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Quentin Tarantino
Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Lawrence Tierney, Christopher Penn, Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino

Four perfect killers. One perfect crime. Now all they have to fear is each other.
Rated R.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
English DTS ES 6.1

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/24/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Quentin Tarantino, Producer Lawrence Bender, Executive Producer Monte Hellman, Director of Photography Andrzej Sekula, Editor Sally Menke, and Actors Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen and Kirk Baltz
• Pulp Factoid Viewer
• Critics Commentaries
• Previews
• “Playing It Fast and Loose” Featurette
• “Profiling the Reservoir Dogs”
• Tipping Guide
• Deleted Scenes
• “Reservoir Dolls” Short
• K-BILLY Interactive Radio
• “Reservoir Dogs Style Guide”
• “Securing the Shot: Location Scouting with Billy Fox” Featurette
• Class of ’92 Retrospective
• Tributes and Dedications
• Theatrical Trailer
• “Reservoir Dogs: The Game” Exclusive Interview
• Previews


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Reservoir Dogs: 20th Anniversary Edition (1992)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2006)

I originally saw The Terminator during its theatrical run in 1984. At the time, I thought it was a pretty terrific action movie, with lots of exciting sequences and a creativity that clearly rose above its origins as a low budget film. I watched it again when it came out on video and that was it for a while.

When it came out in 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day also made a very strong impression on me. At that time, I had just started to collect laserdiscs. Even though I hadn't seen the first film in many years, I had positive memories of it so I figured it was worth a try.

In retrospect, Terminator didn't hold up too well for me. It wasn't that anything about it was particularly problematic. The problem arose from the fact that I had seen the sequel. In my opinion, T2 outdid the first movie in virtually every way so that the original looked tame and dull by comparison. How can you go back to the farm when you've seen the bright lights of Paree?

At this point, you're probably thinking, "Wasn't this supposed to be a review of Reservoir Dogs? Did these bozos screw up or what??" Sorry for the confusion, but I told the preceding story simply to illustrate a point: frequently our impressions of films are substantially different than they otherwise would have been because of other movies we've seen.

Which - finally - leads me to Reservoir Dogs. I'd heard a lot of positive comments about it over the years, but I missed it during its theatrical engagement, and I'm not much of a renter, so it took me a while to actually see it. What prompted me to finally do so was the success of director Quentin Tarantino's second film, Pulp Fiction. That one I did view during its theatrical run, and I liked it very much, enough so to finally break down and rent Reservoir Dogs.

So what did I think? I thought that Pulp Fiction was a much better movie. Both films feature a long list of similarities: story told in very nonlinear way, many pop culture references, witty but frequently crude dialogue, graphic violence, etc. However, Pulp managed a more compelling story, better acting, and much more variety than the fairly static Dogs. I couldn't help but feel that Dogs came across as something of a dress rehearsal for Pulp.

Which is why I wish I'd seen Dogs before I took in Pulp. In truth, Dogs really is a good movie but it clearly would have made a much greater impression on me if I'd not already had a crash course in Tarantino. Might that then have caused Pulp to seem less compelling than it did? Perhaps, but I doubt it. I think that Pulp progresses from Dogs, so I could have appreciated it from the point of view of someone watching a director develop.

In any case, Dogs does work pretty well on its own. Its main fault stems from the fact that it possesses a tremendously thin plotline. In fact, there really isn’t any plot. Ostensibly, it's about a jewel heist, but we never see the robbery itself and we see its immediate aftermath only through brief flashbacks.

No, the purpose of the film really is to provide as many of Tarantino's now- patented dialogue exchanges. Dogs is a very talky movie, in which little actually happens, except for a few very notable moments. Not that this is a bad thing; when the dialogue is as good as that which Tarantino can write, screechy action scenes aren't necessary.

Still, Dogs feels padded to me, even though it's only 100 minutes long. Many scenes seem unnecessarily drawn out and I occasionally grew impatient; I just wanted the story to move along and get where it was going. While that feeling popped up from time to time during Pulp - mainly during the Bruce Willis segment - the impulse was less strong, and it should be noted that Pulp is almost an hour longer than Dogs.

Across the board, the cast provides solid acting. Well, except for maybe Tim Roth's Mr. Orange. Roth struggles with his accent and he seems over the top to me; I think he just tries too hard. Best of the lot clearly is Michael Madsen. He's tremendously creepy and affecting as the psychotic Mr. Blond, especially in the infamous sequence in which he Van Goghs a cop to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle With You”. Madsen provides a chillingly laid-back portrayal of a seriously spooky guy.

