'Inglourious Basterds': Playing spot the Tarantino reference

uwu_logoTake your seats, class: Senior writer Chris Nashawaty continues his in-depth weeklong tutorial on all things Quentin Tarantino for the latest installment of EW University. Check out our gallery of 20 Tarantino movie and movie poster faves , our Quentin Tarantino trivia quiz, and our take on the original 1978 Inglorious Bastards.

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: Playing spot the reference
Any time you sit down to watch a movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, you’re not just watching that movie, but all of the movies he’s ever seen. Let’s face it, the guy has never been shy or apologetic about his movie-love. You could say that when Tarantino name-checks some arcane chop socky movie or slyly alludes to a Eurotrash cheapie, he’s giving a shout-out to the cognascenti — his fellow movie geeks — in the audience. In other words, when you watch a movie by QT, you’re actually watching two movies at the same time: the one onscreen and the one between the lines.

Some may find this pretentious and annoying. Personally, I dig it. I always walk out of a Tarantino flick or leave an interview with Tarantino with another dozen films to add to my Netflix queue. And those movies will lead me to other, even more obscure movies. It’s like the gift that keeps giving.

For example, the names of the characters in Reservoir Dogs (Mr. White, Mr. Orange, etc.) are a tip of the hat to 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 123, where Robert Shaw and his band of subway thieves used the same monickers. In Kill Bill, Daryl Hannah’s assassin character wears an eye patch and whistles a theme song when she goes to kill Uma Thurman in the hospital — the eye patch is a nod to Christina Lindberg in 1974’s Swedish revenge film They Call Her One Eye (a.k.a. Thriller: A Cruel Picture), and the theme is Bernard Herrmann’s music from 1968’s British chiller Twisted Nerve. Even the title of Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is an homage to one particular character’s name in the wonderful 1973 Boston-set crime movie The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

The good news (as far as I’m concerned) is that Tarantino is still playing his happy little film-nerd reference games in his latest film, Inglourious Basterds. Here are a few of the ones we picked up on…

*Of course, right off the bat is the title, which is based on the 1978 Enzo G. Castellari WWII movie that we discussed yesterday

*Brad Pitt’s Nazi-hunting lieutenant character is named Aldo Raine — a combination of one of Tarantino’s favorite actors Aldo Ray (The Green Berets) and Maj. Charles Rain, the name of the character William Devane plays in the brutal 1977 Vietnam-vet revenge movie Rolling Thunder. Extra credit: Rolling Thunder was also the name of Tarantino’s movie label that specialized in re-releasing his personal movie favorites like 1975’s Switchblade Sisters.

*As usual, Tarantino’s film is divided into chapters. The first is titled “Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France.” Of course, this is an homage to Italian directing god Sergio Leone’s epic westerns, most obviously 1968’s Once Upon a Time in the West. And if it wasn’t clear enough, Tarantino borrows several music cues from Leone’s go-to composer Ennio Morricone for the Basterds sountrack.

*As we noted earlier with the name Jackie Brown, Tarantino likes to have fun with his characters’ names. And in Basterds, he’s up to his usual tricks. For example, the actor Til Schweiger plays a German sergeant who defects over to Pitt’s team of Nazi-hunting Jewish GIs. His name is Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, which is also the name of a Mexican action and exploitation star from the ’70s (Tintorera). And then there is Mike Myers’ smallish role as a British general named Ed Fenech, which is a nice little riff on the name of ’70s Italian movie starlet/sex symbol Edwige Fenech, who starred in some of the best giallo thrillers of the era. 

*Eli Roth, the writer and director of the Hostel movies, plays one of Tarantino’s Basterds. The character is called ‘The Bear Jew’ and he beats Nazis’ skulls in with a baseball bat — like in 1973’s Walking Tall, a movie whose sequel starred Bo Svenson, who was also the star of Enzo G. Castellari’s original Inglorious Bastards (as you can see, we’re getting more involved here…and to make matters even more Byzantine, both Svenson and Castellari have cameos in Tarantino’s film!). At one point in QT’s Basterds, Eli Roth’s character goes undercover as an Italian movie director named Antonio Margheriti, which just so happens to be the name of an Italian exploitation director from the ’70s and ’80s who made such schlocky films as Cannibal Apocalypse and Yor, the Hunter from the Future.

*Finally, there are also a couple of voices that may sound remotely familiar in the film. The voice of Basterds‘ narrator belongs to Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown star Samuel L. Jackson, and a voice on the telephone during a pivotal scene near the end belongs, at least to my ears, to Reservoir Dogs‘ Harvey Keitel. 

For Discussion: Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite Tarantino film and what other references in his films have you picked up on?

