Regarded by many as “the single most influential filmmaker of our generation,” Quentin Tarantino has reached unprecedented artistic heights with masterpieces like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. With his latest project Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino has established that he still has the brilliant ability to translate a truly unique vision to the cinematic medium with his signature style.
Having worked at a video store before starting out as a screenwriter, Tarantino had developed a reputation for being a cinephile. On several occasions, he has revealed that it was the video store where he got exposed to all kinds of films — ranging from obscure foreign cult classics to mainstream comedies.
In recent years, Tarantino has spent his time championing the works of contemporary filmmakers from around the world including auteurs like Wong Kar-wai and Bong Joon-ho. However, Tarantino has never been one to shy away from his roots. When he was asked about the three masterpieces that influenced him over the course of his journey as a filmmaker, as ever, Tarantino did not hesitate.
He revealed: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).” Tarantino did not waste any time claiming why Leone’s magnum opus has moved him because the parallels between his own work and that film are evident to anyone familiar with both: “I think it’s obvious why [The Good, the Bad and the Ugly] has been such an influence to me.”
Continuing, “Mario Bava became one of the first directors that I got to know by name because I saw Black Sabbath on late-night television and I would kind of look forward to seeing it pop up again. He’s a great Italian horror filmmaker and then I started noticing other movies in the TV guide that his name and they all had this big, cool, operatic quality about them.”
Tarantino claimed that Leone and Bava’s unique stylisations taught him how to recognise the stamp of an auteur. While watching their works, the aspiring filmmaker realised that great directors were just like authors who had their own ways of presenting visual narratives and telling stories that remain embedded in their films.
“I think it was both Sergio Leone and Mario Bava that got me thinking in terms of shots,” Tarantino said. “I actually started recognising the cinematic style and the signature and the quality of the movies. So even when I would see a Mario Bava movie that I didn’t like, I still recognised the style and the same operatic style.”
While talking about the importance of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Tarantino recalled how he loved physical gags and the terror inspired by the monster genre in his childhood. As a child, this film was the first time that he came to the realisation that genres are fluid and can interact with each other despite the rigid categorisations.
The director commented: “[Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein] was probably my favourite movie when I was really, really, really young. Why I think it’s so influential is [because] I remember, at that time period, my two favourite types of movies were monster movies…from the ’30s and ’40s and physical comedies like Abbott and Costello.’
Adding, “When I watched Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, it bended my mind [due to] the fact that my two favourite genres, even though I did not know what the word genre meant, could be put into one movie. I didn’t know you could do that.. I guess I’ve been trying to do that [for the] rest of my career.”