A guide to references in Tarantino’s new film

Post for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

These aren’t plot spoilers but the spoiler adverse should avoid.

The Quentin Tarantino-directed Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood opens this weekend. Trailers and TV spots for the film promised references to 1960s entertainment. It delivers.

Here’s a guide to some of the references that may be of interest to readers of the blog.

The Wrecking Crew: Margot Robbie, playing Sharon Tate, goes to a movie theater to watch the fourth Matt Helm film starring Dean Martin. She’s depicted as gauging how the audience reactions.

As a result, for most of the sequence, you have the fictional Tate watching the real Sharon Tate opposite Martin and Nancy Kwan. At one point, a fight scene between Tate and Kwan is juxtaposed with scenes of  of Robbie’s Tate training with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh).

Burt Reynolds in The FBI episode All the Streets Are Silent. Leonardo DiCaprio replaces Reynolds in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The FBI: Actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman/gofer Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) goes to Dalton’s house to watch the actor’s appearance in The FBI in an episode titled All the Streets Are Silent.

It’s an actual episode of the series. Except shots with Burt Reynolds, playing the episode’s lead villain, are replaced with DeCaprio as Dalton. “This is my big FBI moment,” Dalton says just before the freeze frame at the end of the pre-titles sequence where the villain’s name is on the screen.

All the Streets Are Silent was a 1965 episode. But the film is set in 1969. So the title card for the episode’s name is altered so it’s consistent with the series for the 1968-69 season.

Mannix: At one point, Booth goes home to his own trailer and watches an episode of the private eye drama. The title sequence does match the titles for the 1968-69 season.

The arrangement of Lalo schifrin’s theme uses strings instead of a piano (which began in the third season and lasted the rest of the series.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.: The two shows are mentioned in passing by a character played by Al Pacino. Girl went off the air in 1967 while Man’s final episode was in January 1968.

The Wild Wild West: The show isn’t mentioned by name, but Al Pacino also references “Bob Conrad and his tight pants.”

The Green Hornet: There’s a flashback scene depicting Cliff Booth getting into a fight with Bruce Lee on the set of the 1966-67 series.

Have Gun-Will Travel: Underscore from the 1957-63 Western is used with a fictional Western series where Dalton had been a big star. Details of specific music is cited in the end titles.

Batman: The theme music for the 1966-68 series shows up in the end titles, along with audio from what sounds like a radio ad featuring Adam West and Burt Ward.

These are just a fraction of movie and TV references in the film. There are other trailers, posters and billboards shown throughout the movie.

UPDATE (July 26): Matthew Chernov advises via Twitter that there also is music from Thunderball in the end titles of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.

“It’s a cue from Thunderball,” Chernov wrote in response to a tweet from me. “I saw both movies virtually back to back and it’s definitely part of a climactic action track.”

Chernov conducted a question and answer session with Luciana Paluzzi on July 17 at the Tarantino-owned New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. The actress attended a showing of Thunderball at the theater.

Chernov also wrote a July 23 article for the James Bond Radio website about Pauluzzi’s appearance.

(July 29): Reader Matthew Bradford, in a comment on The Spy Command’s page on Facebook, advises the Thunderball music was part of the Batman radio spot cited above.

(July 30): Reader Delmo Waters Jr. identifies the Mannix episode as “Death in a Minor Key,” original air date Feb. 8, 1969. Guest stars include two future Bond film actors: Yahphet Kotto and Anthony Zerbe.

Van Williams dies at 82

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Horney

Van Williams and Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet

Van Williams, the nominal star of the 1966-67 television version of The Green Hornet, died late last month, according to an obituary in The Hollywood Reporter.

Williams played Britt Reid, the editor and publisher of The Daily Sentinel who battled crime as the masked Green Hornet. Reid had to dodge both hoods and the police, who believed the Hornet was a racketeer.

The district attorney, Frank Scanlon (Walter Brooke) was in on the masquerade. Meanwhile, Sentinel reporter Mike Axford (Lloyd Gough) was determined the Hornet be captured.

The show, however, became a platform for Bruce Lee, who played the Hornet’s assistant, Kato. Lee’s skill in martial arts was a highlight of the series. For youngsters in the audience, Lee’s Kato upstaged Williams’ Green Hornet. Lee (1940-1973) would become a star before his sudden death.

