A retrospective of cult character actor Warren Oates will accompany a week-long run of a new 4K restoration of Leslie Stevens’s Private Property (1960), starring Oates in his first leading role, July 1–7 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
With his rough-hewn face and gruff demeanor, Oates had the kind of offbeat screen presence that could only have belonged to a star from the freewheeling New Hollywood of the late 1960s and ’70s. During this period, he left an indelible stamp on cinema, starring in classics of the American New Wave and cult favorites alike, including Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, helmed by close friend Sam Peckinpah. Whether stealing scenes in supporting roles, or setting a gonzo tone in his all-too-rare turns as a leading man, Oates irradiated a blend of low-key intensity, impish charm, and innate cool that has made him a counterculture icon.
Leslie Stevens’s long-thought-lost Private Property anchors the retrospective, screening for one week in a new 4K restoration by Cinelicious Pics, assembled from original film elements recently discovered by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. In this sinister sunshine noir, two drifters (Oates and Corey Allen) crawl off the beach and into the life of a lonely housewife (played by the director’s real-life wife, Kate Manx), slowly invading her world until the sexual tension and mounting sense of dread boil over. Shot in shimmering black and white by master DP Ted D. McCord (East of Eden, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Private Property reveals how “our reticence about social divisions only makes them more poisonous…an eerie premonition of Charles Manson nearly 10 years later” (Farran Smith Nehme, Film Comment).
Other highlights include Westerns by frequent Oates collaborators Monte Hellman and Peter Fonda, rarely screened gems on 35mm such as Thomas McGuane’s 92 in the Shade and James Frawley’s Kid Blue (eight other titles also screen on film), and a special Fourth of July screening of Ivan Reitman’s army send-up Stripes.
Warren Oates: Hired Hand is organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan. Special thanks to Monte Hellman.
Tickets go on sale Tuesday, June 21. See more and save with the $99 All Access Pass or 3+ film discount package.
All films screen digitally at the Francesca Beale Theater unless otherwise noted.
Leslie Stevens, USA, 1960, 79m
Oates stars in this slow-burning, sweat- and sun-drenched psychosexual thriller—newly restored in stunning 4K by Cinelicious Pics and created from the original film elements rediscovered and preserved by UCLA after more than 50 years of being thought lost! This California noir centers on Duke and Boots (played with menacing, barely sublimated rage by Corey Allen and Oates), who set their sights on Ann Carlyle (Kate Manx), a sweetly alluring but neglected housewife who spends long, lonely days at home in her husband’s Beverly Hills villa. When the two men take up residence in an abandoned house that overlooks the Carlyles’ swimming pool, the setting becomes a stifling, and ultimately explosive, pressure cooker of sexual frustration, manipulation, and aggression. Directed on a shoestring budget by Leslie Stevens (three years before creating The Outer Limits), Private Property was denied MPAA approval under the Production Code upon its release, and even today, the film’s broodingly sinister depiction of sexuality gone awry is startling in its frank, unflinching intensity. The return of this classic, which had its world premiere at the TCM Classic Film Festival in April, is the occasion for our retrospective. A Cinelicious Pics release.
Friday, July 1—Monday, July 4 at 11:30am, 3:30pm & 7:15pm
Tuesday, July 5—Thursday, July 7 at 3:30pm & 7:15pm
92 in the Shade
Thomas McGuane, USA/UK, 1975, 35mm, 93m
This wonderfully weird, deadpan portrait of outsiders and oddballs living in Key West, Florida, stars Peter Fonda as a wannabe fishing guide who finds himself drawn into a dangerous rivalry with Oates’s crusty, irascible backwaters boatman. The combination of the offbeat cast—also including Harry Dean Stanton, Burgess Meredith, a pre–Lois Lane Margot Kidder, and cult actress Sylvia Miles—delivering deliciously florid dialogue in the sun-blasted setting makes for a one-of-a-kind, surreally entertaining seriocomedy that eschews any discernible narrative structure in favor of a loose-limbed, lo-fi quirkiness.
