It’s been almost 20 years since Quentin Tarantino gave us his Reservoir Dogs follow-up Pulp Fiction. Twenty years since we saw Ving Rhames get violated by a redneck security guard. Twenty years since Samuel L. Jackson taught us the virtues of not answering a question with “What?” Twenty years since John Travolta had his film career revived, only to do Wild Hogs a decade later. What I’m saying is that now is a good time to look back at one of the greatest films of last 25 years and dig up some of the gems you may not know. How the hell else do you expect to win Tarantino Triva Night if you don’t know the story behind Jules’s jheri curl?
1. The marquee of Butch’s boxing match is billed as “Battle of the Titans” with fights between “Coolidge vs. Wilson” and “Vossler vs Martinez.” These are all fictional boxing matches with the first being a reference to US Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Woodraw Wilson. The second, refers to Russell Vossler and Jerry Martinez, two of Tarantino’s friends from his video store clerk days. Jerry Martinez would go on to work with Quentin Tarantino as a graphic designer in both Kill Bills and Russel Vossler made a cameo in Tarantino’s segment in Four Rooms.
2. Vincent Vega’s 1964 Chevelle Malibu belonged to Tarantino and was stolen during production of the movie. The car didn’t resurface until 2013, when a cop noticed two teenagers stripping the car. After arresting them and researching the car he discovered the car’s VIN number had been altered and the vehicle was stolen. The owner who had recently purchased the car was unaware that it was stolen and that its rightful owner was Quentin Tarantino.
3. Tarantino originally intended for Jules to have a giant afro, but a prop master on the set obtained several afro wigs and one jheri curl wig. Samuel L. Jackson tried on the jheri curl wig, he and Tarantino both liked it, and just like that, Jules went from being an afro man to a jheri curl man.
4. While Jules’ famous execution ritual pulls from Ezekiel 25:17, the part about the righteous man and the shepherd are not part of the Biblical passage and were added in by Tarantino and Jackson. The only part that’s similar to the actual Ezekiel passage is the end of Jules’ line, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.”
While the quote is one of the most famous lines from the movie, it was actually taken from an early draft of From Dusk Til Dawn, with Harvey Keitel’s character saying it while backing away from blood-thirsty vampires down a hallway at the Titty Twister. And before that, it inspired Tarantino when a similar version was used by Kung Fu star Sonny Chiba in his 1976 movie, Karate Kiba. Still, nobody says “I will strike down with great vengeance…” quite like Samuel L. Jackson.
5. I like the Vincent Vega scenes the best and one of the standouts is when he’s rushing Mia Wallace over to Lance’s house after her overdose. When Vincent calls Lance from his cell, Lance is watching TV and eating a bowl of Fruit Brute. The cereal was part of General Mills Monster Cereals group along with Yummy Mummy, Boo Berry, Frankenberry, and Count Chocula. Fruit Brute is no longer around, but was a childhood favorite of Tarantino’s and also appears in Reservoir Dogs.
6. A range of different actresses were considered for the part of Mia Wallace, including Isabella Rossellini, Meg Ryan, Daryl Hannah, Joan Cusack, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Probably the most interesting candidate was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who according to her agent at the time, couldn’t take it because of her commitment to Seinfeld. Take a second to think just how hilarious the Mia and Vincent Vega dance at the diner would have looked with Elaine’s little kicks. Sweet fancy Moses!
7. Jules iconic “Bad Mother F*cker” wallet belonged to Tarantino and of course was a reference to the theme song from Shaft. Tarantino gave the wallet to Jackson’s character Jules, the intergalactic planets of showbiz aligned and six years later Samuel L. Jackson went on to star in the film version of Shaft.
8. Tarantino considered playing the role of Lance himself but choose to play the character of Jimmy Dimmick because he wanted to be behind the camera during Mia Wallace’s overdose scene. Speaking of that famous overdose scene, it was actually shot with John Travolta pulling the needle out of Uma Thurman’s chest, then running the film backwards.
