarantino, who not infrequently goes on the record to shower The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with compliments like “the best directed film of all time” or “the greatest achievement in the history of cinema” (technically, that was for the whole Dollars Trilogy).
So let’s twist this from “Tarantino loves The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (and 19 others)” into “here’s how much Tarantino loves The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (sans 19 others, that might be too time-consuming). Because Tarantino’s soft spot for Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco is a planet-sized, career-spanning thing. Whether you realize it or not, every Tarantino film, save one (sorry, Jackie Brown), has at least one scene that was cribbed with love from Tarantino’s favorite Italian-style western.
The opening credits are like the trailer for The Hateful Eight
The first (and only) teaser trailer for Tarantino’s in-development The Hateful Eight ran with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For last year but was never released online in any official capacity. You can watch it, but only in the form of an off-kilter handheld video captured by immoral means by some guy in a multiplex. That would be wrong. And certainly not easily viewable using YouTube and a few common sense search keywords.
But were you to do all those things, you’d notice that first Hateful Eight teaser has clearly lifted a few style cues from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s opening credits. Cowboy-themed fonts images on bright primary color backgrounds (Hateful Eight sticks with red, black and white; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly cycles through those with occasional swatches of green or blue). Violence, too. The Hateful Eight begins and ends by spattering the screen with blood, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly transitions from credit to credit with explosions, gunfire, actual fire, cuts (knife cuts, not film ones) and a drip of something that might be blood but could also be paint.
“Il Tramanto” on horseback is like “Il Tramanto” before the Bride’s wedding
This one doesn’t require much unpacking. “Il Tramonto,” one of Ennio Morricone’s compositions for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s soundtrack, can also be heard in Kill Bill: Volume 2. In Leone’s film, “Il Tramonto” plucks its dreamy-yet-ominous guitar melody while Angel Eyes advances towards the home of Stevens, the unfortunate fellow he’s about to gun down. In Tarantino’s, we hear “Il Tramonto” during a flashback to the Bride’s wedding. She hears the pipings of a bamboo flute and leaves the chapel to investigate, knowing full well it’s Bill just outside the door (how many guys does she know who can ominously pipe a bamboo flute?). Morricone’s music makes her short walk into an equally grim death march.
Check the clip above for Angel Eyes’ evil villain stare and “Il Tramonto’s” last few guitar flourish-y seconds.
Angel Eyes killing Stevens is like Hanz Landa killing Perrier LaPadite (also, Big Kahuna Burger)
“Il Tramonto” ends and Angel Eyes is actually inside the house, and the scene that ensues is so organ-rupturingly tense that Tarantino swiped it for two separate scenes in two separate movies (iconic ones, too). Most recently is Inglorious Basterds, when Hans Landa has lunch with (and then executes) a dairy farmer with Jewish refugees stowed away under the floorboards. Same thing in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, when Angel Eyes and Stevens munch bread and stew and the conversation drips with you know he’s here to murder you, right? until Stevens gets blown away. The two scenes are practically identical- something illustrated quite well by a random YouTuber (thanks, timothian 17!) who spliced them together.
Oh, and Pulp Fiction’s whole “Mmm-mmmm! That is a tasty burger!” scene? Same deal. Killer(s) enter, eat victim’s snacks, make victim noticeably uncomfortable, riddle victim with bullet holes.
Blondie’s water bucket foible is like the Bride’s inability to eat rice
This one’s a little bit of a stretch, but I still think it fits. After Tuco’s tormented Blondie with miles of hot, parched desert (Tuco, hilariously, slurps from his canteen in the shade of a tutu-pink parasol), he finally lets Blondie have a drink… from the water bucket he’s been using to scrub his foot fungus. But not even that, because in like the fourth dick move in a row he kicks it over before Blondie can take a sip. Meanwhile, a century and a half later on an entirely different continent, the Bride- equally beaten to shit- is so desperate for plain white rice that she tosses aside her chopsticks and digs her hands into the bowl. Her sensei Pai Mei pulls the same stunt and empties all that rice on the floor.
The outcome’s not the same, as Blondie continues to wither while the Bride gets a second bowl of rice and the fortitude to put two chopsticks together. But the situation is. Sandy blonde hero struggles to get even basic nourishment, jerkoff guy throws it on the ground before he/she can.