Tuesday, July 5, 9:00pm
Thursday, July 7, 1:30pm
Terrence Malick, USA, 1973, 35mm, 94m
In this hallmark of 1970s independent cinema—the mythically masterful debut of director Terrence Malick—Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play Kit and Holly, young lovers in 1950s South Dakota who go on the run across the American West, committing a string of murders along the way. Oates turns in an unforgettable supporting performance as Holly’s father, whose staunch rejection of Kit and Holly’s budding romance leads to a chilling act of violence and annihilation that launches the pair on their crime-ridden cross-country spree. Malick’s film overflows with lyrical visual motifs that juxtapose gestures of horrendously casual brutality against the expansively beautiful natural landscapes of the titular region. The result is a genuinely singular take on the cinematic tradition of lovers on the run, a hauntingly gorgeous American nightmare whose images and characters have left an indelible trace on the history of American cinema.
Friday, July 1, 5:15pm
Monday, July 4, 9:00pm
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Sam Peckinpah, USA, 1974, 35mm, 112m
A man, a severed head, and a sunbaked excursion into delirious ultra-violence: Peckinpah’s grindhouse–meets–art house pulp masterwork gives Oates his most memorable role as a sunglasses-sporting, tequila-swilling barroom ivory tickler who embarks on a demented road trip through Mexico to fulfill the request of the title. The only one of his films on which Peckinpah had final cut—and thus is the purest distillation of his fatalistic vision—this existential acid Western has the surreal texture of an extended hallucination.
Saturday, July 2, 9:00pm
The Brink’s Job
William Friedkin, USA, 1978, 35mm, 104m
William Friedkin’s rollicking crime caper plays like a parody of a heist movie—swap the master criminals with a band of bumbling petty crooks, and the impenetrable bank vault with a comically easy-to-crack safe—but it’s based on a true story. Peter Falk leads a gaggle of mugshot-ready character actors as a two-bit hood in 1950s Boston who stumbles into the crime of the century when he discovers a cool $1.5 million sitting in a barely guarded Brink’s warehouse just begging to be pilfered. Oates supplies the dramatic gravitas as a wiggy World War II vet who gets drawn into the scheme.
Saturday, July 2, 1:15pm
Thursday, July 7, 9:00pm
Monte Hellman, USA, 1974, 35mm, 83m
Deep in the heart of the South, Oates’s obsessive gambling man takes a vow of silence after losing everything in a high-stakes cockfighting match, refusing to speak until he has redeemed himself as champion of the illicit blood sport. Adapted by hard-boiled writer Charles Willeford from his own novel and strikingly shot on location in Georgia by the great Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven), Monte Hellman’s existential plunge into the subterranean world of cockfighting is intense, bloody, and weirdly beautiful, while Oates—without uttering a word for much of the film—gives one of his very best performances.
Sunday, July 3, 9:00pm
Wednesday, July 6, 5:15pm
John Milius, USA, 1973, 35mm, 107m
Oates is alternately cold-blooded and charismatic as legendary outlaw John Dillinger in this pulpy, whiz-bang gangster saga from American International Pictures. The feature directorial debut of Apocalypse Now screenwriter John Milius, it follows the larger-than-life bank robber as he terrorizes the Depression-era Midwest, strikes up a romance with a thrill-seeking Billie Frechette (Michelle Phillips, The Mamas & the Papas singer in her first film appearance), and orchestrates a daring escape from an Indiana prison—all as FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson) closes in on him like a cigar-chomping angel of death. The film’s centerpiece is a furiously nihilistic machine-gun shootout, a rat-tat-tat frenzy of bullet spray and bloodshed that approaches the apocalyptic.
Tuesday, July 5, 5:15pm
Wednesday, July 6, 9:00pm
The Hired Hand
Peter Fonda, USA, 1971, 35mm, 90m
Following the enormous success of Easy Rider, Universal gave Peter Fonda $1 million and carte blanche to direct this hypnotic art-house Western. He stars as a nomadic cowboy who, with his loyal companion (Oates) in tow, embarks on a journey back to the wife (Verna Bloom) and child he abandoned six years earlier—but it turns out to be far from the joyous homecoming he envisioned. The gorgeous cinematography is by legendary DP Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance), whose subtly psychedelic, abstract landscapes lend the film an almost mystic dimension.
