This year marks the 25th Anniversary for Reservoir Dogs, the debut movie from Quentin Tarantino about a heist gone wrong. A movie which defined a genre and sparked a controversial debate about the explicit use of violence and profanity in film. Two hundred and seventy two uses of the word ‘fuck’, to be exact. Tarantino’s use of conversational tone, pop culture references and nonlinear storytelling became his calling card and was responsible for producing one of the most idiosyncratic auteurs of our generation.
A little history
In 1992, Tarantino was armed with a script, a 16mm camera and $30,000 ready to make Reservoir Dogs with a bunch of friends, one of which included long time collaborator, Lawrence Bender. That was until Tarantino receives a phone call from Harvey Keitel asking him if he could be in the movie and an offer to help co-produce it. Keitel managed to get a copy of the script via Bender’s acting teacher. His involvement in the movie helped raise the budget to $1.5 million and attracted an impressive cast in that of Michael Madsen, Steve Bucemi and Tim Roth.
But even with a substantial raise in cash flow, the movie still suffered major cuts to fit within their budget. Reservoir Dogs still stands to be one of the most influential crime movies in history, if not one of the most important movies to independent cinema and yet it does not contain a scene with an actual heist. Tarantino recalls that he wanted to shoot the scene but, budget permitted, he decided to show the before and after instead which, in turn, allowed the audience to focus on the characters and the story.
Tarantino stated that his influence for Reservoir Dogs was Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. He claimed that he never plagiarised but, rather, provided an homage to certain works, much like the 1952 film Kansas City Confidential, Joseph H. Lewis’s The Big Combo and Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966) which inspired the scene where a police officer receives a make-over from Mr Blonde. The pseudonyms of Mr White, Mr Orange and Mr Pink et al. used for the characters was something initially seen in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974).
The movie was shown in several film festivals, including Sundance and Cannes and became the most talked about movie. As a direct result, Miramax picked up the distribution rights and soon after was released in the US in 19 theatres. However, the movie was poorly advertised and only grossed a humble amount of $2.8 million. It became considerably more popular after Tarantino released his second film, Pulp Fiction. In the UK, the movie grossed over double that amount despite being banned from home video release until 1995.
The film was heavily criticised due to the extreme violence used. In particular, the infamous ear cutting scene with Michael Madsen and Kirk Baltz as Officer Marvin Nash. Madsen had a severe aversion to violence that he was genuinely disturbed when Baltz offered an improvised line suggesting he has a child at home. The scene was so shocking Tarantino reported that horror maestro Wes Craven walked out of an early screening.
After twenty five years Reservoir Dogs still stands to be one of the most influential and important crime noir movies to date. It shaped a genre, inspired a plethora of budding directors and helped change the face of independent cinema. And I’m pretty sure the sales of black suits went up too.
What’s your favourite scene from Reservoir Dogs? Who is your favourite character? Do you now feel really old knowing the movie is 25 years old? Leave your comments below or find us on Facebook or Twitter.