The Geekspotter’s Guide To Film & TV References In The Hateful Eight

Comic-Con-The Hateful Eight

>>> A feature by Craig Skinner

Ever since Quentin Tarantino first began writing and directing movies he’s been sprinkling references to his favourite films and television series throughout his work. Whether it’s a borrowed plot, a character name, a particular piece of framing or a certain costuming choice, there are enough breadcrumbs leading to Tarantino’s favourite media to possibly leave you feeling somewhat bloated, but also in need of catching up on an awful lot of films and television that you may not have seen.

The Hateful Eight is no exception, with a plethora of nods to classics and cult favourites. Whilst I’m absolutely confident I didn’t catch every one of these references – even watching older Tarantino flicks I still spot the odd reference I missed the first time – I certainly noted a great deal. What follows is my guide to these hidden treasures, buried just below the surface of Tarantino’s snow-covered western. Please note, there will be spoilers for The Hateful Eight throughout.

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Fellini’s 8½

The Numbers Game

The first and perhaps most obvious place to start is with the title, which brings to mind The Magnificent Seven (1960) but also Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963). Like Fellini’s superb film about filmmaking the numeral in The Hateful Eight refers to the number of films that Tarantino has made to date. Admittedly you need to do some somewhat creative arithmetic to come to that number – discounting contributions to certain films and counting Kill Bill Volumes One & Two (2003/4) as one film – but it just about works.

Another numerically-titled feature that Tarantino is no doubt familiar with is the Spanish western Cut-Throats Nine (1972) – which is reportedly being remade, with Slash producing. Cut-Throats Nine is a particularly gruesome western with impressive practical effects and a bleak view of humanity, much like The Hateful Eight. It also has a really great twist about half an hour in that I won’t spoil here, but I’m amazed no-one has ripped off. Tarantino included.

Lone-Wolf-and-Cub-Baby-Cart-White-Heaven-in-Hell__511rhOmAKFLThe Colour Of Hell

Tarantino originally envisaged The Hateful Eight as a sequel to Django Unchained (2012) and titled it Django In White Hell. Whilst the film no doubt shifted significantly from whatever Tarantino’s initial idea was, he used a slightly modified version of this title for the final chapter: “Black Man, White Hell”.

This chapter title brings to mind a number of things, from the politically relevant “A White Man’s Heaven Is A Black Man’s Hell”, as sung by Louis Farrakhan, and Public Enemy’s “White Heaven/Black Hell”, to the wintery connections of Babycart White Heaven In Hell (1974). But the most obvious allusion is to Pabst and Fanck’s 1929 silent German picture, The White Hell Of Pitz Palu, a film which featured heavily in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009).

The Owaldo Mobray Inheritance

Another connection to Inglorious Basterds is Tim Roth’s character Oswaldo Mobray, who is later revealed to actually be called Pete Hicox, and Roth has essentially acknowledged that he is an ancestor to Archie Hicox, Michael Fassbender’s character in Inglorious Basterds.

Roth’s character, with his rather heavy and affected English accent, is also somewhat reminiscent of Leslie Howard’s character in The Petrified Forest (1936), a film that Tarantino has acknowledged was in his mind when making The Hateful Eight. The Petrified Forest features a number of characters who end up trapped in a gas station after a gangster – an early and fantastic, snarling performance from Humphrey Bogart – takes them hostage. Jody (Channing Tatum) speaking French to Minnie (Dana Gourrier) also brings to mind a recurring subplot within The Petrified Forest about a character who is desperate to go to France and is wooed by the European wanderer played by Howard. This character in The Petrified Forest is also a writer, possibly even inspiring the inclusion of Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) writing in a journal, one of many threads in The Hateful Eight that Tarantino never returns to, leading us down multiple dead ends with Agatha Christie-style red herrings.

The Influences Cometh

In discussing The Hateful Eight’s influences, such as in the interview with Christopher Nolan below, Tarantino has also pointed to Key Largo (1948) and The Iceman Cometh (presumably the 1973 Frankenheimer version), the latter of which shares little in common with The Hateful Eight in terms of plot but a lot with regards to tone and style. The Iceman Cometh began life as a play by Eugene O’Neill and much like The Hateful Eight it is dark, almost nihilistic and deeply political. It also features characters coming to terms with the aftermath of a war, although in this case it is the Boer War.

The No-Show References

There are a large number of films and television episodes in which characters are trapped in a single location and it would be easy to get carried away citing them all as examples of things that Tarantino is harking back to, even if there’s no real connection. Andre de Toth’s stunning Day Of The Outlaw (1959), for instance, is another snowy western that features characters trapped in one location but that’s really as far as the comparisons can go. Especially when one looks at the way in which Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson shoot The Hateful Eight, de Toth’s approach to framing and blocking characters being vastly different to Tarantino and Richardson’s.

