Quentin Tarantino’s First Film


Written by Yusuf Laher
17 Monday 17th January 2011

On Friday night, Quentin Tarantino won the inaugural Music & Film Award at the 16th annual Critics Choice show in Hollywood, California. Last Tuesday, Kottke and Boing Boing posted links to his pre-Reservoir Dogs short film My Best Friend’s Birthday. Well… the first 36 minutes of it. The rest of the film was mythologically destroyed in a fire at a processing lab during editing – or perhaps never completed.

Filmed from 1984-1987, the salvaged footage offers a rough, $5000 budget glimpse at early Tarantino. Before he could afford Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta.

The black and white, buddy-calling-in-favours banter and slapstick tone reminds me of Kevin Smith’s first film Clerks. It’s loose and off the cuff. A black comedy, really.
Tarantino’s intense as coke-snorting, Elvis-obsessed Clarence Pool. Always one wrong word away from a Richie Gecko freak out. And co-writer Craig Hamann plays it ultra soap opera as Mickey Burnett – until his ridiculous fight scene with Clifford the pimp! But despite the amateur nature of the project, you can see early traces of Tarantino’s no-holds-barred style.
Typically, the soundtrack’s retro and as important as ever. Songs used include Johnny Cash’s 'I Walk the Line', Chuck Berry’s 'Nadine' and two versions of 'Ballroom Blitz'. And as usual, the 36 minutes of footage is crammed with anti-Seinfeld, everyday discussions of pop culture.
Some ideas from My Best Friend's Birthday would later work their way into True Romance (directed by Tony Scott in 1993). And for trivia fans, K-Billy is the same radio station Steven Wright voices in Reservoir Dogs – “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies”. 
Really, it's worth watching just to hear, “Your ass is grass and I’m the lawnmower!” Click here to see Tarantino's top films of 2010. You'll never guess what's number one.

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