Today, with the recent release of “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” still in our rear view, we’ll be continuing our look at the use of music in the films of Quentin Tarantino. Our song of the day today is “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite” from “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”.
Yesterday, we looked at Tarantino’s directorial debut, “Reservoir Dogs”, and more specifically, the iconic scene featuring Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You”. While it would be chronologically correct to continue from there by looking at “Pulp Fiction”, we wanted to make sure that we hit at least one of the volumes of “Kill Bill”, since they both have tons of great musical moments.
Once again, we’ll start off with a brief discussion of the film itself, and then move on to the scene that features our song of the day.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
One of the biggest perks of the soundtracks to “Kill Bill” (volumes one and two), comes from the fact that they were both produced by Wu-Tang Clan’s The RZA. While he served mainly as producer, The RZA also contributed several tracks to the soundtrack, including standouts like “Crane/White Lightning”, and “Ode To Oren Ishii”.
The original soundtrack released for the film features a wide number of pop songs, remixes, a few snippets of dialogue, and several notable martial arts sound effects for good measure. There’s also one inclusion of brass jazz with Al Hirt’s “Green Hornet”.
There are more than a few great scenes from “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” in which the music stands out. The opening scene with “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, the catchy and foreboding “Twisted Nerve” whistle, and the 188.8.131.52’s cameo, to name a few.
But among them all, there’s one musical moment in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” that takes the cake. It’s one that comes in at the very end, at the film’s climax, and it’s our song of the day.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite” is a song by Santa Esmeralda, a disco group in the late 1970’s. The version in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1” is a rearrangement of the original 1964 version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, by Nina Simone. Santa Esmeralda’s version is a ten and a half minute masterpiece of percussion, brass, and flamenco guitar that finds a perfect home at the climax to “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”.
But let’s set the scene a bit, first [spoilers]. At this point in the film, the Uma Thurman’s ‘Bride’ has slaughtered dozens of sword-wielding gang members, is tired, bleeding, and has only one foe to go. The one standing in front of her on snow covered ground under the moonlight: Oren Ishii.
The amount of tension that builds up to this point promises for a satisfying battle. And as soon as the percussive claps of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite” kick in, oh, you know it’s on. As the song adds in more layers of instruments, the two samurai face off and lock eyes with a funky flamenco background building up the tension more and more. Then, once the music reaches the peak of its crescendo, it’s cut off abruptly. We’re thrown once more into utter silence, focusing all attention on this last fight.
Out of all the songs in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite” is probably my personal favorite. It’s comes in at the perfect moment, only staying long enough to do its job and inject a big shot of energy into the scene. It’s slow, clapping build is so infectious, and the funky electric guitar that comes in later is just more icing on the cake.
That about wraps up our discussion today of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood/Esmeralda Suite”, by Santa Esmeralda as it was used in “Kill Bill: Vol: 1”. We’ll be back tomorrow with another song from one of Tarantino’s stellar soundtracks.