The same can be said for King Hu’s Dragon Inn (1967) and Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence (1968), two films that I was fully expecting to see parallels with going in to The Hateful Eight, but which apparently remained unreferenced. Although the latter does have a particularly bleak ending that Tarantino professed to admiring during the press for Django Unchained and could possibly have been something that influenced his approach to the ending of The Hateful Eight.

thing1982-body

The Thing

Loving The Alien

The Thing (1982) is one film that hangs heavy over The Hateful Eight – although this too was shot very differently, with more in common with de Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw actually – and its influence on Tarantino can be seen in sequences such as the one in which characters make a line to the “shithouse”, to work out which one of them may not be who they say they are; and in the final shot of the two characters left to die, neither of whom entirely trusts the other. Its influence can also be heard in the soundtrack, which not only features music by Ennio Morricone – who scored The Thing – but unused music from Carpenter’s film.

Musical Motifs

In addition to the new and old music by Morricone, the soundtrack for The Hateful Eight features a few more tracks which have been culled from other films. “Regan’s Theme (Floating Sound)” – also by Morricone – from John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) is included at one point and fits in surprisingly well, suggesting a certain sense of menace and dread. Tarantino also uses “Now You’re All Alone” as sung by David Hess from the soundtrack to Last House On The Left (1972) in a way that is somewhat similar to Craven’s use of the track in his film: the crooned ballad follows violent outbursts in both films. And The Hateful Eight ends with Roy Orbison’s “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home”, which is taken from the 1967 musical western The Fastest Guitar Alive. It’s the film that features Orbison’s only acing role and sees him playing a singing spy who has a guitar that fires bullets. Yep, you read that right.

The_rebel_western_TV

The Rebel

Television’s Wild West

Joe Leydon at Cowboys and Indians has pointed out something that may have been a very significant influence on Tarantino, perhaps even if it was somewhat subconsciously. Tarantino has talked a lot in Hateful Eight interviews about the influence of TV westerns such as Gunsmoke (1955-75) and Bonanza (1959-73) on the film but he hasn’t mentioned The Rebel (1959-61). In particular an episode from season one entitled “Fair Game”. Leydon lays out the similarities very well and I would encourage you to read his piece on it. There’s a lot there, from the set-up to specifics such as the handcuffed female prisoner, the ex-Confederate and the poisoning. Having watched the episode, which was directed by The Empire Strikes Back (1980) helmer Irvin Kershner, it’s hard not to believe Tarantino saw it, even if it was long ago and aspects of it are just buried in his subconscious.

Tarantino reportedly has a vast knowledge of television westerns and it’s possible he had these in mind when casting Bruce Dern, who starred in a number of TV oaters in his early career. In The Hateful Eight Dern plays General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers, the former part of his name being a possible allusion to Harry Sanford, a novelist and screenwriter, who provided the source material for westerns Waco (1966) and Apache Uprising (1965). These were pretty low budget westerns but featured roles, some of which were very small, for the likes of Howard Keel, Jane Russell, Gene Evans, Lon Chaney Jr and DeForest Kelley. Sam Fuller favourite Evans and future Enterprise doctor Kelley, were both frequently seen in instantly forgettable film and TV westerns in the ’50s and ’60s and actually starred in both of these films.

Robot Holocaust

Robot Holocaust

What’s In A Name?

The possible homage to Harry Sanford with Dern’s character is the tip of the iceberg, though. Character names in The Hateful Eight are littered with possible connections to characters or real life film and television stars. Oswaldo is a rather unusual name for an English character in a western film, for instance, but it seems very likely that this name was inspired by Oswaldo de Oliveira, the director of the sexually explicit Bare Behind Bars (aka, A Prisão, 1980). This was is an infamous exploitation film – still only available in a cut form in the UK – and one that Tarantino is no doubt aware of.

Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) is another character name with a filmmaker connection. Gage was the pseudonym for writer, director and producer Tim Kincaid, who is perhaps best known for his sci-fi picture Robot Holocaust (1986). Kincaid also had a successful career, and one that continues to this day, as a director of gay porn films. And it is under the pseudonym of Joe Gage that he makes these films.

The Domergue name almost certainly derives from Bonanza star Faith Domergue, who also starred in a handful of films and once dated Howard Hughes. Marquis Warren is another name that appears to have an obvious connection, this time to writer, director and producer Charles Marquis Warren, who directed the bulk of the first season of Gunsmoke and went on to also direct five episodes of Rawhide (1959-65). Warren as a character in The Hateful Eight was clearly largely influenced by Lee Van Cleef characters, particularly Col Douglas Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More (1965), with Tarantino even including a reference to Van Cleef in the script to The Hateful Eight.

