Sally Menke may have cut her first feature in 1983, but it was with the release of 1992's "Reservoir Dogs" that her star really began to climb. Little wonder, then, that the rest of her professional life was largely defined by the work she did as the editor of every single film Quentin Tarantino directed, including his segment of "Four Rooms." Menke was an important collaborator for QT, as big a part of his voice as his distinctive screenplays or his eye for casting.
Sadly, Menke passed away unexpectedly in Los Angeles yesterday, and according to published reports, her body was found around 2:00 AM in Beachwood Canyon, one of the neighborhoods near the Hollywood sign. The police are still investigating the cause of the death, but early indications make it seem like yesterday's brutal heat wave in Southern California may have had something to do with it. She was hiking with a friend yesterday morning, but the friend gave up on the hike and went back, while Menke and her dog continued the hike. When police found her body, they also found the dog, who appeared to be unharmed.
A death like this is doubly upsetting because it's so inexplicable. Menke was only 56 years old, and for her to pass away like this is incomprehensible. Beyond the sorrow of losing a valued friend, the people closest to Menke have got to be reeling from the bizarre random nature of this. I can only imagine the impact it's had on Tarantino, who has always treated the time he spent fine-tuning his films with Menke has one of the most important parts of his process. Menke's always had an adventurous touch as a cutter that reflects the best qualities of Quentin's work as a writer, and she had impeccable taste in terms of rhythm and pace.