10/7/08

Kill Quentin Part III: The Final Chapter -Marriage, Revenge and Lists.

Hello Moonies, and welcome to Tuesday and the final chapter in the Kill Quentin series spotlighting the films that influenced Kill Bill 1 & 2. Today we'll be talking a bit about a movie based off a book by Cornell Woolrich. He was the writer behind the source material for two of my favorite films Rear Window and Cloak & Dagger. In fact, he had to take Hitchcock to court to get his due for Rear Window ( a scenario ironically being repeated with the Hitchcock estate and last years Disturbia). Cloak and Dagger was obviously more loosely based on his work. The original story, The Boy that Cried Murder, probably did not involve Atari cartridges or over the top performances from Dabney Coleman, but that's not what we're here to talk about. It's time to begin the last tale of Tarantino's source material, and to see if the intrepid director lives to fight another day. I give you....

The Bride Wore Black (1968) starring Jeanne Moreau, Micheal Bouquet, Jean-Claude Brialy, Charles Denner, and Claude Rich. Directed by Francois Truffant.

After an attempt at suicide, Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) decides to pack her bags and leave town. At least, she tells everyone she's leaving town, but she gives her friend the slip at the train depot and takes off on her mission. She first tries to bribe her way into the room of a Mr. Bliss, but is thwarted by the nerdy concierge. Bliss and his pal, Rene, wonder who the mysterious woman was as Bliss gets ready for his engagement party by taking a bubble bath. (It becomes quite obvious how very French this movie is going to be from that point on.) The party goes off splendidly, and when Rene spies a woman in white eyeing him he approaches her, but she would rather speak to his friend Mr. Bliss. She takes Bliss out onto a balcony and her scarf flies off her and onto a overhang. She promises him she will answer all his questions if he retrieves it. Naturally, as men are stupid, he climbs over the railing and reaches out, but his chivalry is all for nothing as Julie pushes him off to fall to his death. There is a beautiful piece of cinematography here with her scarf coming free and floating over the French landscape. To me it echoed the bag in the wind shot from American Beauty.

When next we see Julie she is on a plane and has a little book in her hand where she crosses a name off her list. She goes to see the shy Mr. Coral who I thought looked like a young French Harvey Keitel, but Miss Directed informed me was a young Tim Gunn (of Project:Runway). She seduces him at an opera and sets up a date with him. She comes to his place with a bottle of wine and record. (I'm not good with classical music, but the song she played used to be in commercials for the jewelry store Zales.) She then gets him drunk off the wine which she has poisoned. Julie finally gives us a clue as to what she is up to when she has a flash of her wedding day, and we see her husband get shot. She keeps moving down her list one by one picking men off, and her tale of revenge and the details of her wedding day come spilling out little by little as the movie draws to a close.

So what is Tarantino borrowing from this film? Well it's both less and more than the others at the same time. Really the only things lifted were the death on the wedding day and the list of names. There were not really any other shots or artistic influences I picked up on, but that being said picking out the meat of the plot is a sizable chunk to borrow. So while the Kill Bill movies owe less to TBWB, the Bride herself and her tale of woe is definitely beholden an influence.

As for the film itself, I was not a big fan. Of the three movies I've looked at for this series, it was the weakest. While the story itself was quite good, it moved far too slowly. It definitely tried to be a Hitchcock style thriller, but it never really succeeded in making for any kind of real tension. The death scenes were also less than thrilling with the men either being killed in a bloodless manner or their deaths happening off screen. While it was shot well, it just barely was able to keep my attention with the plodding narrative and lackluster suspense, for my dollar give me Thriller or Lady Snowblood any day over TBWB.
I want to take a moment before I close this out and give you the Bug Rating of this film to say a bit about Quentin. I think anyone who's seen these films, or read these posts, would be hard pressed to deny that Tarantino has utilised source material for his films, but is that really such a bad thing? After all, art builds on art. You can't have rock without blues. You can't have impressionist painters without those of the Renaissance. You can't have The Lord of the Rings without the Odyssey. So to slam a filmmaker for doing the same seems silly. What Quentin does with his films is throw all these influences (and probably a 1000 more than I wouldn't even pretend to know) into a gumbo of sequences with his own special blend of Tarantino spices.


Without Quentin I'm sure that I would have eventually come across these films because they're the kind of movies I love, but thanks to Quentin they've been pointed out. Filmmakers like Quentin, Eli Roth (although I am no big Roth fan), and Rob Zombie celebrate the majesty in the lost cult classics. They bring a new life to them, and that gives these films a gateway to still be vital far into the future. Kill Quentin? Nah, I don't think so. I want to see what he has up his sleeve next.


Bug Rating





I want to give a thanks to everyone who read the Kill Quentin series. This was my first ongoing series and I hope you liked it. I also wanted to throw out a little reminder that I'm still looking for several more entries for the Horror Top 5's. There's only 12 more days until the Lightning Bug's Halloween Top 13 starts, and I would love to have a top 5 list for each day so get them lists in, folks!

4 comments:

  1. "The Boy Who Cried Murder" (also published as "Fire Escape") was made into a superb 1949 thriller called The Window, which follows the story very closely. In the story, a boy who sleeps on the fire escape outside his parent's apartment to escape the heat witnesses a couple in another apartment killing and disposing of the body, but because his parents never believe his wild stories, they don't believe him now and lock him up in his room--and the killers know where he is. It's a superb piece of work.

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  2. Sounds insteresting Ryan. I haven't ever seen the film or read that story, but I will be looking it up.

    I read "It Had to Be Murder", the story Rear Window was based off of a couple of years back when I was going through a classic crime reading frenzy. Good stuff there as well.

    Thanks for stopping by the LBL and dropping the knowledge.

    I checked out your blog, The Blog of the Realm, and there's lots of interesting stuff there folks should check out.

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  3. Nice post and great series overall. It's always interesting to see what inspired/influenced today's filmmakers and I agree that it's no different than one painter or composer sparking the creativity of another.

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  4. Glad you liked my contribution. I enjoyed the post comparing BWB with Quentin. I saw the movie long before I read the book, and I have to say my opinion of it went down after I read the book. I'm a rare Woolrich fan who thinks that The Bride Wore Black is one of his weaker books, but I still think he nails the despair harder than Traffaut does, and his ending is much much more interesting (even if it doesn't make a helluva lot of sense, but that's typical of Woolrich).

    Sad to say, The Window has not made it onto DVD as of yet. I got to see it at a Woolrich double feature in Hollywood, where it was paired with Deadline at Dawn, which was pretty poor. However, the audience was floored with The Window and gasped and screamed at all the right spots. It was a thrill to see a 1949 suspense film grab people that way.

    Maybe one day we'll get the DVD; it's a terrific film.

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