It will likely be Sally Menke’s legacy as the editor on all of Quentin Tarantino’s films that she was able to make sense of his time-shifting, multistranded narratives in a way no one else could, making it all the more tragic that she died at an age that makes no sense at all, far too young at 56, reported to have collapsed while hiking in Griffith Park. (While it has not been confirmed, the record levels of heat in Los Angeles this week may have been a contributing factor.)
Over her nearly 25-year career in the movie business, Menke worked with some of its most demanding personalities from Oliver Stone (“Heaven and Earth”) to Billy Bob Thornton (“All the Pretty Horses”), not to mention starting out on the first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” But it’s her collaboration with Tarantino, beginning on 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs” that became one of contemporary film’s most impressive creative unions. Although content to remain behind the scenes, Menke became famous with her Oscar nominations for “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds” and when Tarantino started to include the outtakes of “Hi Sally” on his DVDs, where he would encourage his actors to say hi to Menke while she was in the editing bay. In this clip from the “Grindhouse” DVD, he explained how Menke was integral to his work:
Here’s the “Hi Sally” reel from “Inglourious Basterds”:
In one of her final interviews around the DVD release of “Inglourious Basterds,” Menke told HollywoodNews.com‘s Todd Gilchrist (which is well worth reading the rest of):
“We really do kind of agree on everything. Maybe that’s why it’s been such a long relationship, because somehow I must live in the same world as him. Even though we do live in very different worlds, we do live in the same world. Because I’m a mom and I have two kids and it’s so funny, [and I remember] after I did like the first “Kill Bill” and some people came over from Japan and they interviewed me and they came to my house. I have a lab and a cat and two little kids, and they came into my house and they were like, really? You’re Quentin’s editor? Where are all of the tattoos?”
Menke’s last credited film may be Michael Lander’s Ellen Page-Cillian Murphy drama “Peacock,” which debuted on home video earlier this year, but she also came in under the radar to help with reshaping Michel Gondry’s “The Green Hornet,” which will be released in January. (Collider spoke to Gondry earlier this year about her influence.) As the woman known for crafting such truly memorable endings, it is a truly sad end, but her influence will surely live on.