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The Hollywood Insider Reservoir Dogs, 30th Anniversary, Quentin Tarantino

Photo: ‘Reservoir Dogs’

Before his Breakthrough in the Film Industry

Quentin Tarantino has always been the type of filmmaker who would always have things running his way. That’s why he has never attended film school, let alone graduate high school. Before making his explosive debut, he had worked in a video store called Video Archives as a clerk for several years. During his time there, he would watch most of the video cassettes that were displayed on the shelves and would even recommend films to his customers. He would also write screenplays whenever he could. One of them would eventually become his first attempt at directing a black-and-white short film called ‘My Best Friend’s Birthday.’ However, the film was never completed. Besides screenwriting, Tarantino also tried to break into the industry by attempting to land acting gigs. At one point, he would be an extra that is dressed up as Elvis Presley in an episode of ‘Golden Girls.’

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Making ‘Reservoir Dogs’

However, the black-and-white short story was reworked into a full-length film called ‘True Romance,’ which was released in 1993. Tarantino sold the script to fund his directorial debut, ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ The director had planned to make his heist film with the $30,000, which was some of the money he got paid for writing and selling his scripts. His friend and co-producer Lawrence Bender eventually handed Tarantino’s script to one Harvey Keitel, who would eventually become one of the lead actors of the film. Keitel loved the script so much, he even became the co-producer of it. Eventually, Tarantino and Keitel discovered Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Chris Penn, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen. The director himself also had a small part by playing one of the criminals. Tarantino’s budget for the movie was 1.5 million dollars. Most of the budget of the film goes to the licensing of the soundtrack, which eventually became memorable for fans.

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The Film’s Famous Trademarks

As mentioned before, the film contains a memorable soundtrack. flaunts record after record still most famously in slow motion as the song ‘Little Green Bag,’ by George Baker Selection plays and the shutter speed is slowed to a daze as the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ head off to their heist.  Throughout the film, there has been extensive dialogue is exchanged between the characters Mr. White and Mr. Orange in the first act, followed by Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde. The dialogue became very crucial to the story since all the characters go back and forth on how the diamond heist went awry. The heist was never shown, only described. And since the characters are hiding in a warehouse and figuring out what went wrong, the unpacked mystery grips the audience’s attention. 

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The violence in the film was used sparingly. As for the ear-cutting scene, it was shown off-screen, but the agonizing screams from the maimed cop who was tied to a chair was ear-splittingly painful and enough. The technique made filmgoers uncomfortable.  The Mexican stand-off scene at the end becomes very iconic since the dialogue works, which gives the viewer suspense and wonder as to who will be the last man standing. The stand-off techniques and men with black and white suits have been used for other Quentin Tarantino’s films such as his 1994 breakthrough film ‘Pulp Fiction’, and ‘Kill Bill’ movies. ’ The emphasis of the need for money has been used even in ‘Jackie Brown,’ an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel. As film buffs watch the rest of Quentin Tarantino’s films, they would even notice extensive monologues from crucial characters who are trying to get a point across. 

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Tarantino Using Ringo Lam’s ‘City on Fire’ to Create Reservoir Dogs

The film had been accused of plagiarism due to the plot sharing similarities to Ringo Lam’s 1987 movie, ‘City on Fire.’ There have been a lot of shots that are almost the same. Both films contain a climatic Mexican stand-off scene in the end. The descriptions of the bank heist that ‘Reservoir Dogs’ covered through dialogue from his characters have been demonstrated both visually and verbally in Ringo Lam’s movie. Most film critics and even Quentin Tarantino agreed that he even borrows some storytelling techniques that have been done in other past films, but the majority would believe that ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is still considered an original piece of filmmaking. Just like any other art that has been made, there have been a lot of influences from past movies. Quentin wanted to have his own version. Throughout the movie, we get a lot of flashbacks that deal with before and after the heist. But never during the robbery, unlike ‘City on Fire.’

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In Conclusion

Quentin Tarantino might have borrowed a lot of material from ‘City on Fire’ and other works such as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Killing,’ but he is still a creative filmmaker by adding his trademarks. He will always be remembered as the man who made a heist movie that has never been seen with a budget so modest, it even inspired other filmmakers to create original works that can be inspired by other filmmakers that are trying to find their voice. The film has aged beautifully after thirty years because his trademarks have never been tiresome for his fans. 

By Marco Castaneda

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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