Quentin Tarantino has built not only a great body of work, but an entire fictional universe. Two universes, actually, as you’ll learn in a moment. Familiar names and brands pop up in his movies so quickly that you may have missed…
10. The Realer than Real Universe and the Movie Movie Universe
Tarantino has pointed out that his movies (excluding Jackie Brown, which is an adaptation of a novel) each take place in one of two universes: the Realer than Real universe and the Movie Movie universe. The world of films like Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and Pulp Fiction are set in the “real” world, while movies like Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and From Dusk Till Dawn are movies that characters from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs would see in the theater. This explains why the Movie Movies are more fantastical, violent and stylized than the Real set.
9. Red Apple Cigarettes
Red Apple is a fictional cigarette brand that shows up in multiple Tarantino films. The cigarettes come in a yellow pack with a red apple on it. A grinning green worm hangs out of a hole in the apple and smokes a cigarette of his own. The brand shows up a few times in Pulp Fiction, and the cigarettes also turn up in From Dusk Till Dawn and Four Rooms (which Tarantino wrote and directed a quarter of). The brand’s most memorable appearance is in Kill Bill Vol. 1, when the Bride walks past a huge Red Apple billboard. Knowing what we now know about the Movie Movie universe, we can see that this example is product placement for a fictional product being marketed to fictional people.
8. Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega and Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. Blonde are Brothers
Two of Tarantino’s earliest films have a lot in common. They both feature criminals in black suits who spend their time in-between robberies and murders engaging in mundane dialogue. The coincidence isn’t accidental, as the real name of Mr. Blonde is Vic Vega. As in, Vincent Vega’s far more psychotic sibling. Tarantino actually wanted to make a prequel to both films about the Vega brothers, but John Travolta and Michael Madsen had to go and age on him.
7. Jack Rabbit Slim’s
Further proving that Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction take place in the same universe, both movies share the restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim’s. It’s a ’50s diner where the waiters and waitresses dress like Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe and other period icons. The diner is displayed in its full glory in Pulp Fiction — it’s where Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace talk about Amsterdam and feet. They also enter a dance contest and win, or at least steal the trophy and make it look like they won.
In Reservoir Dogs, the restaurant is mentioned in a barely audible ad that plays on the radio in the warehouse right after Mr. Orange shoots Mr. Blonde. You have to listen hard, but you’ll be rewarded with a mention of Jack Rabbit Slim’s and their five-dollar shake. Reservoir Dogs came out two years before Pulp Fiction, but the latter was clearly already percolating in Tarantino’s mind during the making of the former.
6. Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction played the Bride in Kill Bill
In Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman plays Mia Wallace, a crime king’s wife and former actress. While out with Vincent Vega, Mia describes the pilot she starred in called Fox Force Five, a show about five foxy secret agents. In Kill Bill, Uma Thurman plays a woman who wakes from a four year coma to discover that the child she was pregnant with has disappeared. She sets off on a quest for revenge against members of an assassination squad she was once a part of.
Considering that Pulp Fiction takes place in the real world while Kill Bill is a movie, it’s not a big leap to assume that it was in fact Mia Wallace who played the role of the Bride. The Bride’s targets are members of a team called the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and the team is made up of five members, just like Fox Force Five. It’s quite possible that after the events of Pulp Fiction, the producers retooled Fox Force Five, turned it into a film, and offered Mia Wallace the leading role.
5. Reservoir Dogs’ Mr. White Worked With Alabama from True Romance
In Reservoir Dogs, Mr. White and Joe have a drink in Joe’s office. Joe asks about Mr. White’s partner, Alabama, and Mr. White says he hasn’t seen Alabama in a year and a half. The two used to commit robberies together. Alabama is also the name of the female lead in True Romance, which Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct. Alabama is a call girl who falls in love with Clarence when she gets hired to seduce him on his birthday. The two marry, and Clarence kills Alabama’s pimp. Thinking he’s grabbing a bag of Alabama’s clothes, he walks out of the pimp’s place with a suitcase full of cocaine. A ton of violence later, Clarence and Alabama end up on a beach in Cancun with their son, Elvis. However, in the original screenplay the movie ends with Clarence dying and Alabama running away with the money. So perhaps this Alabama linked up with Mr. White and continued her life of crime that started in True Romance.
4. Big Kahuna Burger
Big Kahuna Burger makes its most memorable appearance in Pulp Fiction. Jules and Vincent enter an apartment where a group of guys are dining on a breakfast of burgers and soda. Jules interrogates Brett about the burger he’s eating and learns that it’s a Big Kahuna burger. Jules takes a bite of Brett’s delicious-looking burger before killing him.
Big Kahuna burgers pop up much more subtly in a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s other work. In From Dusk Till Dawn, Seth Gecko carries a white paper bag emblazoned with the burger’s logo. And a cup from Big Kahuna Burger sits on the bar during Quentin Tarantino’s segment of Four Rooms, right next to a pack of Red Apples.
3. Inglourious Basterds’ Donny Donowitz is the Father of True Romance’s Lee Donowitz
In Inglourious Basterds, Donny is an American soldier who kills Nazis with a baseball bat. He’s part of a team responsible for killing Hitler by blowing up a movie theater, but he also dies in the explosion. His son, Lee Donowitz, grows up to become a prominent movie producer in True Romance. He probably grew up thinking movie theaters were pretty sweet, considering his father died killing Hitler in one.
2. Linda Kaye gets Shocked in Reservoir Dogs and Shot in Pulp Fiction
As Mr. Pink runs from the jewelry store in Reservoir Dogs, he crashes into the windshield of a car. He threatens the driver with a gun, breaks the driver’s side window, pulls the woman out and drives off. The driver lying on the ground trying to shield herself is Linda Kaye. In Pulp Fiction, after Butch hits Marcellus Wallace with his car, Marcellus shoots at Butch. He hits Linda Kaye in the hip, which, while not fatal, would certainly sting a little.
Now, it’s possible that just because it is the same actress it doesn’t mean that she’s the same unlucky woman. Harvey Keitel plays Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs and the Wolf in Pulp Fiction, yet they’re clearly supposed to be two different people. Still, it’s unlikely that the same actress suffering similar traumatizing events is a coincidence.
1. Hitler’s Death is the Fork Between Tarantino’s Universe and Our Own
Donny Donowitz being Len Donowitz’s father solidifies the connection between True Romance and Inglourious Basterds. True Romance bridges to Reservoir Dogs and, as you’ve seen, Reservoir Dogs is riddled with connections to Pulp Fiction.
This plants Inglourious Basterds firmly in the Real Universe, which means that Hitler dying in a movie theater is part of Mr. White, Vincent Vega, and Alabama Whitman’s history. They weren’t taught that Hitler committed suicide in 1945, but that a gang of Jewish-American soldiers assassinated him in a blaze of glory in 1944. This makes their comfort with violence and love of pop culture much more understandable. Knowing too much about movies makes you a nerd in our world, but in their world it connects you to one of the most important and badass moments in history. This also explains Django Unchained’s apparent lack of connection to the other films in the Real universe: at that point in history, Tarantino’s world and ours are still the same.