December 31, 2015
Written by Roger Malcolm
We open on wide sweeping panavision shots of beautiful snow-covered landscapes encompassing the wild frontier of Wyoming in the dead of winter. The camera eventually cuts to a cross with a snow-covered Jesus, it’s a long shot with no cut as the camera slowly comes down as we see a six-horse team pulling a stagecoach through the winter snow. As the stagecoach passes disappearing off frame right a breeze of snow passes right to left of frame before the cut of this beautifully constructed shot. A magnificent s̶e̶v̶e̶n̶ start and we haven’t even been introduced to a single character as of yet from The Hateful Eight.
“Chapter One: Last Stage to Red Rock”
Soon enough, we meet Major Marquis Warren (played by Samuel L. Jackson), sitting upon 3 dead bodies, which he’s bringing in for the bounty on their heads. Major Warren has lost his horse due to the harsh winter weather and is waiting in the middle of the road, which forces the stagecoach to come to a full stop. In that stagecoach sits John Ruth (played by Kurt Russell), another bounty hunter like Major Warren, but with slightly different principles. See, whereas Major Warren has 3 dead bounties, John Ruth is known as “The Hangman” as he always sees to it that his bounties are given the proper justice by delivering them to the hangman himself and watches their hanging with his own two eyes. Inside the stagecoach with John “The Hangman” Ruth is a dirty, low-down, desperate killer named Daisy Domergue (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), and John Ruth has no intentions of letting her get away from him. Ruth tells Major Warren she ain’t no John Wilkes Booth but she’s got a nice price on her head of 10,000 dollars.
“Chapter Two: Son of a Gun”
After a discussion in the coach about a letter Major Warren has on his person from the President of the United States of America himself, Abraham Lincoln, Daisy and “The Hangman” find themselves in the snow no longer inside the comfort of the stagecoach. The dirty scoundrel Daisy Domergue spat blood on Major Warren’s letter, so Warren punched her which knocked her out of the coach along with John Ruth who is handcuffed to her, or vice versa. As they gather themselves together another traveler comes upon them needing a ride. John Ruth becoming more and more suspicious of a plan for Daisy Domergue’s escape isn’t all too eager to allow just another stranger into the stagecoach. Although Ruth recognizes this fella as Chris Mannix (played by Walton Goggins), he doesn’t trust him as far as he can throw ’em, since his reputation of being a member of a rebel renegade group from the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” called the “Mannix Marauders” precedes him, which categorizes him as untrustworthy according to John “The Hangman” Ruth. Although he’s not trusted, Chris Mannix claims he’s the new sheriff in Red Rock, only he’s yet to have been sworn in and if he were to be left for dead by John Ruth, that would be murder.
“Chapter Three: Minnie’s Haberdashery”
Although John Ruth had Major Warren give his two pistols to the stagecoach driver O.B. (played by James Parks), Ruth removes the handcuffs from Major Warren and returns to him his pistols so as he can keep an extra watch on Chris Mannix. Ruth knows one thing for sure that the “nigger hatin’ son of a gun” Chris Mannix ain’t partnering up with Major Warren since he himself is a black man. Not just any black man either, but a black man that once had a price on his head of 30,000 dollars by the Confederacy for burning down Wellington prisoner of war camp in West Virginia. This is news to John Ruth but not to Chris Mannix and Daisy Domergue.
“Chapter Four: Domergue’s Got a Secret”
All four passengers with the driver eventually arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery. Ruth takes Daisy inside while O.B., Major Warren and Mannix assist a Mexican named Bob (played by Demian Bichir) with the horses in the stable. Already inside is Joe Gage, Oswaldo Mobray and Sanford Smithers. Sanford Smithers (played by Bruce Dern) is a former Confederate general with a mighty distaste for Major Warren and has no reservations speaking his mind, only he doesn’t “acknowledge niggers in northern uniforms”. Joe Gage (played by Michael Madsen) is a quiet cowboy that sits writing in his journal as he waits out the blizzard to return home to see his mother. Oswaldo Mobray (played by Tim Roth) is the hangman from Red Rock and seems to get along best with both John Ruth and Chris Mannix. Suspicious of every single one of them, Ruth parades Daisy around to each one questioning their intentions and eventually disarming each one.
“Chapter Five: The Four Passengers”
Now with everyone disarmed besides John Ruth and Major Warren, there are still a few things that aren’t adding up. John Ruth isn’t the only one of the suspicious nature as Major Warren has been asking quite a few questions himself, while also making several observations as well. Major Warren pours a cup of coffee and notices a red jelly bean laying between two floorboards after he kicked it with his boot. This causes him to look up to the top shelf where there are several large glass containers of candy. Major Warren also seems suspicious that at Minnie’s Haberdashery there is no Sweet Dave, nor is there even Minnie herself. Señor Bob says Minnie left roughly a week ago to visit her mother on the other side of the mountain along with Sweet Dave, leaving señor Bob in charge. Major Warren says that is sure hard to believe but he’s not calling señor Bob a liar, not as of yet at least.