In the end, I can't help but feel that while Reservoir Dogs works fairly well, it really is too long. Rarely have I felt so strongly that a director was really stretching to get his movie to feature length. Ultimately, it probably would have worked better as one segment in a movie, ala the three parts of Pulp Fiction. On its own, it provides many positive moments, but it simply takes too long to deliver the goods.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

Reservoir Dogs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Without question, this was the best-looking version of Dogs to date.

Sharpness seemed positive. A little edge enhancement meant a few wide shots seemed a little soft, but these instances failed to create serious distractions. The majority of the flick offered very good delineation and clarity. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws were minor. I witnessed a smattering of small specks but nothing significant.

Colors excelled. Dogs went with a stark palette much of the time, so it didn’t feature a lot of tones. Nonetheless, the elements we got looked great. Reds were rich and deep, and the other hues came across as accurate and vivid. Flesh tones looked especially solid; from normal tans to the near-death pallor of Tim Roth as he bleeds, these elements came across well. Blacks seemed dark and firm, while shadows were appropriately delineated. This was a pretty solid little transfer.

For this release of Reservoir Dogs, we got both DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtracks. Both seemed very similar to me. Neither stood out as notably superior to the other.

The soundfields generally provided a forward emphasis and that were accentuated with a lot of general ambience. The audio seemed alive with a fair amount of environmental factors, such as the clatter of other diners during the opening restaurant sequence. Music displayed some solid stereo imaging, and the tracks popped to life reasonably well during action sequences. Elements moved across the front channels smoothly and efficiently. Those also added better usage of the surrounds, which then complemented the material fairly well.

Audio quality seemed good. Speech was clear and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Effects appeared clean and accurate, and they packed a good punch when appropriate. Music showed solid clarity and range. The songs sounded simply terrific, as they demonstrated clean highs and punchy bass response. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious set of tracks, but they worked well given the movie’s scope.

How did the picture and audio of this 15th Anniversary DVD compare with those of the 2002 10th Anniversary set? Both offered improvements, especially in the area of visuals. The 10th Anniversary DVD inspired many complaints, virtually all of which receive attention here. I probably went too easy on the 10th Anniversary transfer, as I excused its lackluster colors. Those looked much stronger here, and the image was considerably tighter as well; the 15th Anniversary edition diminished the heavy edge enhancement of the prior one. I gave the 2002 disc a “B-“ for picture, but it probably deserved a “C” instead. The 2006 release offered greatly improved visuals.

As for the audio, it worked a little better. The scope of the sound was similar, but the 2006 disc seemed a little cleaner. I had some complaints about brittle speech in the 2002 disc, a concern that failed to manifest itself here. The audio didn’t improve as much as the picture, but those elements showed growth anyway. At least the 2006 DVD restored the handful of lines mysteriously absent from the 2002 edition.

By the way, could someone explain to me how we’ve gone from the movie’s 10th anniversary to its 15th in only four years?

The new set’s extras mix retreads from the 10th Anniversary package and some new materials. I’ll denote new elements with an asterisk, so if you don’t see a star, the component also appeared on the 10th Anniversary edition.

DVD One starts with an audio commentary with writer/director/actor Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, executive producer Monte Hellman, director of photography Andrzej Sekula, editor Sally Menke, and actors Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Kirk Baltz, and Michael Madsen. The track follows the old Criterion model in which all of the participants’ remarks come from separate sessions and are edited together. Clearly, none of them actually watched the movie as they spoke; the material emanated from interviews.

Some people hate that format and only like commentaries that are running and screen-specific, which this one most definitely is not. Occasionally the statements relate to the action we see in the film, but usually they don’t. If that format frustrates you, I doubt you’ll enjoy this track. Personally, I thought it offered a fairly solid discussion of the movie, though it didn’t provide an exemplary piece.

No particular participant dominated, though Tarantino probably received the most air time, even though he entered the track at a relatively late point. They participants discussed a variety of issues, but most concentrated on specific production challenges. They talked about how the project got off the ground, different technical elements, casting, dealing with specific sequences, distribution issues, the reactions to the film, and a mix of other topics. All participants seemed honest and upfront, and Tarantino came across as especially open and lively. Overall, I thought the track provided an informative and entertaining piece.

