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HOW 'HELL RIVER' CONNECTS 'ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD'

Brioni Farrell with Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER Year: 1974
In Quentin Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, Leonardo DiCaprio plays an actor named Rick Dalton who, in 1969, is already a washed-up, has-been former Western television series star with a number of forgotten Western and War Movies under his belt...

Including and especially "The 14 Fists of McCluskey" that shows quick footage from this film, HELL RIVER, which is technically impossible since the low-budget Yugoslavian WWII exploitation came out five years after Dalton's time in the Tarantino universe: Then again this obscure Rod Taylor curio, originally and more fitfully titled Partizani aka Partisans (there are only two rivers shown, and neither are hellish), doesn't really exist in HOLLYWOOD since it's become a fictional movie for its fictional star...

Adam West as a sympathetic Nazi Officer in Hell River aka Partizan
On the other hand, an early-seventies Rod Taylor, also a has-been... who gained fame a decade earlier in THE TIME MACHINE and THE BIRDS... was anything but fake. The epitome of a real man and/or man's man, he sure looked it. And by 1974 his screen presence was far less handsome and more rough, rugged and overall world-weary...

His already bulbous nose had expanded, along with about twenty pounds added onto an already stocky, muscular build, so he resembled more of a character actor than leading man, which fits here being far more a character-type piloting the story than the kind of movie star female-audiences were supposed to fall for — which doesn't stop Greek beauty Brioni Farrell from much too quickly doing that very thing (he seems more like an uncle or older brother, or older brother's friend throughout).

Leonardo DiCaprio's Rick Dalton in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Back to Tarantino's HOLLYWOOD where Al Pacino plays a Jewish agent talking pop culture shop to his hopeful client in DiCaprio's Dalton: He mentions the TV series BATMAN, which, as we all know, starred Adam West...

What you may not have known is while Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell are shown as archive footage in the Rick Dalton "14 Fists of McCluskey" picture during Pacino's expository diatribe, Adam West himself is one of the main stars in HELL RIVER as Austrian Nazi officer Kurt Kohler, who knew and adored Brioni Farrell's (billed as Xenia Gratsos) Anna Kleitz since childhood... That is, the still-handsome leading man/former caped crusader is almost the love interest here...

Rod Taylor's credit in 14 Fists of McLuskey
His part is interesting enough (albeit ultimately neglected as a love triangle), as are scenes where he's repeatedly given orders to kill the enemy partisans (closely watched by lead Nazi villain Peter Carsten), which makes him the most torn character on board, not wanting his true love to die with all the others, including a group of Jews freed during the prologue  (along a river) after trying to only save the girl...

And then her saving him quickly following a surprise attack, led by Rod Taylor, whose tough mercenary named Marko seems to only let this woman who saved a Nazi live because... well, she's downright gorgeous as much of the screen-time... mirroring a road movie where each location brings a new conflict... has the duo traipsing alongside the fleeing Jewish herd while protecting them during bouts of gun-blasting and tank-roaring, explosion-riddled sequences that, despite the anemic budget, does actually look legitimate...

The kind of studio war flick that Tarantino's "14 Fists of McClusky" was supposed to be (it would make no sense if it were a cheap foreign-made throwaway, as shown on fake movie posters possibly created and/or approved by Sony Pictures, since Dalton's game-changing career choice has him eventually and quite reluctantly starring in Italian Spaghetti Westerns and action flicks, which he was obviously and even notably a completely stranger to), and far from the shoddy Yugo-production HELL RIVER actually was...

Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER Rates: ***1/2
Even some of composer Vojislav Borisavljevic's original soundtrack plays during a scene where DiCaprio's Dalton takes a flame-thrower to a group of Nazis, all created for the fictional movie within the fictional movie taken from this actual one...

Which, while no classic, isn't a waste of time to catch a grainy yet watchable copy of streaming on Amazon Prime: the best moments include Taylor's Marko separated and alone, surviving behind-enemy-lines in various war-torn, Nazi occupied, blown-out towns — one where he grew up, giving the legitimate dramatic actor a chance to prove he could balance pathos with bravado. So don't blink or you'll miss one of many important connected elements in Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Only HELL RIVER is far more than just a passing billboard or theater marquee. Oh and the end of the end-credits includes even more Adam West!
Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER aka Raid Partizan
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER aka Guerilla Raid aka Last Guerilla aka The Partisan
Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER with Marinko Sebez aka Wehrmacht i giorni dell'ira
Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER Comandos de la muerte aka Os Guerrilheiros aka Партизани
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER Wehrmacht i giorni dell'ira aka Moordend spervuur
Adam West in HELL RIVER Partisan-helten aka Kuoleman kotkat
Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER with Marinko Sebez aka Партизани
Opening Credit sequence for American VHS of HELL RIVER aka Zona de Combate
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER aka Táctica de guerra aka Der letzte Haufen der 7. Division
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER aka Partisan: Selvmordkompaniet
Brioni Farrell as  Anna Kleitz (as Xenia Gratsos) in HELL RIVER
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER and this is the ACTUAL MOMENT shown in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rod Taylor in HELL RIVER aka THE PARTISANS
Rod Taylor and Brioni Farrell in HELL RIVER aka THE PARTISANS directed by Stole Jankovic
German actor of Yugo films Peter Carsten as the Nazi villain
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