PATH OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN
If you haven't seen Four Rooms, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction or From Dusk Till Dawn - then I'm guessing you’re the type of person who just loves lapping-up that greenscreen Marvel ****. Okay, jokes aside - art is subjective, but if you haven't seen the films above, fair warning, there are spoilers ahead.
It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino likes to partake in a bit of cinephile fun by adding subtle eater eggs and inconspicuous connections across his films - in what is now more commonly known as the "Tarantinoverse". Not only do we see the reoccurrence of fictional brands such as Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple Cigarettes, we also see subtle references that suggest characters from different movies are related to one another - the most iconic of which being the psychotic Vega brothers, Vincent and Vic Vega (Pulp Fiction / Reservoir Dogs) - as well as other, more obscure family connections such as deceptive outlaw, English Pete Hilcox (The Hateful Eight) and his equally deceptive grandson, Lieutenant Archie Hilcox (Inglorious Bastards).
Tarantino has also been known to use the same characters on multiple occasions. For example, the mean ole bastard' Texas Ranger, Earl McGraw is a recurring character in the "Tarantinoverse". We see him investigate the massacre at the Two Pines Chapel in Kill Bill Vol.1, we see him on the trail of the batshit-crazy, serial-killer, Stuntman Mike in Death Proof, and finally, we witness his bloody demise on one humid evening in From Dusk Till Dawn.
With this kind of symbiosis, it comes as no surprise that fans have speculated about other - less obvious - character overlaps: with one fan theory claiming that Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs is ironically the Buddy Holly waiter in Pulp Fiction (both played by Steven Buscemi). I liked this idea, I liked it a lot - so let’s lean into it.
The hypothesis goes, Pink (presumed dead) actually survived the offscreen culminating shootout in Reservoir Dogs, and after spending 12 solid years in prison - three of which, confined to a cell with Zed’s old redneck pal, Maynard (we all know how that turned out for Marcellus Wallace) - there’s no way he’s going back in the slammer, no frickin’ way!
So one night while sitting in Jack Rabbit Slims and sipping on a Old Chattanooga, Pink is weighing-up his options (which are pretty dire considering he’s got a rap sheet as long as his arm). Pink realises there ain’t gonna be many employers willing to take a chance on a convicted criminal; so noticing that the restaurant is packed to the rafters and understaffed, he strolls over to manager Monroe, asks for a job, and well, that’s that; one night he’s chomping down on a tasty burger, the next night he’s serving ‘em up gowned as Buddy Holly. So why the irony? Let's rewind back to the opening scene in Reservoir Dogs, Pink not only spits out a tyrannical tirade on why he adamantly refuses to tip, but he also feels little empathy for waiting staff, even going as far to strum the world’s smallest violin between his fingertips. Therefore, in an ironic twist of fate, tight-fisted pink is now forced to live the remainder of his days living off of the generosity of Jack Rabbit Slims patrons. If that ain’t Karma, I don’t know what is.
This got me pondering - could there be any other Tarantino films that potentially harvest character overlap? After some heavy contemplation, and lengthy deliberation, I have my own exposition. I’m going to suggest that Pumpkin (Pulp Fiction) and Ted (Four Rooms) - both played by Tim Rorth - are in actual fact the same character. Granted it’s a stretch, well maybe a leap, but let's give it a shot...
In four Rooms (an often overlooked and underrated Tarantino film of sorts), we see Roth play the part of Ted - a wet behind the ears employee, taking the reigns as the new bellhop at the passé Mon Signor hotel. Ted is tasked with tackling his first night shift on what is about to be one very absurd New Years Eve.
Ted is a polite, ardent and cordial young fellow. He is naïve, fearful and speaks the Queen’s.
In contrast, Pumpkin is not only a foul mouthed cockney with violent and racist tendencies, he’s also an unhinged serial armed robber who has no qualms in “unloading on your face”. So how could those two people possibly be the same person I hear you ask? To explain this character transformation, we need to start from the beginning.
At the start of Four Rooms, we see the first guests arrive for the evening; It quickly becomes apparent that the group are a Covent of witches, who are there to perform a resurrection ritual in the Jacuzzi of the honeymoon suite. As the ceremony gets into full-swing, the group realise they’ve forgotten one missing ingredient - a gloop of crème de la penis. With time fleeting and their options limited, they turn their attention to the reluctant bellboy. Ted unwittingly accepts a 50 dollar tip and is subsequently hypnotised into having-it-off with one beguiling young witch in particular. Ted has sold self-dignity to the devil. His descent into darkness has been put into motion.
Ted, now radiant and now rather quite pleased with himself, heads back to the foyer where he receives a call from a guest who requests a bottle of champagne. On arrival, Ted is greeted by a belligerent Mexican gangster and his beautiful wife. The pair are making final preparations for their New Year's Eve extravaganza ball whilst also planning to leave their two children “home alone” in front of the TV. The gangsta, seeing Ted, comes up with a cunning idea. He offers Ted 500 bucks to “keep-an-eye” on their children while he and his wife head out to paint the town red. Soon after the parents depart. Ted heads back to the foyer, leaving the kids to their own devices.
