The Movies that Inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Image

Each month’s schedule at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is an illuminating glimpse into Quentin Tarantino’s eccentric cinematic subconscious. In 2010 Tarantino purchased the iconic repertory theater to save it from demolition. The New Beverly, in operation since 1978, is an anomaly even in movie-crazed LA. It is a revival theater that has thrived in the age of streaming. Through daring, inventive programming, its schedule of films shirks convention and challenges the preconceived notions of the art house audience. Christmas with Kubrick? Sure. A John Cassavetes retrospective? Yes. An Adam Sandler double feature? Why the hell not? It is an infusion of unpretentious cinephilia in the age of billion-dollar blockbuster multiplex domination.

“Tarantino has also pledged that so long as he is alive and rich, the New Beverly screenings will always be on film, 35mm or 16mm, if necessary…”

Tarantino has personally programmed the New Beverly’s calendar each month since 2014 and did not even take a break during the production of his latest movie, the 1960s period piece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Each month is a veritable film festival with connecting themes and threads. There are oddball double (sometimes even triple) features, offbeat matinees, grindhouse Tuesdays, midnight movies, old school kiddee features, and the program is riddled with classic cartoons, shorts, and vintage PSAs. It’s like a love-infused mixtape chock full of rarities, B-sides, and deep cuts. Tarantino has also pledged that so long as he is alive and rich, the New Beverly screenings will always be on film, 35mm or 16mm, if necessary. Many of the prints are from his own personal collection.

July’s calendar leads that up to the debut of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a fascinating side project. This schedule borders on the professorial, a sort of doctoral thesis by a passionate scholar. Tarantino curated a month-long series of films that acts as liner notes, an interactive director’s commentary to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton, a has-been actor famous for television westerns a decade earlier, now ekes out a living on the B-list fringes making guest appearances on TV shows or starring in exploitation pics and low budget foreign productions. This series of films at the New Beverly feature similar actors of that era whose once promising careers were in decline by the end of the 60s as tastes changed and the studio system imploded.

“…whose once promising careers were in decline by the end of the 60s as tastes changed and the studio system imploded.”

These leading men are examples of a crisis in masculinity as the Eisenhower era, the swinging sixties, and now even the summer of love are in the rearview mirror. The 70s are looming and the New Hollywood hippie barbarians are at the studio gates. These second-tier actors Tarantino showcases are the former pinups from teenybopper fanzines circa 1960. They could have been stars if only the right project and a little luck had come along, the big what ifs, coulda beens, and wannabes. But they still got work. Of course, we remember Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, or Jack Nicholson from this era, but who the hell remembers Tab Hunter, Troy Donahue, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, George Hamilton, Van Heflin, Vince Edwards, Edd Byrnes, or George Maharis? Tarantino certainly does, and fondly so, because all these actors are featured in the July program at the New Beverly, the muses for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Tarantino’s calendar presents a cavalcade of forgotten and overlooked films, many of which haven’t seen the light of day since being broadcast on the late show in the 70s and 80s or on UHF or TCM bootlegs. He recreates a fairy tale world of flash-in-the-pan teen idols, washed up character actors, hippie burnouts, Elvis pictures, “It” girls, bubblegum beach party movies, biker gang flicks, spaghetti westerns, sci-fi creature features, surf guitar, heist pics, cult films, and, with Manson on the horizon, legitimate cults. Tarantino reanimates an era, the detritus of culture unearthed from an unmarked tomb. It is a parade of what we believe is beneath history, even mere film history.

“…Tarantino’s personal film school, the New Beverly is now his own film school for the general public and he creates the curriculum.”

If Video Archives, the rental store he worked at in his 20s was Tarantino’s personal film school, the New Beverly is now his own film school for the general public and he creates the curriculum. This is his spin on education and it is a party atmosphere, a celebration. Just imagine any other tired late-60s retrospective. It would have trotted out the same cliched, canonical films, say, Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, M*A*S*H, or The Graduate. Great films all, but done to death. Tarantino redefines what constitutes a classic, what matters, what slipped through the cracks. No other director’s mind is such a lively pop culture encyclopedia, a mix of the high and low. He wants people to remember the movies that time forgot. Tarantino has said that he plans to retire from filmmaking one day and devote himself to film criticism and literary pursuits. If this current calendar at the New Beverly is any indication, he has a great deal to contribute to the stale realm of cinema studies.

“Tarantino redefines what constitutes a classic, what matters, what slipped through the cracks…”

For those who live in the greater Los Angeles area, the New Beverly Cinema screens films seven days a week. For everyone else, a viewer’s guide to the July calendar follows, so you can play the home game. The theater releases its calendar online each month and also sponsors the Pure Cinema Podcast. There is an invaluable archive of the theater’s calendars on its website, some of which date back as far as 1980. A number of the films screening this July are not available to rent or buy online. In that case, support your local video store, nonprofit, or repertory theater. Hell, check the library. Those movies available to stream online are listed below.

Available to stream online (with subscription)

Amazon Prime: The Mad Bomber, They Came to Cordura, A Bullet For Pretty Boy, C.C. and Company, Hollywood Man, Evel Knievel, Red Dawn, Rocky IV

Epix: The Losers, Evel Knievel, Rocky IV

Starz: Barbarella, 100 Rifles

Available to rent/buy online: Sterile Cuckoo, Land Raiders, Fantastic Voyage, 100 Rifles, Murderer’s Row, The Secret Invasion, Darby’s Rangers, Cat Ballou, The Chase, Gypsy, This Property is Condemned, Ride the Wild Surf, Thunder Alley, Getting Straight, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas

NOT available to rent/buy/stream online: Three in the Attic, Moving Target, The Happening, Kitten With a Whip, Any Gun Can Play, Wicked, Wicked, Gunman’s Walk, Horror House, Sweet Kill, Soul Hustler, Jack of Diamonds, Sweet Savior 

 

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