Tuco almost headshotting Blondie is like Bill actually headshotting the Bride
This time, Tarantino pushes the envelope just a bit further than his favorite movie. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Tuco levels a pistol at a mostly-dead Blondie, only for fate to intervene in the form of a runaway wagon full of corpses. In Kill Bill (Vol 1 this time), fate intervenes for the Bride, too. But not soon enough, because Bill still shoots her in the head at point-blank range. Either way, it’s a neat shot.
“There are two kinds of people in this world…” is like “there are two kinds of people in this world…”
The “there are two kinds of people in this world” idiom predates The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by at least a couple of decades (Mark Twain once cracked a “there are two kinds of people” joke, which is a pretty dependable baseline). So it’s possible that Pulp Fiction’s own population split- “there are only two kinds of people in the world: Beatles people and Elvis people” (found in a deleted scene, also found above) is just an idiom for idiom’s sake. Or it could be because the characters of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly beat that particular idiom to death, out in the middle of the desert.
Blondie: You see in this world there’s two kinds of people my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.
Tuco: There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend. Those who have a rope around their neck, and those who have the job of doing the cutting.
Tuco: There are two kinds of spurs, my friend. Those that come in by the door, those that come in by the window.
Tuco: The world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who have friends, and those who are lonely like poor Tuco.
I’d say that the latter option is more likely, but I’d rather not split everything so evenly down the middle.
Angel Eyes torturing Tuco is like Mr. Blonde torturing Officer Nash
There’s one very specific thread linking the torture sequences in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Reservoir Dogs. Beyond the not-as-gory-as-you-first-think quality to the violence (Tarantino obscures the camera while Nash’s ear is lopped off; Angel Eyes’ thug mercifully pulls back before popping Tuco’s eyeballs). Beyond the music being wildly out of place while watching someone get beaten to all hell, because presumably there are other movies out there that blend torture with wacky soundtrack choices. It’s that in both movies, the torturer specifically cues up the frontier orchestra/Stealers Wheel, and asks his intended victim about it.
Angel Eyes: Like a little music with your meal, Tuco?
Mr. Blonde: You ever listen to K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the ‘70s? It’s my personal favorite.
Adds an extra layer of off-putting, doesn’t it? That little acknowledgement that yes, this is about to get very unsettling and yes, Angel Eyes/Mr. Blonde is going to enjoy it way too much.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s Mexican standoff is like Reservoir Dogs’ Mexican standoff
The one caveat here is that the Mexican standoff at the end of Reservoir Dogs isn’t preluded with a good five minutes where the combatants do nothing but make slight position shifts and stare at each other (not that I’m knocking the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ending quickdraw- there’s nothing that hammers in the who the hell am I supposed to shoot at? chaos of a three-way duel better than everyone’s agonized faces beforehand). Oh, and also Reservoir Dogs’ gunfight is actually four-way, but the prone Mr. Orange is kind of tucked out of the way in the above shot. The outcome’s the same in both battles. Anyone overtly evil is gunned down, and anyone overtly good avoids a bullet (or a second one, for Mr. Orange). Tuco and Mr. White, who’re stranded somewhere in the middle? Kind of a toss-up.
Tuco’s “Son of a B-!” is like Stephen’s “Son of a B-”
Here’s an obvious one. The very last spoken sentence in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes from Tuco, who’s been double-crossed and then un-double-crossed by Blondie. Or something. Whatever the official terms are in playground rules, Tuco’s alive and he’s just gained a substantial amount of material wealth. But the stress of all this double-crossing means he ends the film calling Blondie a “dirty son of a b-,” with the soundtrack cutting him off just before things get inappropriate. It’s the same thing with Stephen in Django Unchained, only swap out “material wealth” for “shot in the kneecap,” “dirty” for “uppity,” and “soundtrack” with “exploding death.” Eli Wallach and Samuel L. Jackson even manage to have near-matching facial expressions (although that could be the default way your face looks when screaming YOU SON OF A B-… I should investigate further in a mirror). As far as Tarantino’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly homages go, this one might be the most blatant of all.
Anyone wanna guess which The Good, the Bad and the Ugly tidbit he’ll put in The Hateful Eight? I’m guessing one character will twirl an ironic, tutu-pink umbrella at some point.