“Last Chapter: Black Man , White Hell”
With suspicions heightened, all the mysteries start to unravel as the explanations are revealed slowly but surely. Explanations as to who made the stew, who poisoned the coffee, why there is a single red jelly bean laying on the floor between two floorboards, where exactly is Minnie and Sweet Dave and why did the driver of the other stagecoach outside leave to stay with a friend in a blizzard. Let’s not forget the reoccurring joke that is the front door and its necessity of having two boards nailed into the door frame to secure the winter blizzard-wind from blowing it open.
Quentin Tarantino narrates the second half of his film. If you were to have watched the roadshow version which included an overture and intermission, it was after the intermission Q brings us up to speed on our characters as about 15 minutes have passed in the movie between scenes or chapters as Q has been so gentlemanly to have written out for us. Q has shots reminiscent of John Ford such as when we look out from the stable at the winter blizzard roaring outside with the majority of the frame in black except for the beautiful white snow outside.
Speaking of beautiful white snow, two characters hammer stakes into the frozen snow covered ground to lay a line to and from; the stable, front door of Minnie’s Haberdashery and outhouse (or shithouse according to O.B.) while Ennio Morricone’s ominous score sinks in filling the atmosphere with an eerie feeling very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The Thing starred Kurt Russell and was even composed by Ennio Morricone himself ironically enough but there are no such things as coincidences, especially not in a Quentin Tarantino flick. A few of the pieces of music are said to have been unused compositions leftover from John Carpenter’s The Thing, something that doesn’t surprise me at all after watching and most certainly listening to the film in its completion.
The Hateful Eight has two separate musical performances played roughly back to back which reminded me of Q’s favourite western Rio Bravo. Another scene sees one of our characters interrogating suspects while the camera points up low from the ground, which becomes very reminiscent of scenes of Dean Martin in Rio Bravo or Robert Mitchum in El Dorado. Both films which were essentially the same film remade by director Howard Hawks, which utilized John Wayne in both as well. All three films, including Q’s, consist of scenes revolving the majority of the time around a single set location. Speaking of John Wayne, Kurt Russell seems to be delivering his best John Wayne performance he can muster as “The Hangman” John Ruth. A performance reminiscent of The Duke’s Ethan Edwards from John Ford’s The Searchers or Rooster Cogburn from Henry Hathaway’s True Grit.
Although Q is known for placing homages throughout his filmography to all those great films that have come before that he so admires and appreciates, he also seems to be giving a slight nod to one of his own films Reservoir Dogs, even having one of his actors replicate a performance very similar to a character the same actor portrayed in the earlier film. If anyone is disappointed with the lack of a role for the wonderful Christoph Waltz, never fear as this actor I speak of certainly leaves us with another fondly remembered performance that rivals both Colonel Hanz Landa and Doctor King Schultz.
Certainly there are many references to television shows and other westerns, but one more in particular is the casting of a consistently heroic actor in a role that is not at all too heroic, which is strikingly similar to Henry Fonda’s casting as Frank in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. I objectively consider Once Upon a Time in the West a Masterpiece and the greatest western ever made. Although The Hateful Eight is a western, it is also one of the funniest I’ve ever seen and has some of the best suspense and dramatic mystery ever, all rolled into one. Quentin Tarantino is in top form writing and directing, with a cast of characters firing on all cylinders, accompanied by breathtaking cinematography, a film score masterfully composed by Ennio Morricone, and a timeless film plot that speaks volumes to our current times and relations amongst one another. I give it a 5 out of 5 for a rating of Masterpiece.
The Malcolm Scale
I took a 5 hour trip to St. Louis to witness the roadshow version of The Hateful Eight. I received a special program, a program so special that a cinema goer actually snuck up and stole a stack of them out of the box they were in while we awaited entering the film. It is reported that the Weinstein Company spent $8-10 million to find, procure, rebuild, and install 70mm analog film projectors and to train the 200 projectionists needed to operate them in the 96 US theaters ($80,000+ location) that showed the roadshow version of The Hateful Eight. It certainly was an experience I’ll never forget and will never take for granted. Especially considering the lenses used to film The Hateful Eight were once the same lenses that filmed Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur. “It’s not that they used the same kind of lenses on Ben-Hur – they used these lenses on Ben-Hur! … They only made one set! They shot The Battle of the Bulge with Marlon Brando and Mutiny on the Bounty on these lenses.”
Thank you Quentin Tarantino for all your hard passionate work not only in just your writing and directing but in all you do, also for your determination to remind us all of the importance of preserving our history, not only in cinema but in all walks of life. You sir, are beyond words and descriptions. For an aspiring filmmaker such as myself, you are the measuring stick for greatness, and I feel honoured and truly privileged to be alive during your reign at the top. Although I list John Carpenter first and Sam Peckinpah second on my list of favourite directors, you sit steadfast in position number three. I still would love to see a true western from John Carpenter but I believe I just received on Christmas day the western I’ve waited years for from Quentin Tarantino. I personally love it and it now will rival Jackie Brown as my favourite Tarantino film and sit nicely next to Inglourious Basterds as another Tarantino Masterpiece, and will also sit next to my favourite westerns Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Howard Hawks El Dorado. R̶i̶o̶ Bravo Quentin, I take my hat off to ya. Which I feel says a lot, since I’m not wearing a hat currently, but is that possibly because I’m hanging out at Minnie’s Haberdashery at the moment, so how about we forget about hats today considering there is a blizzard going on and all.