A text commentary comes next. Called *Pulp Factoid Viewer, this uses the old “Pop-Up Video” style to throw text and graphics onscreen at times. We get notes about Tarantino and his work, the film’s development and production, the cast and crew, music, influences and inspirations, the movie’s reception, connections to other Tarantino efforts, and general notes from the shoot.

The breadth of material cover in the “Viewer” makes it sound more effective than it is. In truth, it throws out only a smattering of interesting material. When notes appear, they’re usually decent, but vast amounts of movie pass without information. This makes the track only occasionally involving, since we really don’t get many details across the flick’s 100 minutes.

The Critics’ Commentaries come from Film Comment’s Amy Taubin (23:08), Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers (28:56), and Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise and Fall of American Independent Film author Emanuel Levy (33:41). In these, the participants speak over selected scenes from the film. All three provide some good insights, though I like Travers’ statements best. I often disagree with his reviews in Rolling Stone, but he offers nice material here, especially as he concentrates on Tarantino’s use of music.

DVD One opens with a pair of ads. We get trailers for Saw II and Saw III.

With that we head to DVD Two. A new featurette called *Playing It Fast and Loose lasts 15 minutes and 43 seconds as it features movie clips, archival elements and comments from Internet film critic Harry Knowles, Rebels on the Backlot author Sharon Waxman, AFI Conservatory senior lecturer Peter Markham and Loyala Marymount University’s Mark Evan Schwartz. They discuss Tarantino’s skills and the impact Dogs had on films. We get notes about the Dogs notion of “cool” as well as Tarantino’s writing style, his use of violence, and the movie’s legacy. Since the “Critics’ Commentaries” already gave us almost 90 minutes of discussion and interpretation, “Loose” lacks great impact. It feels like territory we’ve already covered and doesn’t delve into much fresh insight. It’s a decent little piece but not an especially memorable one. In addition, Knowles’ constant reference to the movie as “ResDogs” gets really annoying.

For a look at the various movie characters, we head to *Profiling the Reservoir Dogs. This seven-minute and five-second featurette examines Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. White and Mr. Blond. We get psychological interpretation of the different personalities; we can also read the information via a purely text version. This is an odd but somewhat interesting take on the characters.

Less intriguing is the strange Reservoir Dogs Tipping Guide. This looks at Pink, Orange, Blond and White and shows what they’d tip based on different totals. It’s silly but harmless.

DVD Two also includes five deleted scenes that total 12 and a half minutes of footage. Actually, the disc includes only three true excised segments, as the fourth and fifth present alternate takes of the ear-cutting bit. We find “Background Check” (4:40), “No Protection” (2:58), “Doing My Job” (2:32), “Cutting Off the Ear – Alternate Take A” (1:00) and “Cutting Off the Ear – Alternate Take B” (1:24). The ear-cutting bits are interesting to see but don’t add much. The second of those presents a graphic view of the scene and comes with a warning before you view it. While the scene presents the potential to seem disgusting, in reality it comes across as goofy just because the prosthetic ear looks so fake; I’ve never seen some one slice off another guy’s ear, but I’d guess it’d look a lot scarier than this.

The other three scenes seem compelling. The first two concentrate on Mr. Orange’s background as a cop and his preparation for the undercover case, while the third shows Pink, White and Nice Guy Eddie as they drive to take Orange to a nurse. No remnants of that remain in the film; they never leave the meeting point. Interestingly, this scene foreshadows Pulp Fiction. It mentions “the Bonnie situation”, which was the third vignette in that film. Indeed, the Bonnie in question clearly is the same one featured in the Pulp scenario.

Small Dogs lasts two minutes and 16 seconds as it focuses on the Dogs action figures. It uses those dolls to re-enact the ear-cutting scene. Note that a similar feature on the 2002 DVD also included comments from two unnamed toy creators that don’t appear here. “Small” is oddly entertaining but superfluous.

Audio elements appear next. K-BILLY Radio offers four different selections. One includes an interview with “Stuck In the Middle With You” composer/performer Gerry Rafferty as he discusses the song, its use in the film, and his career. Another “channel” provides outtakes from the station announcements by Steven Wright. The other one purports to provide an interview with criminal Sampson Beck from inside prison done for French radio as he gives us his impressions of the movie. Is this for real? It sounded fake to me - do actual crooks use the term “rooty-poops”? Whatever the factual nature of that segment may or may not be, the other segments are pretty cool, especially the Wright outtakes.

