One of the most celebrated films of the year finally comes to home video with the Blu-ray release of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. With a gorgeous HD transfer and 25 minutes of deleted scenes, this release is a must-own for any QT fan despite its disappointing collection of extras.
Before we dive into the details, let’s revisit some thoughts from our theatrical review:
They say the devil is in the details, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has details to spare. Vintage radio broadcasts and news bulletins are a frequent fixture, and the period-accurate buildings, vehicles and wardrobes — all beautifully photographed by cinematographer Robbie Richardson — transport us back in time to a bygone era and a culture right on the verge of a major shift. Tarantino’s reverence for the time period is on display in practically every frame, including a brief montage of neon signs bursting to life as darkness settles in. In another lovingly bittersweet sequence, Tate hesitantly wanders into a theater showing one of her own films, The Wrecking Crew, and takes a seat in the audience. Tarantino juxtaposes between actual footage from the film and Sharon’s facial expressions as she marvels at the crowd’s reaction, soaking up their laughter while they remain oblivious to her presence.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s unhurried pace and frequent dalliances with material that doesn’t really advance the plot might present a puzzling proposition for some moviegoers, but fans of the director’s past work are practically guaranteed to revel in those same qualities — it’s those sort of idiosyncrasies that have made Tarantino a true master of his craft. Despite being inspired by and connected to a particular event, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is less about telling a specific story of the era, and more about capturing its emotion and spirit. In that regard, Tarantino has knocked it completely out of the park.
As mentioned above, the HD transfer of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood looks incredible, and the fine grain that comes with shooting on film — as is Tarantino’s custom — never detracts from the detail. Colorful neon signage pops off the screen, blacks are perfectly inky with almost no compression issues, and warm, earthy tones are favored throughout. The audio presentation is also superb, with crisp effects and music cues that never overpower the dialogue.
Special features are pretty bare, unfortunately. Fans will be most interested in the 25 minutes of deleted material, which include an excised appearance from James Marsden and more footage of DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton on set, but the other selections — brief behind-the-scenes featurettes about costuming, production design and vehicles — leave plenty to be desired. Here’s hoping we’ll get another release somewhere down the road that goes a little bit deeper — a commentary track or an extensive “making of” piece would be most welcome here.