Death Proof: Vehicular Trivia
Death Proof (2007)
(courtesy of The Quentin Tarantino Archives)
The original title for Death Proof (2007) that pops up for about a second in the opening credits is “Quentin Tarantino’s Thunder Bolt”. Why? Many Grindhouse era films had different titles when they were released. Projectionists would also use alternate black leader title cards (like the Death Proof one) when showing films. The title “Thunder Bolt” is patterned after the opening logo for the AIP hot rod movie Thunder Alley.
Quentin Tarantino stated he came up with the idea of Death Proof when he was talking to a friend about buying a car. Tarantino wanted to buy a Volvo because he “didn’t want to die in some auto accident like the one in “Pulp Fiction (1994).” In regards to the safety of the car, his friend had said, “Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you.” The “death proof” car concept stuck in QTs mind for years until he took that idea and used it for Death Proof.
Stuntman Mike’s death proof cars (70s Chevy Nova/70s Dodge Charger) feature a replica of the “Rubber Duck” icon hood ornament which was first used in the Sam Peckinpah action film Convoy (1978) on Rubber Duck’s (Kris Kristofferson) truck.
The license plate numbers on Stuntman Mike’s cars (JJZ-109 and 938-DAN) are references to license plate numbers on the cars in the films Bullitt (1968) and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974). Both films featured awesome car chases.
Kim’s yellow and black car (The Bride’s iconic Kill Bill colors) in Death Proof is a Ford Mustang Mach I. The same model in Alexandre Aja’s High Tension and as “Eleanor” in the original 1974 car film Gone in 60 Seconds which Kim makes a reference to in Death Proof during the diner scene. QT also referenced it in Kill Bill: Volume 1 (the sunglasses lined dashboard of Sheriff Earl McGraw’s police car).
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) Shanna is wearing a t-shirt featuring Tura Santana’s character from ” with the words BADASS CINEMA underneath it. Zoe, Kim and Abernathy become a tough girl gang at the end of Death Proof. This was inspired by the original badass babe trio of Varla, Billie and Rosie from Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Russ Meyer is also one of the directors QT thanks in the end credits.
Stuntman Mike is wearing the same wristwatch as Kowalski in Vanishing Point.
In Death Proof, Kurt Russell’s character introduces himself as Stuntman Mike McKay. Dov and Omar insult Stuntman Mike by making a reference to BJ and the Bear a 70’s TV show about a trucker with a monkey. BJ’s last name in the show was McKay. Dov also sings a little of the theme from the Burt Reynolds film Smokey and The Bandit (1977) while making fun of Stuntman Mike.
Tarantino makes more references to Burt Reynolds and his films. In the scene where Stuntman Mike is trying to get a lapdance from Arlene, Jungle Julia calls him “Stuntman Burt” until he corrects her. After the lapdance, Jungle Julia calls Stuntman Mike “Cannonball Run“, another Burt Reynolds film. Later on in the hospital, Sheriff Earl McGraw calls Stuntman Mike, Hooper, which was a Burt Reynolds film where he starred as a stuntman.
Towards the end of Death Proof the girls smash through a boat during their pursuit of Stuntman Mike – this also happens during the epic car chase at the end of Gone in 60 Seconds (the original obviously).
When Stuntman Mike is in the hospital, Sheriff Earl McGraw refers to him as ‘Frankenstein’ – this is a reference to David Carradine’s character in Death Race 2000 (1975), which features people in souped up cars deliberately killing pedestrians to earn points in a bloodthirsty futuristic competition. Death Proof’s screenplay is dedicated to Charles B. Griffith, the screenwriter of Death Race 2000.
Some of the car chase scenes look inspired by The Man from Hong Kong, a 1975 Ozploitation-Hong Kong action film with Jimmy Wang Yu and George Lazenby.
Stuntman Mike’s car is black with a skull and crossbones on it. The same logo is used by a rockband called “Death by Stereo”.
Juke Box Meccanica (soundtrack):
Riot in Thunder Alley by Eddie Beram was first featured in the 1967 AIP teen hot rod film Thunder Alley.
– courtesy of The Quentin Tarantino Archives