Rolling Thunder Pictures - A Retrospective
From The Quentin Tarantino Archives
Quentin Tarantino, June 14, L.A. Weekly
"I love Showgirls!" -Quentin Tarantino on Switchblade Sisters and his new releasing company, Rolling Thunder (named after one of his favorite revenge films). I was familiar with Jack Hill and had seen Coffy when it came out. It's still my favorite of his films, the Johnny Guitar of blaxploitation. I'd seen Foxy Brown, The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage. Then Monterey Video came out with Switchblade Sisters and I couldn't believe how funny it was. But it was strange: you go through the whole movie thinking, Did he intend this, or was it accidental? If you've seen his other work, you know it's not accidental. The first half hour you're kind of laughing at it, then you're kind of laughing at it _and_ with it. Then about midway through, I've stopped laughing at it, I'm laughing with it, I'm in the flow of the movie. Then in the last 20 minutes, all of a sudden I'm sad. I realize that I care about these people. Switchblade Sisters has an energy and power all its own that kind of rolls over everything. Once you bite into it, it never stops.
To tell you the truth, the closest we've had to a Switchblade Sisters in the last three years is Showgirls. I love Showgirls! It's pitched high, it's crazy, it's wild and it's a hell of a lot of fucking fun. I think Paul Verhoeven was in on the joke and Joe Eszterhas was not, that's my feeling. I think a lot of people didn't understand from whence this movie came. They're not used to exploitation films, there's no context. One of the things I like best about Showgirls is that it's the biggest Hollywood attempt at pure exploitation since Mandingo. Showgirls belongs in a genre that's been Roger Corman's most successful since he moved to video: the strip-club movie. It's the $20 million version of that kind of movie, just like Mandingo was the big-budget version of The Big Bird Cage. I got tired of going to festivals and seeing what I thought were interesting movies, telling Harvey or Bob Weinstein about them and having one of their acquisition people say, Nah, it's not for Miramax. The straw that broke the camel's back was Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express when I heard "It's like watching paint dry." I said, "Harvey, I'm the best acquisition guy you've got. You should just let me release four films a year. We'll pay a low amount for them, and it'll be like a specialty label inside Miramax. And it won't cost you a thing." I don't get paid. But if the movies make some money, I'll eventually make some. That was the original idea behind Rolling Thunder. Now I don't want to release new films so much as older exploitation movies and give them a new life. Rolling Thunder is really getting kicked off with Switchblade Sisters. This is the personality I want the company to have. We're here to bring back the glory of '70s chopsocky movies, Italian crime films, blaxploitation--we'll get a spaghetti Western in there eventually. Have the fun of watching them in a movie theater, as opposed to going to a whole bunch of different festivals adn finding the oddball new movie that no one is going to release. I'll still do that, but I'm going to have to love it, like Chungking Express and Sonatine, a '97 Rolling Thunder release directed by Japan's Takeshi Kitano.
What I'd like a year or so from now is to release four movies in theaters and another five on video. Some of the movies will do well and some won't, but they'll all work out because it's not costing us that much. We're treating this like a philanthropic enterprise that we might make some money on. But we ain't going to make much, and the money we make we'll put back into what we're doing. I just want to bring the movies into town. I want other people to see them, to give them a shot. If a movie stays where it stays, that's fine. If it breaks out, that's great. But it's going to have to break out on its own. We don't ever want a movie to have to do great, we want it to do okay.
Our next release is Mighty Peking Man, a Shaw Brothers movie from 1977. It stars Evelyne Craft as a kind of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle girl. Our biggest release this year is a Jet Li movie that's a remake of Bruce Lee's Fists of Fury, which was known in America as The Chinese Connection. It's the best fight film I've ever seen, I'm calling it The New Chinese Connection. I also want to be the first distributor to release a Mario Bava movie in Italian, with subtitles. I think by next week we'll be able to announce that we've gotten his Blood and Black Lace. We've also picked up a film by Lucio Fulci, The Psychic. Another art film we have coming up is Rick Linklater's first feature. It's in Super 8 and called It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. It's the prequel to Slacker, basically. He's the star and it's just him bopping around--it's an existential Rick Linklater-Antonioni movie. The thing is, you can't lament that you wish that more people would see this, that and the other kind of film. You can't make the people see it--it's just your job to turn on the lights.