With his rough-hewn face and gruff demeanor, Warren Oates had the kind of offbeat, chameleon-like screen presence that could only have belonged to a star from the freewheeling New Hollywood of the 1960s and ’70s. During this period, he left an inimitable stamp on classics of the American New Wave and cult favorites alike, including Two Lane Blacktop, Badlands, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (the last helmed by his close friend Sam Peckinpah). On the occasion of the rediscovery and new 4K digital restoration by Cinelicious Pics of Leslie Stevens’s long-thought-lost 1960 noir Private Property, which features Oates in his first significant screen role, the Film Society presents a retrospective of the actor’s work. Whether stealing scenes in a supporting role, 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.
Organized by Florence Almozini and Dan Sullivan.
Special thanks to Monte Hellman.
With his rough-hewn face and gruff demeanor, Warren Oates had the kind of offbeat, chameleon-like screen presence that could only have belonged to a star of the freewheeling New Hollywood of the 1960s and ’70s. On the occasion of a new digital restoration of Leslie Stevens’s Private Property, featuring Oates in his first significant screen role, the Film Society will celebrate the actor’s inimitable stamp on classics of the American New Wave and cult favorites alike.
Warren Oates stars in this long-thought-lost California noir, a slow-burning psychosexual thriller that centers on two drifters who squat in an abandoned Beverly Hills house overlooking the home of an alluring but neglected housewife. The return of this classic, restored in stunning 4K, also occasions our Oates retrospective, running July 1-7.
Oates is the oddest among a band of oddballs—including Peter Fonda, Harry Dean Stanton, Burgess Meredith, Margot Kidder, and cult actress Sylvia Miles—populating the backwaters of Key West, Florida, in this surreally entertaining, deadpan seriocomedy.
In Terrence Malick’s hallmark of 1970s cinema, Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play young outlaw lovers who go on the run across the American West. Oates gives an unforgettable performance as Spacek’s father, whose rejection of the pair’s budding romance results in an act of violence that launches their murderous spree.
A man, a severed head, and a sunbaked excursion into delirious ultra-violence: Peckinpah’s grindhouse–meets–art house pulp masterwork stars Warren Oates as a tequila-swilling barroom piano player on a demented road trip through Mexico to fulfill the titular request.
Peter Falk leads a gaggle of mugshot-ready character actors—including Oates as a wiggy WWII vet—who stumble into the crime of the century in William Friedkin’s rollicking heist comedy, based on a true story.
Monte Hellman’s existential plunge into the subterranean world of Southern cockfighting is intense, bloody, and weirdly beautiful. It also features one of Oates’ very best performances—though he hardly utters a word for much of the film.
Oates is alternately cold-blooded and charismatic as legendary outlaw John Dillinger—who terrorizes the Depression-era Midwest while being relentlessly pursued by FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson)—in this pulpy, whiz-bang gangster saga from American International Pictures.
Peter Fonda’s hypnotic art-house Western—starring the director as a nomadic cowboy and Oates as his loyal companion—is charged with a subtly psychedelic mysticism thanks to the dreamy cinematography by legendary DP Vilmos Zsigmond.
Supporting player Oates all but steals the show in James Frawley’s lively and surprisingly gentle revisionist Western that follows a train robber (Dennis Hopper) trying to go straight and outrun his criminal past in Dime Box, Texas.
A road movie quite unlike any other and a “vacation gone awry” for the ages, this eminently ’70s cult classic finds Oates once again teaming up with Peter Fonda, this time tearing across Texas with a small army of murderous Satanists hot on their trail after they witness a grizzly sacrificial ritual.
Oates is an ex–bounty hunter enlisted by Millie Perkins’s mystery woman to lead her on a surreal, menacing journey to god knows where—until they’re accosted by Jack Nicholson’s black-clad gunslinger. Monte Hellman’s cult-classic crypto-oater plays something like a Western crossed with Last Year at Marienbad.
Bill Murray brings his antiauthoritarian cool to this bawdy burlesque of army life, which gives Oates, as a no-nonsense drill sergeant, a rare opportunity to put a comedic spin on his tightly-wound-tough-guy persona.
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 who challenges the pair to a long-distance race to Washington, D.C.
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