Mannix

Mannix

Six-Horse Judy (Zoe Bell) is another name that I’m sure has some reference point in cinema or television but unfortunately it’s not one that I’m personally familiar with. Judy’s outfit though looks to clearly be a riff on the one worn by Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953). And Bell’s overly enthusiastic, almost child-like performance also shares a lot in common with Day’s.

Chris Mannix’s (Walter Goggins) name and the name of his father’s band of renegade Confederates, Mannix’s Marauders, is somewhat harder to pin down. The most obvious reference point is probably Eddie Mannix, the infamous MGM fixer who will be at the centre of the Coen Brother’s upcoming Hail, Caesar!, but it could as easily be a nod to the long-running television series Mannix (1967-75)a violent detective show that featured a catchy theme from Lalo Schifrin. Surely right up Tarantino’s street. Chris’s father, Erskine, whose name is only fleetingly mentioned, is another likely candidate for a homage to a director. This time to Chester Erskine, who directed Robert Mitchum and Julie London in the western The Wonderful Country (1959). Mannix’s Marauders seems like a more cut and dry reference, this time to Sam Fuller’s cinemascope picture, Merrill’s Marauders (1962). Tarantino is, like most sensible people, a fan of Sam Fuller.

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Shooting Practice

Another Tarantino director favourite likely exerted an influence over The Hateful Eight, with regards to the reasonably significant number of slow-motion shots, particularly in the more heavy action scenes. Whilst Sam Peckinpah may seem like the best candidate for an influence here, I think it’s far more likely to be the work of Enzo G Castellari, who directed The Inglorious Bastards (1978), that is exerting an influence. There’s a case to be made though that Castellari was himself influenced by Peckinpah in his use of slow motion.

Another director who comes to mind is John Ford, who Tarantino has famously criticised, but not because Tarantino was necessarily influenced by him. Some have suggested that The Hateful Eight was influenced by Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), even going so far as to suggest that the name of the stagecoach in The Hateful Eight is a nod to the one in Stagecoach. Aside from the fact that the names are actually different, the Butterfield Overland Stage in The Hateful Eight is more likely inspired by the real life Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach service, which also features in the 1957 version of 3:10 To Yuma. The Hateful Eight does feel like something of a rebuttal to Ford’s westerns, though, which often romanticised America and even the Confederacy, which is in stark contrast to Tarantino’s view in The Hateful Eight.

Ford regular John Wayne is clearly an influence on Kurt Russell’s performance of John Ruth though, with Russell reprising the Wayne-style line readings that he employed in Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China (1986). The Mexican character of Bob also most likely draws some inspiration from the character of “Mexican Bob” or “Dirty Bob” in the John Wayne-starring True Grit (1969). Half-Mexican actor Carlos Riva played that particular Bob and in The Hateful Eight we get Demián Bichir, another actor who is actually a Mexican playing a Mexican. Something that wasn’t exactly always the case in Hollywood.

Over To You

As I said at the start of this piece there are no doubt some references that sailed right past me and I’d be interested to hear from readers what further callbacks you spotted. It’s also probably worth noting that I decided not to include Tarantino referencing his own films, for the most part, as that’s a whole other rabbit hole to fall down. One filled with Red Apple rolling tobacco.


 

• Full Set of Seven Hateful Eight Posters (one’s shared…)
• Gr8 Poster For Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight
• Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece review

 

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3 Comments

  1. Edward Toyebo says:

    Great article. Two that I thought might be references. Cabin Fever with the poisoned coffee and spitting up blood scene. Also, when Canning Tatum is down in the cellar and has to toss up his guns and reveal himself through cellar door, The Evil Dead. I friend thought I was way off base with Joe Gage. Ha Ha!!!!!

  2. Matthew says:

    I think a reference to the great silence was how Marquis wouldn’t shoot the old man until he could kill him in self defense

  3. K. Rasmussen says:

    I, too, noticed the similarities between Zoe Bell’s character to that of Dori Day in CALAMITY JANE, which I just watched again for the umpteenth time. Not only do both actresses wear similar buckskin outfits and behave in similarly childlike ways, both enter their films atop stagecoaches, on which they are riding “shotgun.” I was particularly struck by the almost identical way both of them drop from the roofs of their coaches to the doors, on whose window openings they hang while addressing the passengers–Day singing and Bell speaking. All these similarities cannot be mere coincidences.

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