Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Music Highlights-5,6,7,8's Perform 'I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield' & 'I'm Blue'
Theatrical Trailer-Bootleg Trailer
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (69:59)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Quentin Tarantino|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Vivica A. Fox
Chia Hui Liu
Lily Chou Chou
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I can only recall a couple of defining moments that moulded me as a movie-goer, the kind of experiences where I've left the cinema feeling like a changed man. One such movie experience was seeing Harvey Keitel and William Hurt in Smoke, a superb film that changed my perception of cinema. Another such moment occurred after travelling to my nearest capital city to see an arthouse film that I felt was unlikely to receive distribution to regional areas where I live. That film was Pulp Fiction, and all I knew about it at the time was that it was directed by that guy that did Reservoir Dogs (a rental favourite of mine back then) and it had enjoyed some critical acclaim overseas. After leaving that cinema complex in George Street, Sydney the only subject I could talk about to my friends for weeks was that film. Jackie Brown followed years later, and the wait between films has been even longer this time around which made Kill Bill a highly anticipated film for me personally. So, I guess to say that I highly enjoy Quentin Tarantino's work as a filmmaker would make a nice introduction to this review.
In Kill Bill, Uma Thurman is Black Mamba (also known as The Bride), a member of an elite hit team called The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad which operates under the leadership of the enigmatic and cruel Bill (David Carradine). When she decides to quit the assassination game and settle into a family life, her colleagues take it upon themselves to crash her wedding and annihilate all in attendance, including the bride and her unborn baby. But in their spree of bloody murder the squad made one fatal mistake by allowing Black Mamba to survive her injuries. Upon waking from her four year coma and realising there is no baby at her side, The Bride swears bloody revenge, drawing up a list of those she intends to eliminate and the order in which they will fall. The squad of her former workmates consists of ruthless members O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Budd (Michael Madsen) and Bill himself.
Volume 1 of Kill Bill follows the first two hits on The Bride's list, her fateful wedding day and the childhood torment of her first target O-Ren Ishii. In true Tarantino style the story is disjointed and begins with her second hit, Vernita Green. The plot then flows through her tragic and brutal wedding ceremony and the recovery from her injuries into attaining her weapon and seeking her first victim. During her absence there have been a lot of changes to the team - O-Ren has become the Yakuza boss of Tokyo (an interesting story in itself) while Vernita Green has started a family and retired to suburban Los Angeles. The road ahead for The Bride isn't easy, but she'll do all she can to make them pay with their blood!
If you are wondering how the lead character manages to make her way through the entire film without using her real first name, the answer is simple. On the occasions that her name is uttered, the word is beeped out. I'm not saying that our censors have pulled a fast one on us, in fact it is the Director who has chosen for the name to not be heard. Do not dismay, for several clues are offered throughout the film hinting towards the answer. In fact, any viewer familiar with British children's literature should be able to work it out. The character "The Bride" is interestingly credited as a creation of Q & U, obviously a reference to Quentin and Uma, because the premise for Kill Bill was actually conceived on the set of Pulp Fiction many years ago.
The cast of strong, recognisable leads is backed up by an excellent range of support actors, some of which make the film most worthwhile for me. The irrepressible Sonny Chiba reprises his role as Hattori Hanzo, the character that gained him great fame as part of the Japanese series Shadow Warriors. Chiba's excellent performance ranges from riotously comedic to deeply emotional and highlights him as a professional and experienced talent. Chiaki Kuriyama - whose previous work includes the classic Battle Royale - garbs herself in a school uniform once again as Gogo, one of O-Ren's henchmen, giving her character that same psychotic edge that we know and love. Julie Dreyfus is similarly stunning as Sophie Fatale, part lawyer and part bodyguard - another of O-Ren's posse and equally deadly.
Production I.G. contributed a fantastic animated sequence to the film, which outlines the origin of O-Ren Ishii. The sequence is relatively short, but acts as a superb break in the action.
Being a pastiche of 70s-style revenge and humour means that some more cynical viewers may need to leave their picky temperaments at the door. This is an action film, so don't question inconsequential things like: How did she get that samurai sword onto the plane? and How did he jump onto that balcony? Just enjoy it, and live with it. After all, it's good fun.
