After grad school, I worked at a movie theater in Colorado in Tamarac Square.  Madstone Theater was a movie chain that also had aspirations as a movie production company as well.  But the production end of the business folded (not enough naked Michael Pitt in its only feature, Rhinoceros Eyes, would be my guess) and took down the theater chain with it.

One of the last films to play at Madstone was Kill Bill, Vol. 2, and for months after the theater had closed, when I walked through the mall, I saw the Kill Bill poster from behind its plexiglass.  If ever a samurai sword could seem forlorn, this was it.  And now, Tamarac Square itself is slated to be demolished.  Luckily, my favorite Indian restaurant in Denver, India’s, moved across the street to Tiffany Plaza, where it will be sheltered by the gargantuan Whole Foods, like an egg under a mother bird.

Tamarac Square was never glamorous or particularly noteworthy; it rose up in the early 80s heyday of mall-building and lingered like a weed in the crack of a sidewalk — unsightly, but still alive.  Even when Madstone was there, half the mall seemed deserted:  there was a Starbucks, an optician, an eccentric old lady accessories shop, a shop that specialized in spine-saving footwear, and, nearer to the end of Madstone’s life, a sari emporium.  When malls die, they die slowly, one shop shuttering after another, the gated and empty storefronts like missing teeth in a smile.

I bring this up because Quentin Tarantino should pay Hiroshi Inagaki royalties.  Tarantino is a notorious cinematic magpie, filching bits and pieces to build his own nest.  But in this case, Kill Bill, Vol. 1‘s two most spectacular set pieces borrow directly from the two most engaging set pieces of Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple.

In particular:  Kill Bill‘s duel between The Bride and Go-Go Yubari reflects Samurai II‘s opening duel, in which Toshiro Mifune pits his ni-ten-ichi-ryu against a chain-and-sickle wielding warrior.  But while a chain-and-sickle isn’t quite as flashy as a bladed metal ball at the end of a flail (not to mention that Eijiro Tono can’t quite compete with Chiaki Kuriyama in a schoolgirl outfit), the general idea is the same.

Later, Toshiro Mifune must dispatch 80 or so Yoshioka-school disciples, much in the way Uma Thurman must dispatch 88 mask-wearing, Lucy Liu-worshipping disciples — only not in a rice paddy, with better lighting, and with copious arterial spray.  Mifune realizes that discretion is the better part of valor, while  Tarantino, of course, would never have one of his protagonists back out of anything, but the truth for both of our heroes is that they need to survive — for the sequel.

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