Friday, July 1, 1:15pm
Thursday, July 7, 5:15pm
James Frawley, USA, 1973, 35mm, 100m
Supporting player Oates all but steals the show in James Frawley’s sophisticated Western about a train robber trying to go straight. Dennis Hopper (still at the height of his powers, a mere two years after The Last Movie) stars as Bickford Waner (aka Kid Blue), a failed crook who arrives in Dime Box, Texas, in search of legal employment. Bickford soon befriends Reese (Oates) and his wife Molly (Lee Purcell), with whom, against his better judgment, he enters into an affair. But the local sheriff, Mean Jean (Western icon Ben Johnson), sees through Bickford’s flawed efforts to leave his criminal past behind… Oates makes a lively, emotionally resonant contribution to this surprisingly gentle, even relaxed take on the revisionist Western, which also features a memorable turn by Peter Boyle as an eccentric preacher/inventor.
Monday, July 4, 5:15pm
Tuesday, July 5, 1:15pm
Race with the Devil
Jack Starrett, USA, 1975, 35mm, 88m
This cult classic—one of three Warren Oates–Peter Fonda team-ups (along with The Hired Hand and 92 in the Shade)—is a road movie quite unlike any other and a “vacation gone awry” for the ages. Oates and Fonda appear as Roger and Frank, co-owners of a motorcycle dealership in San Antonio, Texas, who decamp in a RV with their wives for a ski vacation in Aspen, Colorado. But when they make a pit stop in the middle of nowhere to race their bikes, they incidentally witness a grizzly Satanic ritual, and soon enough they’re being pursued by a small army of bloodthirsty cult members. Slowly simmering with paranoiac tension before exploding in a paroxysm of shoot-’em-up gunfights and breathless chase scenes, Race with the Devil more than earns its reputation as a wholly unique, eminently ’70s action-horror flick.
Saturday, July 2, 5:15pm
Monte Hellman, USA, 1966, 82m
An air of surreal dread permeates every frame of Monte Hellman’s experimental acid Western. Oates is an ex–bounty hunter who, with his faithful but none-too-bright partner (Will Hutchins), is recruited by a mystery woman (Millie Perkins) to lead her on an unexplained journey through the desert. Adrift in a sunbaked wasteland, the trio tramps onward toward god knows what—until they’re accosted by Jack Nicholson’s sinister, black-clad gunslinger. Financed by an uncredited Roger Corman, this cult-classic crypto-oater plays something like a Western crossed with Last Year at Marienbad—all leading up to a brain-bending final sequence.
Sunday, July 3, 5:15pm
Wednesday, July 6, 1:30pm
Ivan Reitman, USA, 1981, 106m
Bill Murray brings his antiauthoritarian cool to this bawdy burlesque of military life. He stars as a directionless loser who, after his girlfriend kicks him out of the apartment, enlists in the U.S. Army, where he proceeds to wreak havoc all the way from boot camp to Czechoslovakia. Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) keeps the one-liners and sight gags flying, abetted by a supporting cast that includes Harold Ramis, John Candy, and Oates, who, as a hard-ass, no-nonsense drill sergeant, gets a rare opportunity to put a comedic spin on his tightly-wound-tough-guy screen persona.
Monday, July 4, 1:15pm
Monte Hellman, USA, 1971, 35mm, 102m
Starring James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson as unnamed drag racers who traverse the American Southwest in a 1955 Chevrolet, this cult favorite of 1970s car cinema features Oates in the role of a highway loner—nicknamed for the Pontiac GTO he drives—who challenges the pair to a long-distance race from New Mexico to Washington, D.C. In the process, the three men compete for the attentions of a female hitchhiker (Laurie Bird) and make their way across six states, stopping at racetracks, diners, and highway pit stops on their eastward route. Monte Hellman’s low-budget classic epitomizes a cultural moment in which, as Vincent Canby wrote at the time of the film’s release, “faith in God is a lot less important, less immediate and even less mystical than faith in the internal combustion engine.”
Friday, July 1, 9:00pm
Sunday, July 3, 1:15pm