The Oscar-Nominated $8.2 Million Western Tarantino Calls "Terrible"

The Oscar-Nominated $8.2 Million Western Tarantino Calls
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Always forthright with his views, Tarantino weighed on one of his nemesis’s most highly praised movies.


  • Tarantino called McCabe & Mrs. Miller 'the worst-mixed reel in the history of Hollywood'.
  • He and Robert Altman never saw eye to eye.
  • The Pulp Fiction director still showed the movie at his cinema.

Quentin Tarantino is a film buff. He’s spoken at length about his lifelong fascination with the art of movie-making and has also written extensively on the subject. He never holds back, rarely changes his mind and isn’t afraid to criticise the work of other filmmakers.

But he always seemed to have a particular dislike for Robert Altman.

A revisionist Western that matured with age

Now considered one of his finest movies, when it was released in 1971, Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller was a box office flop. Widely panned by the critics, the film was described by its director as a revisionist Western. But the world wasn’t yet ready for such dynamic movie-making.

In the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino divided opinion with his own unique style. But that didn’t stop him from making a scathing assessment of earlier attempts by Altman to subvert a genre and give the public something that made them sit up and take notice.

A hate-hate relationship

Speaking on the Pure Cinema podcast, Tarantino summed up his relationship with Robert Altman by saying: 'He didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him'.

It seems Tarantino was as critical of Altman as an individual as he was about his fellow filmmaker’s work. He went on to describe the late Robert Altman as a 'f***ing pothead'. And in his own words, he claimed that Warren Beatty (who starred in McCabe & Mrs. Miller alongside Julie Christie) referred to Altman in the same unflattering way.

Tarantino said that after hearing a rumour that Warren Beatty had taken on some of the directorial pressures during the making of the anti-Western movie, he approached the actor and asked him outright whether it was true.

His response, according to Quentin Tarantino was: 'Well, you don’t think that pothead could have gotten that performance out of Julie Christie, do you?'

'Worst-mixed reel in the history of Hollywood'

Tarantino was pretty damning about his view on McCabe and Mrs. Miller, calling it 'terrible' and saying it displayed 'a strong level of mediocrity'. But he was particularly critical of the opening reel which he described as 'the worst…in the history of Hollywood. But he didn’t stop there.

The Reservoir Dogs creator went on to say Altman’s reel had 'a level of incompetence…that Hollywood never really goes below'.

'Hollywood maybe doesn’t reach its heights every single solitary time,' he said, 'but it doesn’t reach the lows.'

Nonetheless, Quentin Tarantino did screen McCabe and Mrs. Miller at his New Beverly Cinema. Even more surprising, though, was that Tarantino, who watched the film in Technicolor 35mm, said he 'really, really liked it' after seeing it on the big screen. He even described the ending as 'perfect'.

Has he mellowed over the years? Has his opinion of Altman’s work morphed into something more appreciative as time has passed?

But one thing is for certain. Quentin Tarantino is a man who speaks his mind and has been happy to talk about his fraught relationship with Robert Altman even after the latter’s death.

With this in mind, it seems unlikely he would feel the need to talk up an Altman movie for any kind of moral or virtue-signalling reason. That’s not who he is. So, we can only assume that he genuinely changed his opinion of the film after rewatching it.

Where to watch McCabe and Mrs. Miller

If you want to check out the movie yourself and find out whether you agree with Tarantino’s current or former views, it’s available to stream on Vudu, Prime and Apple TV.

The world may not have embraced revisionist Westerns back in the 70s, but these days, it’s a bona fide genre that is loved and understood. So why not delve into its history and see it for yourself?

Source: Pure Cinema podcast.