Director Quentin Tarantino has certainly dabbled in a variety of genres over the years. Whether it’s gonzo WWII fare like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS or grindhouse action like DEATH PROOF, Tarantino is nothing if not innovative. Tarantino’s latest, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD is no exception. An ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood, the film is heavily influenced by the pictures of that era particularly Westerns, whose popularity was beginning to wane by 1969. However, it turns out another film from a completely different genre also influenced a key scene.
While ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD is a bittersweet examination of a faded television star, the film takes a turn for the bizarre when Brad Pitt‘s Cliff Booth picks up a hitchhiker and heads to the Spahn Ranch, home of the Manson Family. Things shift into full horror mode at that point. Creepy sound effects are turned up to eleven and the placement of the Manson Family themselves carries a disquieting sort of ambiance. There’s a reason for that, as Tarantino couldn’t help borrowing from a beloved horror classic of the era – George Romero‘s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD:
“What’s neat — and I can’t truly take credit for it — is just the mise-en-scene. It’s the production design [by Barbara Ling]. One of the best sets I ever had of any of my movies was rebuilding the Spahn Ranch. And we did a wonderful job casting those gals. It’s scary and it is creepy. We’re not doing anything to make anything scary or creepy, it just is. It’s a wonderful alchemy we captured and I didn’t break the mood.”
Even Tarantino’s editor Fred Reskin noticed a clear-cut difference when the dailies started coming in. Reskin remarked that the film began to take on a TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE feel to it, where the sense of dread was palpable.
Well as the saying goes, “good artists copy and great artists steal.” That’s not to say Tarantino is necessarily stealing from Romero here, but you can’t deny the film’s influences in that particular scene. Hell you can’t deny the influences a myriad of films have had on Tarantino pictures over the years. The works of Jack Hill and Melvin Van Peebles clearly affected JACKIE BROWN just as the films of Kinji Fukasaku did the same with KILL BILL.
For those of you who saw ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD what did you think of that particular scene? Did you get a strong NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD vibe when you were watching it? How did you feel about the shift in tone? Let us know in the comments below!