More on Quentin Tarantino:
Tarantino and the original ‘Basterds’
20 Tarantino movie and movie poster faves
Quentin Tarantino trivia quiz

More EW University:
See all EW University courses

Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • Jack

    My favorite QT tribute to Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone is the introduction of Bill in KBv2. You hear him playing the flute outside the chapel, and Kiddo goes out to meet him. The music playing is rather haunting and lovely, except all the film geeks know it’s the music that introduces Lee van Cleef in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. NOT a good sign.

    • Kirk

      When Bill played his flute outside the chapel in Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Kiddo hears it, recognizes the familiar sound, and walks out to see him, it reminded me of Keoma, the 1975 Spaghetti Western, when George (Woody Strode) was playing his banjo, and Keoma (Franco Nero), recognizing that familiar sound, walked outside to find him. Franco Nero and Woody Strode are two of Quentin’s favorite Spaghetti actors, and there may be some intentional reference there.

  • Josh

    Your quiz is WRONG! It states that the radio DJ in Reservior Dogs is voiced by Larry David when it is in fact Steven Wright. How could someone teaching a QT class miss this????

    • E.B. Berman

      Don’t know when you took the quiz, but I took it a little while ago and it accepted Stephen Wright as the correct answer. So either it’s fixed now or something else was going on.

    • Sir Andrew

      I know!!! I was so mad!

  • spazdaq

    This is a very good article on the pros of QT. I really just hate how he recycles dialog. He is talented for sure but his redundancy had me jaded by kill bill. You might be right that there are 2 movies and one may exist between the lines…but the other movie, regardless of the title, setting, characters or actors, is always pulp fiction.

    • justaname

      Why? Because of the camp, violence, or…well, pulp? Some directors are well known for only doing a particular thing, such as scary movies or romances. QT is known for doing that THING he does. To describe it would be to get that ‘you have reached the character limit on comments’ message but I know I leave his movies AFFECTED and happy. And there is an honor in what he does and the actors he uses… he is one of the few true movie artists on par in his medium with any other great from any other medium…and just as crazy.

  • Daniel Malloy

    Okay, Quentin Tarantino is a genius, but a savant. He takes from all the movies he has ever watched and creates another movie. We all know there is nothing new under the sun and everything comes from something, but Tarantino is just regurgetating the movies of directors who actually have something novel to say. Tarantino is like a movie sampler. He just can’t write his own raps.

    • justaname

      ok, you speak of meaning, yet you do not know the definition of ‘savant’? If you find no meaning in his movies, you likely do not find meaning easily, or you are uncomfortable with his message.

  • Kristi Haynes

    In Grindhouse Deathproof, Abby’s (Abernathy)cell phone ringer was the same tune that Daryl Hannah whistled was as you say above Hermann’s from Twisted Nerve.

  • kristi haynes

    I think QT is brilliant

  • tunaburn

    tarantino cant write his own movies? are you crazy? his movies are all very unique and always do things in a different way than i would expect. i think hes brilliant.

  • Derrick

    No one has ever mentioned the Bonnie and Clyde reference at the end of Kill Bill Volume 1. It’s when Bill interrogates Sophie Fatale after the Bride throws her out of the trunk. A similar scene is in Bonnie and Clyde when the sheriff is interrogating Clyde’s sister-in-law after she’s captured.

  • Sam Mills

    In the way and sense that you mean it, you’re misspelling “hommage,” a French word roughly equivalent to our “homage.” Hommage, like most French words, has an inasperate “h” – which is why you use “an” instead of “a” before it since it sounds as though it begins with an “o.” I see this mistake a lot. Just rememeber where it came from – the French New Wave filmmakers and their film review, Cahiers du Cinema. Oh – and pretentious dickweed film critics and film schools.

    • Melinda65

      I don’t know–dictionary.com lists “an homage” as correct usage of the word. OTOH, if you’re going to use the word “cognoscenti,” Chris, at least spell it correctly.

  • nika

    I love the scene where Michael Parks as Earl McGraw is driving to the wedding chapel with all of the sunglasses on the dashboard in Kill Bill. It’s an homage to the original Gone in 60 Seconds.

  • Gary Meyer

    Of course Jackie Brown also refers to 1974 blaxploitation flick Foxy Brown, which also starred Pam Grier. (Best bit: she hides her gun in her Afro!)

  • crazyburns

    I think you’re definitely right about it being Harvey Keitel at the end. I recognized his voice immediately.

  • jiml

    It had to be Harvey Keitel, he has such a distinctive voice.

    I also feel there is a nod to Cinema Paradiso during the burning of the theater. Showing the image on the glass.

  • diana

    i would really like to see inglorious b.
    q.t. is cooler than most.

  • diana

    i would really like to see inglourious.
    q.t. is cooler than most.

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