A very odd piece, Reservoir Dogs Style Guide only lasts 20 seconds. It runs clips from the movie and lists text like “Killing in style” over them. What’s the point? I had no idea when I saw it on the 2002 DVD, and I don’t get it now.

A featurette called Securing the Shot: Location Scouting With Billy Fox shows different sets while we hear remarks from Fox. He offers some nice comments about the shoot, and we also see some stills from the locations during this brief but interesting four minute and 20 second piece.

Class of ‘92 focuses on the filmmakers who attended that year’s Sundance festival along with Tarantino and Dogs. The 28-minute and 43-second program starts with a general eight-minute introduction before we get segments that spotlight various directors. In those, the clips focus on Alex Rockwell, Chris Munch, Katt Shae, Tom Kalin, and Tarantino. Those five also appear in the introduction, along with critics Emanuel Levy, Peter Travers, and Amy Taubin. The interviews with the filmmakers generally concentrate on their thoughts about Sundance, their careers, and movies in general. Though none approached the level of success enjoyed by Tarantino, this area offers a nice and entertaining look at the filmmakers and the medium. Most enjoyable is Tarantino’s skewering of the PC sensibilities employed at Sundance, where it appears many films win prizes due to political and social elements instead of for their quality.

Tributes and Dedications covers a lot of territory. “Dedicated to…” runs 10 minutes and 39 seconds as Tarantino discusses seven men to whom he wanted to dedicate the flick. He provides his usual frank and entertaining comments as he provides his current perspective on these influences as well as other notes about them.

“One Big Teddy Bear: A Tribute to Lawrence Tierney” runs 14 minutes and 47 seconds and offers a wild discussion of the actor. We hear from Film Threat’s Chris Gore, Tarantino, Madsen, Roth, Penn, and Eddie Bunker and also see some movie clips and outtakes. The program offers a refreshingly frank appraisal of Tierney, as we mostly hear stories about how difficult he could be. It’s all very entertaining and lively.

Only one person shows up for “Eddie Bunker in the Good, the Bad and the Bunker”: the actor himself. During the eight-minute and two-second program, Bunker rides around LA and discusses his criminal career. It’s a moderately interesting piece but sounds better on paper than it comes across in reality.

”The Reservoir Dogs Tributes” offers nods toward some of Tarantino’s favorites. We get short clips about filmmakers Monte Hellman (4:44), Jack Hill (5:49), and Roger Corman (5:00) as well as actress Pam Grier (2:21). Most of them reflect on their careers, while Grier relates her impression to her reference in Dogs. The programs seem moderately interesting but nothing special, though it’s good to get more information about Tarantino’s influences.

In addition to the film’s original theatrical trailer, we find an *exclusive interview for Reservoir Dogs: The Game. In this three-minute and 24-second clip, we hear from Eidos Senior Product Manager Kevin Gill. He discusses the scope of the game and we see shots from it. This is a purely promotional piece.

A bunch of additional promos launch DVD Two. We find the same clips for Saw II and Saw III along with ads for Hard Candy, The Descent and See No Evil. These also appear in the Also From Lionsgate area.

So far we’ve seen that the 15th Anniversary DVD includes a few components not found on the 10th Anniversary set. Does the 2006 set lose anything? Yes, and we get some significant omissions. The 15th Anniversary package drops nearly an hour of interviews with the folks heard in the commentary. It also cuts a good featurette called “Sundance Institute’s Filmmaker’s Lab”, a few stills of posters and a nice collection of genre information under the banner “The Film Noir Web”. The components on the disc remain good enough to merit a “B+”, but that’s a definite drop from the original set’s “A”. (Note that the 15th Anniversary release also omits a fullscreen version of Dogs, but I didn’t punish it for that.)

Reservoir Dogs showed glimmers of Quentin Tarantino’s talent, but it suffered from a little too much ambition and a stretched-out storyline. The movie usually remained entertaining and lively, but it seemed excessively padded at times. The DVD provides very good picture and audio along with a fairly nice set of extras.

If the set completely replicated the elements from the 10th Anniversary Dogs, this disc would earn a no-brainer recommendation. However, since it drops some significant elements, matters become more complicated. I’d still push folks toward the 15th Anniversary release just because it offers the best reproduction of the movie itself. This one looks and sounds notably superior to the prior versions. However, the presence of better supplements on the 10th Anniversary DVD means serious fans will want to retain it in their collections.

To rate this film visit the 10th Anniversary Edition review of RESERVOIR DOGS

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