In essence, Kill Bill is Tarantino's tribute to the classic yakuza and samurai films of the 70s, with fragments from all kinds of cinema, including anime, spaghetti westerns and European suspense. The accompanying Making Of discusses such influences as Lady Snowblood, a superb samurai film with a female lead character which was unique in its time. Quentin has also commented that the assassination squad in Kill Bill is a direct reference to Fox Force Five, a part of the history of Uma Thurman's character in Pulp Fiction. The broad range of influences and styles that Tarantino has brought to this film results in a richly crafted and highly rewarding cinematic experience like no other.
My review of Kill Bill Volume 2 can be found here.
The transfer of this film to DVD is nothing short of breathtaking. In fact, the condition of the source print is far superior to the one that was shown at my local cinema, which was ordinary to say the least. The video transfer itself has been slightly overmatted at 2.40:1, framing it relatively closely to its intended theatrical aspect ratio.
This is the sharpest, most superb video transfer I have seen of late. The film-like clarity and visible depth of this picture is just outstanding and shows very little grain or imperfection. Shadow detail and overall black levels appeared to be similarly impressive and exhibited great levels of detail. Some white haloing can be seen on bright items such as the windows inside the chapel at 17:56 and also on a white robe at 51: 46 and although they are highly noticeable these only occur in key scenes which leads me to believe that these are the director's intention. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.
Most colours appeared to retain a good bold quality with no evidence of bleeding or oversaturation. Skin tones took on a slightly orange tint at times, but managed to remain consistent and true for the most part.
The transfer has been encoded at a variable bitrate at an average of 6.9Mb/s. MPEG compression artefacts such as blocking and grain were nowhere to be found in the transfer. A small number of the most minor hints of aliasing can be found here and there, but are not at all problematic. I noted a number of very small positive and negative film artefacts which were probably hair and dirt, but these were similarly difficult to notice and had I not been searching for them I doubt that I would have seen them. As a whole it would be very hard to fault this transfer as far as artefacting is concerned.
Three English subtitle streams are included with the feature. The first two are standard English and English for the Hard of Hearing, both of which are presented with a white font and partial black border. The font is much too small for my liking and I imagine that those who view this film on smaller displays could find this particularly annoying. I also found the font quite hard to read on white backgrounds, such as at 10:30. I viewed a majority of the film while alternating between these streams and found that both of the streams translate the English dialogue well but omit quite a bit of profanity in the process. The third subtitle stream is activated by default and translates only the Japanese dialogue that is spoken at several points during the film. This font is just as small as the other two, but is a yellow font instead of white and consequently much easier to read. On another note, the subtitle streams are placed high up in the actual frame rather than down in the black bar of the transfer, which came across to me as a bit odd considering the size and style of font on this title.
A Japanese joke is told at 66:25, but is strangely not translated in any of the three subtitle streams- probably because of its vulgarity. I'm not completely certain, but I have a feeling this portion of dialogue was English subtitled on the theatrical print I saw last year. Some people I have approached disagree, citing that it would be a very Tarantino thing to do, including an untranslated Japanese joke. The fact remains that there is a portion of Japanese dialogue present and it is most certainly not translated, for whatever reason.
This disc is dual layered, however I was unable to locate any layer transitional pause during playback of the film. Out of curiosity I analysed the disc and found that the layer transition is actually very cleverly placed at 69:59 and in no way disruptive.
There are two soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. The default soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448Kb/s and a dts option is included which is encoded at a noticeably beefier 768Kb/s. On this occasion I listened to the dts option in its entirety and periodically sampled the Dolby Digital alternative.
The English dialogue was always easy to understand and didn't present any enunciation issues at all. The ADR work on the film itself is seamless and natural without any hiccups to be concerned about. Audio sync is similarly accurate and always spot-on.
While I do recall a number of moments that seemed unnaturally silent in the rear channels, as a whole the use of the surround channels is quite rich and enveloping. Subtle effects such as the soft breathing in the film's introduction to loud thunder claps and breaking objects are used effectively in the surround channels, however gunfire is the most common source of rear activity. I was also impressed by the buzzing of a fly that circles around the room at 18:30. Some great directional panning can also be heard at 77:50 as the Crazy 88 arrive on motorcycles and fill the room with roaring engines from all angles. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.
