Tarantino Trailers Through The Years

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Today saw the release of the first trailer for Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s latest slice of film goodness. It is, frankly, awesome – and it inspired us to look back at Tarantino trailers of yesteryear. Were they all this good? Read on, as we revisit the director’s previous efforts (acting and writing appearances, portmanteau and “guest directing” spots not included)…

The former video store clerk joined the major leagues with his first feature, this brilliantly told slice of gangster mayhem and a heist gone wrong. This trailer correctly places the emphasis on the cool characters, clever dialogue and killer suits, but eases audiences in to Tarantino’s now-trademark free-wheeling dialogue by ignoring conversations about Madonna and tipping in favour of shoot-outs, stand-offs and occasional outbursts of torture. It’s also shocking how ancient and un-PC this now seems, that the film itself remains so electric is a testament to just how good it is.

This one starts with a brilliant fake-out, highlighting the movie’s Palme d’Or win and critical acclaim, set to a gentle piano score that sets you up for a sober, staid and probably 19th century drama about accountants (or something). Not so! Three gunshots smash the screen and we’re into the cartoonish, hyper-violent world of Pulp Fiction, with hitmen, boxers and gangsters trading wisecracks and looking insanely cool doing it. This sets up a few plot threads – Vincent Vega entertaining Mia Wallace, Bruce Willis going down in the fifth – but basically it’s a cleverly cut montage designed to showcase the starry cast and the sheer cool of the now-established Tarantino look. Not present: gimps or graphic violence. Very much on display: that unforgettable dialogue.

With that difficult second film having proved not so difficult, Tarantino seemed to be awaiting a backlash with his third, still underrated effort. Thus, perhaps, the outtakes opening to this trailer, repeating star’s name and character three times – just to make the point – before a more familiar Tarantino-rific montage of guns, girls and great lines. A few trademarks are becoming evident. The music is instantly iconic, the lines instantly memorable – but this is the second trailer in a row to feature a woman’s bare feet, revealing Tarantino’s foot fetish pretty quickly. Still, full marks here for getting in an only-slightly-edited version of Samuel L.Jackson’s ode to the common or garden AK47 into the opening trailer, and for reminding us how good Robert De Niro can be as a gently comic tough guy.

A contender for the most insanely cool trailer the world has ever seen, this snippet of Kill Bill Vol. 1 includes more shots of swords than the entirety of most films, including Kingdom Of Heaven (estimate). It was also maybe Tarantino’s funniest trailer to date: the sight of two ruthless assassins suspending their fight in order to welcome a kid home from school, amid the ruins of her house, is sweet but also sufficiently bizarre to still raise a grin. But what’s clear is that his style has taken a leap forward, with every filmmaking trick in the book thrown at the screen from crash-zooms to slo-mo to extreme close-up, in black-and-white, sepia and glorious Technicolor. And we love any movie universe that considers a katana acceptable carry-on luggage.

By the time the trailer for Kill Bill: Vol. 2 had “hiiiiii-ya’ed” its way into existence, moviegoers had already decided whether or not they’d be seeing it. If they hadn’t liked the first instalment of QT’s martial arts mash-up, it would have taken a Hattori Hanzo to persuade them back to the cinema for part two. If they had, they were probably already there. Unsurprisingly then, this is basically a high-octane Kill Bill show reel with an Ennio Morricone-y score and cameos from the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and Gordon Liu’s unfeasible beard. But what’s interesting is how much this differs in feel from its predecessor. Despite the still-plentiful swords, this feels very much more a Western (not just because of the score) and there are a few more gunshots thrown into the mix.

Featuring fast cars, fast girls and possibly cinema’s first use of Kurt Russell Eyebrow-cam, this Grindhouse effort was another big, brassy statement of intent from the director, impeccably true to its low-budget, 1970s genre ancestors down to the film stock and typefaces. Once Russell’s maniac motorist puts pedal to metal it’s basically a whirlwind of wheelspins, handbreak turns and car smashes, and boasts more donuts than Chief Wiggum’s top drawer. “Don’t expect plot,” this trailer might be saying – if you could hear it above the din. Do expect Kurt Russell in the coolest jacket this side of Drive and the most irresponsible driving this side of, well, Drive.

Exploitation flicks had come a long way since the 1970s trailer for Enzo Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards. For one thing, they have proper actors now. Actual proper actors like Brad Pitt, the Southern drawled centrepiece of this first look at QT’s Wehrmacht slay-athon, whose inspiration Nazi-killing speech forms the backbone of this effort – leaving much of the cast unshowcased and whole swathes of the film’s plot untouched. As it turns out, the trailer featured virtually all of the most violent moments in the film – but then Tarantino’s not one for keeping his powder dry, especially when he could be using it to blow up Nazis.

The long-awaited Django Unchained teaser has everything you’d want from a Tarantino trailer: a bar scene for QT purists, whipcrack dialogue (“What’s your name?”; “Django. The ‘D’ is silent”), standout tracks (Johnny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave and James Brown’s The Payback) and brutal violence. And frankly, if this trailer featured nothing but Leonardo DiCaprio’s smarmy grin (see that at 1.22) we’d be happy. Heck, even the fonts are worth talking about. Robert Richardson’s dazzling photography gets plenty of space to show its stuff, too. This, in short, looks fun. Djaunty even.