Famous for his elaborately indulgent screenplays, filled with non-sequiturs, it can be difficult to imagine the sort of scenes that even Quentin Tarantino decided he could part with. As a writer he’s a savant, so what was so wrong with these scenes that made it to the final drafts, but not the films themselves, and how did these cuts improve the final product?
What gets cut most often from his scripts are additional monologues and conversations (mostly from Pulp Fiction), stories characters tell that Tarantino felt weren’t up to snuff on entertainment value. There’s also the entire original ending to The Hateful Eight, scrubbed after the script was leaked. Two of the more significant omissions however are:
Inglourious Basterds. Originally, there was a scene immediately following Hans Landa’s decision to let the young Shoshana escape from the dairy farm his men have finished shooting up. It isn’t difficult to guess Landa’s reasons for letting the young Jewish girl run into the woods, but this cut scene would’ve left no room for doubt: It depicts Landa justifying his mercy to a fellow officer as they drive off in a tandem motorcar. He explains that she is unlikely to survive anyway, and that if she did, she would be turned in anyway. Or she could make it to America and be elected president. He chuckles at the improbability of it all. This scene explains what we could surmise for ourselves, and only hammers home the fateful nature of the only victim Landa ever underestimates being the Reich’s undoing at the end of the film. Leaving it in would make the scene a little one the nose, and give the opening a limp conclusion. It was wisely cut.
The epic Kill Bill lost two whole chapters. In one, the Bride would have taken on Gogo’s sister, Yuki, bent on revenge, and in the other we would’ve seen Bill himself in action, taking out an assassin after a poker game. Kill Bill is unforgivingly stylish, and while these scenes would probably have turned out very cool, Tarantino had to shorten down his opus just a little, especially when he was planning on making it just one film.
In something of an emerging pattern, another cut introduction featured Calvin Candie in Django Unchained and shows how Broomhilda, missing wife of our hero Django, came into his possession. He charms and swindles her owner, Scotty, into a card game where he loses her bill of sale. Scottie refuses to pony up and loses a duel to Calvin, who then chases a nude Broomhilda into the streets. It’s a thoroughly humiliating moment.
There were a number of problems with this section of the script. It does not add to the plot of the film (hence why it slid out so easily), and what characterisation it builds on, would’ve weakened the coming moments in the film.
The first is the uncomfortable addition to Broomhilda’s side of the story. Some aspects of her relationship to Scottie are framed as if she has moved on from her separation from Django more than he has. This muddles their fairy-tale love, central to justifying Django’s means.
The next is that this entire set piece is too long, to the point where Quentin introduces a narrator to speed up the scene by having him directly tell us some of what happened. It’s a tense set piece, only worth doing if you’ve got the time, and there certainly isn’t time for a scene concerning half characters we don’t see again, and half characters with proper introductions (from the perspective of our protagonists) later on.
The worst of its missteps is in undermining the foppish quality Calvin Candie has when he is introduced. His love of Mandingo fighting shows us he is cruel, and his posse shows us it is dangerous to antagonize him, but Calvin in the final film appears to not be terribly threatening himself.
Django is convincingly fooling him. This all serves to put the audience on edge once Stephen, Samuel L. Jackson’s house slave character, is introduced, clearly far more alert and investigative than Candie. Having Calvin proactively kill a white man would have made him more threatening and unstable to begin with, but would have robbed the film of its ratcheting tension once we spot someone who really knows what’s happening has entered the picture (a.k.a. Stephen). It also robs Candie of the opportunity to unleash his brutality unexpectedly at the dinner table, eradicating the façade of civility he has kept up around paying customers, as in the final film. That moment ought to be a new height for Calvin’s character, and not play second fiddle to what would’ve been this earlier scene. Eliminating this Broomhilda scene left the final film more tense, unpredictable, romantic and direct.
Whilst nothing Quentin Tarantino has ever cut has been that out of place when compared to what made it to the screen, each time has been the right move, to trim the unessential elements and leave behind the sort of films that make him such a hit with audiences: ones that don’t waste a moment of your time.