Bill, Volume 1
(2004) - Miramax (Buena Vista)
by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt, editors of The
Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B/D
Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B/A
Specs and Features
111 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced,
single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), keep case
packaging, The Making of Kill Bill,
Volume 1 featurette, film footage of the 5, 6, 7, 8's
performing I Walk Like Jane Mansfield
and I'm Blue, 6 Tarantino
trailers (including Reservoir Dogs,
Pulp Fiction, Jackie
Brown, Kill Bill, Vol. 1
teaser, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 "bootleg"
trailer and Kill Bill, Vol. 2
teaser), animated film-themed menus with music, scene access (19
chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS 5.1) and French (DD
5.1), subtitles: English, English (for the hearing impaired),
Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Traditional Chinese, Closed
is a dish best served cold." - Old Klingon Proverb
The long-awaited "fourth" film from Quentin Tarantino is
an interesting one. We put fourth in quotes because, as most of you
know, it's really half of a film. As legend goes, QT's original cut
was so long (but so very good) that Harvey Weinstein told QT to not
cut a single shot and just break the film in half and release it in
two parts. So he did exactly that, and now we have twice the
stylized bloodletting. It was a matter of convenience and had
nothing to do with marketing cough-bullshit-cough. The question then
is, is the film so good that it really needed to be two films, or is
it just cinematic masturbation? To tell you the truth, it's a little
bit of both.
You see, Kill Bill, Volume 1
is the ultimate Grindhouse film, except it's a Grindhouse film put
through the grinder. It's got exploitation and it's got cat fights
and it's got Japanese sword fighting and Dutch angles and geysers of
blood and pop cultural references and unblinking violence and music
stings pulled from some of the greatest B and Z-grade films ever
made. In its simplest form, it's a handful of bloody popcorn...
every last bit of which is delicious. This is the greatest "best
of" party videotape ever made on the subject of exploitation.
About the only thing it's missing is a sequence in a prison with
butch female wardens and violent lesbian bunkmates. But maybe that's
in Volume 2.
All of that aside, Kill Bill, Volume 1
is not a perfect film. It's not even a great one. Sure, all of it is
"good" and "fun" and "interesting" and
"rousing," but when it's all said and done, anyone who
loves the flicks that Tarantino's cribbing from will have already
seen and heard all of this before, just with different actors and
dialogue. Kill Bill is good,
and all together neat, but it's not "cinema". It's just a
really fun movie... and it seems that's really all QT intended it to
be. He's clearly having fun making a movie out of the best bits and
pieces from his own favorite movies - 70s exploitation films,
samurai epics, spaghetti westerns and the like. God bless him for
it, because he completely succeeds in the effort.
Kill Bill, Volume 1 concerns
itself with a woman we only know as The Bride, played wonderfully by
Uma Thurman. On her wedding day, she and everyone at her wedding
party are slaughtered. As she lays dying, she looks up and stares at
someone who calmly wipes the blood off her bruised and beaten face
with a handkerchief emblazoned with the name "Bill." She
tells him she is pregnant - with his baby - and he shoots her in the
Many years later, The Bride is lingering in a coma. She's been
locked away inside her own mind and unwittingly used as a comatose
prostitute for a foul-looking orderly. As she's about to be abused
again, she suddenly comes out of the coma, kills everyone in the
room and sets upon her new mission in life - revenge against Bill
and his dastardly crew of assassins. Things are a little bit
complicated, however. You see... The Bride at one point was part of
that crew. It seems that when she tried to quit and start a new
life, Bill and the gang didn't take too kindly to that and decided
to cancel her plans. In so doing, they only succeeded in pissing her
off. Now, she wants payback for what they took from her. She's made
a "kill" list and she's crossing the assassins' names off
it one by one. And she won't rest until she gets to the end. Until
she kills Bill.
The film is almost ungradeable in terms of review, because it's
really just a silly exploitation film. Still, it looks great and
moves at a wonderful pace. The acting is better here than in most
the films it homages. The dialogue is just as you'd expect from
Tarantino and the action is top notch. You should know right off the
bat that if you don't dig exploitation cinema, you won't dig this.
Don't come in thinking it's Pulp Fiction,
Part 2 or anything like that. This film is bloody,
ultra-violent junk... but it wears that badge with pride.
The video quality on this disc, in anamorphic-enhanced widescreen,
is quite good. It's not grade-A material, but it's not meant to be.
The film has a gritty, grainy look that's intended as part of the
style. As a result, detail is occasionally a little lacking. But the
contrast is excellent and the colors are lush and vibrant. The
surround audio, presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS, is quite
good. Most of the time, the rear channels are used for atmospheric
fill and to envelope you with the pulsing, grinding soundtrack
music. But they do kick in a little more during the action scenes -
you'll hear the blood splattering all around. For our money, the DTS
definitely gets the edge in terms of sounding fuller, smoother and
more natural, which particularly benefits the soundtrack. The Dolby
Digital mix still sounds good though, and has a slightly more
directional quality some might prefer. Either way, both tracks
support the visuals well.
In terms of extras, don't expect much and you won't get much. It
probably goes without saying that Tarantino and Miramax plan a far
more elaborate collector's edition of both Kill
Bill, Volumes 1 & 2 once the second film (due on
April 16th) has played itself out in theaters. Think of this disc as
Kill "light" - a
basically movie-only taste to sharpen your steel and bloody your
clothes enough to be ready for Volume 2.
What you do get here includes a 20-minute featurette on the making
of the film, performance footage (from the film) of the 5, 6, 7, 8's
raging through two songs, and trailers for all of Tarantino's other
films, as well as the teaser and "bootleg" trailers for
this film and the teaser for the sequel. The featurette isn't fluffy
exactly, but it's isn't very substantial either. QT, Uma and other
cast and crew members talk about the origins of the film, its
cinematic influences and references, and how the production went.
Like we said, Kill "light".
By the way, the extras are all non-anamorphic, which is just lame
and unnecessary, "light" or not. The menus, however, are
anamorphic and they're damn cool.
Kill Bill, Volume 1 on DVD
(this version at least) will never win any Bitsy
Awards, but you can't ignore it either. If you're as into
genre flicks as we are, you pretty much have to have it in your
collection. Hell... any modern film that references Lady
Snowblood is a do-er in our book. The bottom line is,
anyone who discounts this film offhand is an idiot, and anyone who
says it's the greatest film they've ever seen is equally an idiot.
Kill Bill simply is what it is
- a good ol' fashioned drive-in movie that you get to watch in your
own home. If you're a fan, our advice is to buy it on sale and do
just that. Yeah, you'll have to shell out again in a year for a
better version, but so what? If you're a fan, that's easy cash on
the barrel head. And if you're not a fan, you'd probably never buy
Kill Bill on disc anyway. So
how's that for a recommendation?