While at the front desk, Ted receives a request from yet another guest - this time in the form of a bucket of ice. Ted obliges and heads up to room 404. He enters the dimly lit room, but instead of being greeted by a generous tipping guest, he’s confronted with the barrel of 44mm hand cannon. Unbeknownst to Ted, he’s entered the wrong room and now finds himself in a sticky situation; more specifically, a hostage situation. The bloke on the other end of the gun is Sigfried: An unstable nutcase who has his wife fettered to a chair. As this scene unfolds, it becomes apparent that Sigfried wants to force Ted to play out some kind of sick cuckold fantasy. At this point, we start to witness the decline of Ted's mental state, especially when Sigfried continually addresses Ted by his Christian name -Theodore, which resurfaces a plethora of old childhood traumas, and as a consequence, pushes Ted to breaking point; the guy is cracking and it shows. Ted eventually breaks-down and combusts like a vampire being skewered in the heart with a pencil. He urges Sigfried to “shoot him now” 'cause ain't nobody, absolutely nobody is gonna call him Theodore ever again!
After escaping the hostage situation, Ted pulls himself together, dusts himself down and once again returns to the front desk. As the night wears on, Ted is inundated with calls from the children he’s supposed to be looking after (the majority of which he's ignored), but his patience is now wearing thin. As Ted is just about to head up and give the misbehavers a good rollicking, the parents arrive back in a taxi; the race is on - can Ted get to the room and make everything appear vanilla before the husband can carry up his wife’s drunken, limp, comatose body? Ted smashes into the room, and to his horror, finds the kids drinking, smoking, playing with hypodermic needles, and have uncovered the corpse of a dead prostitute stuffed in the springs of the bed. Ted frantically tries to take charge of the situation, but the situation is completely FUBAR. Ted - at the end of his tether - finally snaps and lashes out - smacking one of the kids around the ear hole: not once, but twice. Ted has committed the cardinal sin of assaulting a child. Ted has subsequently metamorphosed from the victim to the victimiser. His transformation into Pumpkin is almost complete.
After being stabbed in the leg with a hypodermic needle, dousing the flames of a fire, reporting a corpse to the authorities, and presumably being beaten by a disgruntled father, Ted heads down to the front desk enraged and exasperated; he picks up the phone and calls Betty - his colleague who absconded to a New Years Eve party. While talking to Betty, Ted’s royal accent disintegrates and is now replaced with “exhibit one”, a cockney accent; the exact same accent as Pumpkin over in Pulp Fiction. It would seem that Ted has been keeping up appearances. As the conversation ensues, Ted - in a now matter-of-factly tone - tells Betty that he's done, adios, au revoir, sayonara, he's outta there. At that very exact moment, the phone rings; it's a call from the penthouse. Betty - drunk, tired and now overcome with a bout of trepidation as she realises that the hotel VIP is about to be shunned, and thus, ruin any chance of reviving the Mon Sigor to its former glory, - convinces Ted to do just one last job. Ted reluctantly agrees and eloquently answers the phone. His presence is requested in the penthouse.
Ted is welcomed to the penthouse by the loquacious, Chester Rush - a big swinging dick, Hollywood director. Chester and his drunken entourage invite Ted to join the festivities of the evening. After the gettin' to know you chitchat is through, Ted, Chester and Chester's entourage gather around a worktop where their plan is laid bare. Chester and Marvin (a member of Chester's entourage) have made a bet. The bet is simple: If Marvin can ignite his Zippo ten times in a row, he takes the keys to Chester's 1964 red Chevy Chevelle. On the other hand (literally), if Marvin fails to ignite the lighter ten times in a row, Chester takes Marvin’s little finger - and they want Ted, (sober Ted, clear-eyed Ted, impartial Ted) to be the “dice-man”. Ted initially refuses but is quickly persuaded by the colour of money. Ted takes the cleaver and cocks it into position above his head.
Marvin takes the lighter.
He puts his thumb on the wheel.
The room falls silent.
The guests hold their breath in anticipation.
All eyes on the wheel.
It fails to ignite.
And without missing a beat, Ted strikes down the cleaver with great vengeance and furious anger, severing Marvin's pinky from his hand. Ted snatches the cash from the counter and briskly exits the room in his modus operandi strut.
After having sex with the clientele, held hostage at gunpoint, assaulting a child, and dismembering a drunken guest, I believe that Ted’s soul was crushed into oblivion, and what arose from the ashes was not an enlightened phoenix, but a distressed psychopath whose moral compass has gone skew-whiff - the same psychopath which we see in Pulp Fiction. Ted's first-night bellhopin' at the hotel Mon Signor was probably his last, and the traumatic events which transpired on that one fateful evening had devastating consequences on his mental wellbeing. The horrific trauma derailed Ted from the righteous path and thrust him into a life of crime - which leads us to exhibit “number two”. When Ted/Pumpkin is asked by Honey Bunny about returning to day jobs in the opening scene of Pulp Fiction, his reply?...NOT IN THIS LIFE!