A purveyor of style and subculture, Quentin Tarantino has helped to shape the very fabric of contemporary cinema, imbuing the medium with a sharp sense of pace and sophistication. Tarantino executes this in every facet of his filmmaking, from the cinematography to the soundtrack, capturing a particular punk aesthetic that rejects the conventions of popular filmmaking and embraces his own idiosyncratic style.
Often taking famous songs for use in his films, from the use of ‘Stuck in the Middle with you’ by Stealers Wheel in Reservoir Dogs to ‘You Never Can Tell’ by Chuck Berry in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino is well known for borrowing cinematic content. Highly influenced by the western and samurai genres, much of the content he borrows often originate from these sources including the Japanese action film Lady Snowblood and John Ford’s classic The Searchers.
Rich with songs that both reference popular culture as well as the history of cinema, Quentin Tarantino usually has a deft ear for the most appropriate soundtracks more than often looking toward the great Ennio Morricone.
In discussion with The Guardian, the influential director explained the use of his soundtracks in movies, noting, “More or less the way my method works is; you have got to find the opening credit sequence first. That starts it off from me. I find the personality of the piece through the music that is going to be in it”.
So let’s take a look at five times Quentin Tarantino borrowed scores from other films:
5 times Quentin Tarantino has used scores from other films:
‘Twisted Nerve’ from Twisted Nerve (Roy Boulting, John Boulting, 1968)
Yeah, that incredibly catchy whistle from Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is actually from the Boulting brothers’ 1968 thriller Twisted Nerve following a troubled young man who retreats to an alternative personality due to the oppression of those around him.
Orchestrated by Bernard Hermann, the same mind behind Psycho’s iconic shower sequence music, this whistled lullaby from Twisted Nerve is truly disturbing, particularly when it underlines a violent death scene. Using the theme during the sequence where Daryl Hannah, as Elle Driver, walks down the hospital wing to fill a syringe with poisonous fluid all whilst whistling the eerie tune, the use of Hermann’s theme here elevates the scene into something far more sinister.
‘The Braying Mule’ from Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Siegel, 1970)
Django Unchained features a wide range of eclectic musical scores including John Legend’s ‘Who did that to you’, though, for Quentin Tarantino’s very first western film his go-to composer was always going to be Ennio Morricone.
Featuring the unlikely team of Clint Eastwood and Shirley MacLaine as a cowboy and a nun, Two Mules for Sister Sara features the captivating track ‘The Braying Mule’ by the great Ennio Morricone.
Delicately reflecting the imperfection of the American west with unstable instrumental sounds, Quentin Tarantino reuses the soundtrack throughout Django Unchained to underline the hero’s newfound murderous nature.
‘Main Theme from Dark of the Sun’ from Dark of the Sun (Jack Cardiff, 1968)
The revenge-fuelled WWII film from Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds, takes the war genre and spins it on its head, changing history to suit the director’s wild fantasy. Picking out the rousing, staccato score from Dark of the Sun was an inspired choice.
Directed by Jack Cardiff, Dark of the Sun is a war drama following a mercenary band that fights to get refugees and a bevvy of diamonds out of the Congo. The cinematographer behind The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, Cardiff’s film was a visual treat matched with a powerful, strangely haunting score that nodded toward the espionage sitting at the centre of the film.
Loving the music that was orchestrated by Jacques Loussier so much, Tarantino used the score throughout much of Inglourious Basterds.
‘Fool for Love’ from Fool for Love (Robert Altman, 1985)
In his very first major feature film, Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino flourished all of his creative prowess in an ability to show off his skills, borrowing from multiple sources of cinema in order to establish himself on the scene.
In doing so, Tarantino borrowed Sandy Rogers’ ‘Fool for Love’ which was recorded for Robert Altman’s adaptation of Sam Shepard’s play Fool for Love. Slow, slick and stylish, Rogers’ song is the perfect choice for Tarantino’s debut feature film, using the song in one particular scene in which we see Mr Orange (Tim Roth) speak to himself in the mirror.
Not only does the scene recall Altman’s Fool for Love, but it even evokes memories of the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver in content.
‘It’s So Easy’ from Cruising (William Friedkin, 1980)
Originally appearing in the gay exploitation noir film Cruising from William Friedkin, the same director behind The Exorcist and The French Connection, ‘It’s So Easy’ by Willy DeVille is a high energy rock tune perfect for the punk aesthetic of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.
The lesser-known Friedkin film is based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Walker and stars Al Pacino as an undercover police detective in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York, on the tail of serial killer. Whilst Death Proof may be about a different plot entirely, it still elicits the same grungy, energetic tone from the song by Willy DeVille, with the lyrics ‘It’s So Easy’ even working to emphasise the violent wrongdoings of Kurt Russell’s Mike.