Obviously the dts track was my favourite of the two soundtracks here, offering a decidedly clearer and more realistic rendition of the mix. The Dolby Digital option appears to be mastered at the same level, however it just doesn't manage to attain the same degree of depth as the dts track, particularly during gunfire and the like.
No Tarantino film would be complete without a memorable soundtrack score, and he certainly doesn't disappoint in this film. The soundtrack features artists such as Nancy Sinatra, Bernard Herrmann and Isaac Hayes, all set beautifully and memorably to appropriate scenes and emotional moments in the film. There are also a number of pieces of original music included that were composed specifically for the project by The RZA, which makes this the first time that original compositions have been used in a Tarantino film. Japanese surf-rock band the 5, 6, 7, 8's perform several songs during the film, which succeeds in bringing across a raw, live feel.
The subwoofer is well used from the outset of the film to accentuate gunshots and an array of other bottom heavy effects. Of particular note is the intense sound of the plane flying overhead at 62:50, which really shakes your ceiling.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is a fair handful of extras for a single disc, and should keep us sated until Volume Two reaches the cinemas.
This Making Of walks us through each of the main characters, touching on how the roles were filled and what motivation is behind each character. The three female leads each discuss how they were approached by Quentin, and the man himself talks about what he intended to achieve with each of their roles. Of particular interest for me were the excerpts from Sonny Chiba's 1970's television series Shadow Warriors which marks the origin of the Hattori Hanzo character. Among many other interviews in this featurette is an appearance by The RZA who discusses his love for samurai films and the respect he and Quentin share for one another's work. While touching on the music of the film, Quentin explains how he discovered the 5, 6, 7, 8's and what prompted him to use the band in his film.
Although it is relatively short, this featurette covers a lot of bases in a short time frame and manages to bring across quite a bit of interesting information. The featurette is presented in 1.33:1 while excerpts from the film are shown in various aspect ratios, none of which are 16x9 enhanced. The audio is simply a Dolby Digital 2.0 stream encoded at 192Kb/s.
We are treated to two uninterrupted performances from Japanese all-girl surf-rock band the 5, 6, 7, 8's. These are complete performances of the songs I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield and I'm Blue which can be heard during the House Of Blue Leaves scene. These are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, unfortunately without 16x9 enhancement. The accompanying audio is a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) track and an English subtitle stream is activated by default. Trust me, you'll need the subtitles!
Two trailers for Kill Bill Vol. 1 are included here, each presented with good video quality but unfortunately without 16x9 enhancement.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Region 4 misses out on:
Region 2 Japan misses out on:
I must say that I prefer the Japanese cut of the film, and there is no doubt in my mind that it stands as a superior version. Although the Japanese disc misses out on the making of featurette, they still get some great interviews in the biographies section.
The Japanese main menu introduction is very different to ours and and is surprisingly not based around the film's anime. I've also read reviews that rate the Japanese Region 2 NTSC video quality as being superior to that of the PAL Region 2 UK, but after watching my Region 4 many times now I found the Japanese NTSC transfer to be a little lacking in the sharpness department, but overall very satisfying. It's worth noting that the Japanese layer change (placed at the beginning of the scene upstairs in Hattori Hanzo's place) is just as unobtrusive as the Region 4 layer transition.
The Region 2 Japanese release includes only one English subtitle stream that transcribes both the English and Japanese dialogue - so English speaking viewers need to watch the whole film with subtitles or simply activate the stream on the fly when needed. With so few actual lines of foreign dialogue I am confident that very soon I'll be able to view the film with no subtitles at all.
So, not only does the Region 2 Japanese disc contain a superior and more cohesive cut of the film, it also boasts some excellent additional features that aren't present in Region 4 - making it my disc of choice for Volume 1.
The video transfer is excellent.
The audio transfer is quite immersive and exciting.
The extras are few, but they are worthwhile viewing.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-525, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|