Everyone knows “Reservoir Dogs” is Quentin Tarantino’s first movie. What “My Best Friend’s Birthday” presupposes is…maybe it isn’t? Made in 1987 but now mostly lost due to the ravages of time (and, more accurately, a film-lab fire), the once-70-minute film can now only be seen in its incomplete, 36-minute form. Watch what remains of it below.
Tarantino co-wrote, co-produced, directed, edited and starred in “My Best Friend’s Birthday,” which concerns a man (Tarantino) trying — and repeatedly failing — to pleasantly surprise a buddy on his birthday. He made the black-and-white comedy while working at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California. Roger Avary, who later went on to co-write “Pulp Fiction,” is one of four credited cinematographers.
Avary and those other three shot “My Best Friend’s Birthday” on 16mm, and the fire that essentially reduced its runtime by half occurred during post-production. The surviving version has occasionally played film festivals in the years since Tarantino’s career took off.