9. When Mia Wallace orders her $5 shake at Jack Rabbit Slims, the waiter (Steve Buscemi) asks her if she wants it “Martin and Lewis or Amos and Andy?” He’s referring to the comedy duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, two white guys and The Amos n’ Andy Show, two black guys. Basically, he’s asking her if she’d like chocolate or vanilla. What gives, no Pryor and Wilder shake?
10. Saturday Night Live’s Julia Sweeney might have had a minor role in the film as Raquel, the junkyard owner’s daughter, but at the time the movie was being made she was actually married to Stephen Hibbert who played… the Gimp. Blammo! Bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?! The couple later divorced, but Hibbert went on to work as a writer for Mad TV and Boy Meets World. It’s nice to know the Gimp finally got out of the sex dungeon and turned his life around.
11. The white Honda Civic that Butch uses to plow into Marcellus Wallace is also used by Jackie in Jackie Brown and is parked in the strip club parking lot of the My Oh My Strip Club in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Marcellus Wallace’s head turn toward Butch is reference to the Hitchcock film Psycho.
12. John Travolta was known for his dance moves prior to Pulp Fiction with his roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, but his dance number with Uma Thurman at Jack Rabbit Slims was inspired by the films Bande à Part and Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. The later features a very 1960’s dance routine by Barbara Steele and Mario Pisu.
13. The t-shirt that Tarantino’s character Jimmy is wearing bears the logo of Orbit, a Detroit alternative newspaper. Tarantino picked up the shirt while doing an interview with the paper during promotion for Reservoir Dogs.
14. One of the more interesting characters, in my opinion, that we learn very little about is Butch’s cab driver, Esmeralda Villalobos played by Angela Jones. Esmeralda’s character is actually based on the character from a short film called Curdled that Jones did in 1991 about a Colombian immigrant who cleaned up after murders, hence Esmeralda’s fascination with homicide. Tarantino saw the short and incorporated her into his Pulp universe.
15. Quentin Tarantino often gives a nod to his home state of Tennessee in his films, the first with Butch arranging to meet his connection in Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville is again mentioned in Death Proof as the location of the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. The Volunteer state is referenced again as being the birthplace of Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglorious Bastards and twice more with references to Chattanooga and Gatlinburg, Tennessee in Django Unchained.
16. In the movie’s closing credits the manager of the coffee shop is credited as just “Coffee Shop.” Not coffee shop manager, just coffee shop. It was actually because Tim Roth’s character holds a gun to the manager’s head and asks “Are you gonna be a hero?”, the manager replies “No, I’m just a coffee shop–” before Roth cuts him off and starts screaming again.
17. There have been countless spoofs and mash-ups of the film over the years, but one of the most inventive came in 2011, when YouTube user “crimewriter95″ re-cut the film so that it played out in chronological order. Unfortunately, the folks at Miramax had it taken down, but while it was up viewers were able to watch the movie begin with Christopher Walken’s watch story, not the Pumpkin/Honey Bunny diner stick-up.
18. While lots of people loved Pulp Fiction, 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bod Dole was not in that group. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that he hates Tarantino movies in general. In 1995 he attacked the movie industry for peddling “nightmares of depravity” (perfect name for a metal band if there ever was one). Dole criticized True Romance and Natural Born Killers for which Tarantino wrote the screenplays and accused Pulp Fiction of promoting a romance of heroin.
19. The various weapons that Butch considers for carrying out his revenge in the pawn shop are nods to other films. The hammer (Friday The 13th Part 2), the bat (Walking Tall), the chainsaw (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and finally, the Samurai sword (Lightning Swords of Death).
20. There’s been much speculation over what is actually inside the briefcase that Jules and Vincent are guarding. The long-standing internet rumor is that it contains the soul of Marcellus Wallace, being that the combination lock is 666 and Wallace is seen with a bandage on the back of his head, alluding that the devil extracted his soul through that spot. The script’s co-writer, Roger Avary, says that the original idea was diamonds, but that it seemed too cliche and it was decided the contents would never bee seen, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Tarantino confirmed this in 2003 when a caller to the Howard Stern show asked about the case’s contents and Tarantio said, “It’s whatever the viewer wants it to be.”