Column: Slicing Score: Kill Bill. Vol. 1 (2003)

By Maria Mitchell

Kill Bill (2003). Composer: Various artists.

This score is an intriguing jigsaw. Its cultural span includes Spanish, Asian and Spaghetti Western-Italian musical influences. It also includes rap, disco, contemporary pop, rockabilly, and spoken dialogue from the film.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra: Kill Bill is not a subtle film and this song’s meaning in the film is not metaphoric.

“That Certain Female” by Charlie Feathers: Jerry Lee Lewis’s fellow Sun label Rockabilly crooner, Charlie Feathers, belts out one rocking performance in this wild song.

“The Grand Duel” by Luis Bacalov: The Spaghetti Western type of sound is slow, dragging and evokes a feeling of a desert. Ghostly influences of Ennio Morricone’s score to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly can be heard here.

“Twisted Nerve” by Bernard Herrmann: I cheered when I heard this scary gem of film music reincarnated in this film. The original film, Twisted Nerve, is a great example of psychological horror. Psychological horror is its own sorcery in how it can transform one person’s life. Twisted Nerve’s grisly magic is still intact with its theme’s inclusion in Kill Bill. In this scene, one assassin (Daryl Hannah) is pitted against another (Uma Thurman), something more gruesome, perhaps, than Hywell Bennet and Hayley Mills as antagonists in the film Twisted Nerve.

“Queen of the Crime Council”: This spoken cue would have been even better if the film (or soundtrack) could have cued a little of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Trophy” while this dialogue is spoken. “Trophy”‘s lyrics would have been perfect: “Head hunters. Head shrinkers…take it to the wall.”

“Ode to Oren Ishi” by Vince Tempera & Orchestra: It’s no “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” but it’s an interesting elegy and dramatizes the sword aspect of this film well. This film is infested with swords.

“Run Fay Run” by Isaac Hayes: I guess Isaac Hayes will always be remembered for Shaft, but this little disco piece is better than his theme to Beavis and Butthead Do America, so it’s okay.

“Green Hornet” by Al Hirt: I recall the use of this cue in commercials promoting this film while it was playing in theatres. It was a good one to use since it immediately gets a listener’s attention with its spiraling brass.

“Battle without Honor or Humanity” by Tomoyasu Hotei: This has a thick Mission Impossible sound.

“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Leroy Gomez: The percussion here is just awesome. This song is used in a great scene in this film. Two words: Culture shock.

“Woo Hoo” by The 5,6,7,8′s: This is the song that sold the soundtrack to me. It’s a perfect blend of rockabilly instrumentation and vocals without words. It’s lively, fun and infectious in its upbeat flavor. The only drawback? There’s not enough of the 5,6,7,8′s on this soundtrack. They perform more music in the film. Music that is not included on the CD.

“Crane/White Lightning” by The RZA: I’m digging that trippy xylophone-like percussion in this track.

“The Flower of Carnage” by Meiko Kaji: This slower song is much like an epilogue. It’s placement on the soundtrack seems a little early.

“The Lonely Shepherd” by James Last and Gheorghe Zamfir: An old episode of King of the Hill referenced flautist Zamfir’s music as “better than The Beatles.” I wouldn’t disagree. More importantly, this music is evocative in the same sense as another Ennio Morricone score: A Fistfull of Dollars. This brooding western-movie theme expresses the violence and isolation of the wild, uncharted, lawless West. Though “The Lonely Shepherd” makes no use of vocals like A Fistful of Dollars, both musical pieces have a similar beautiful desolation.

“You’re My Wicked Life”: Here is another spoken cue on the soundtrack. I like the skewed interpretation of mercy used here.

“Ironside” by Quincy Jones: This angry little instrumental ditty is cued in the film every time there’s a close-up on Uma Thurman’s face as she glares in anger at whomever it is she plans to take revenge on. No violence is occurring in the film when this cue is executed, but the image of Uma Thurman’s taut, angular face is invoking gallons of bloodshed.

“Super 16″ by Neu!: Numbing, but at least it was brief.

Kill Bill’s sword-slicing soundtrack can be purchased at