The show, based on a radio series, was an attempt by producer William Dozier to extend his success with masked characters after the debut of Batman in January 1966. Dozier even provided the narration in the show’s main titles, using his “Desmond Doomsday” voice he utilized in Batman.

Dozier’s Batman series also featured a two-part story in 1967 where the Green Hornet traveled to Gotham City, running afoul of Batman. Earlier in that same season, Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and Dick Grayson were briefly depicted watching The Green Hornet on television. In a different episode, the Green Hornet and Kato opened a window and talking to Batman and Robin, who were climbing up a building. Robin (Burt Ward) commented about the strange outfits worn by The Green Hornet and Kato.

Earlier in his career, Williams played private detective Kenny Madison, first on Bourbon Street Beat (1959-60) and then Surfside 6 (1960-62). two Warner Bros. series that aired on ABC.

1967: Dick Tracy vs. spies

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Producer William Dozier had a hit with 1966’s Batman television series and sold a second series with The Green Hornet, based on a radio show. So, in 1967, he tried to extend his streak with a pilot for a Dick Tracy series.

The final product ended up being influenced by ’60s spymania.

To write the pilot, Dozier hired Hal Fimberg, who wrote or co-wrote the two Derek Flint movies starring James Coburn. Rather than use an established member of Tracy’s gallery of villains, Tracy’s foe in Fimberg’s script was Mr. Memory (Victor Buono).

Mr. Memory is kidnapping various ambassadors as part of a plot to disrupt NATO on behalf of an unspecified froeign power. They’re being abducted in Washington and taken to Tracy’s unnamed city. In the comic strip, the city wasn’t specified either, but seems like Chicago. Cartoonist Chester Gould, Tracy’s creator, lived near the Windy City. Gould’s successors, on occasion, drew the city to closely resemble Chicago.

The Tracy of the pilot was influenced by Dozier’s Batman show. While there was no “Tracy Cave,” the detective has a sophisticated lab in the basement of his house, accessible only by a secret entrance. Evidently, the city’s police lab wasn’t up to Tracy’s standards.

Besides Mr. Memory’s plot and the presence of writer Fimberg, there are other influences of 1960s spy entertainment.

One of Mr. Memory’s goons is played by Tom Reese, who played Ironhead in the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row. Fimberg’s script also lifts a bit from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In that spy show’s second episode, The Iowa Scuba Affair, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) is locked in while poison gas is being pumped into his hotel room. Solo gets out by setting fire to a container of shaving cream and blowing the door open. In the pilot, Tracy ends up in a hotel room. Mr. Memory injects poison gas and Tracy pulls the same trick.

Actor Ray MacDonnell certainly had the Tracy look. If you ever seen Victor Buono playing a villain, you know what to expect. The proceedings aren’t subtle but they’re not as campy as Batman was.

Dozier’s failure to secure a buyer for this was an indicator his hot streak was coming to an end. Also in 1967, ABC canceled The Green Hornet after one season. The network also cut Batman back to a single episode weekly as it limped into its final season.

The pilot is embedded below (though there’s always the risk the video will get yanked). There’s a snappy theme song from The Ventures.

One oddity in the closing credits: There’s a credit the show is “based on and idea and characters created by” Gould and Henry G. Saperstein. Saperstein owned the UPA cartoon studio that made some bad Tracy cartoons in the early ’60s. All of the primary characters (Tracy, Sam, Lizz, Junior, Chief Patton) in the pilot are from Gould’s comic strip. Also, at the very end, you can hear Dozier in his best “Desmond Doomsday” voice.

007 connection to 2011’s Green Hornet movie

Such connection would be second-unit director and stunt arranger Vic Armstrong. Armstrong’s involvement with the Bond film series goes back to 1967’s You Only Live Twice, where he was a stuntman. Two years later, he worked for his father-in-law, George Leech, who was the stunt arranger for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Armstrong made his biggest impact on the 007 film series as second unit director for three of four Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough (where, in a commentary track on the DVD, he said he sought to evoke OHMSS) and Die Another Day.

Armstrong also represents an era of the 007 series when families were major contributors to the Bond series, not just the Broccoli-Wilson family that runs Eon Productions.

The Lamonts (led by art department whiz Peter Lamont), the Leech-Armstrong clan and the Broccoli-Wilson family (led by current Eon bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli) all had a major impact on the James Bond film series. Armstrong, though, hasn’t been involved since 2002’s Die Another Day and George Leech is long retired.