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“Great artists steal, they don’t do homages.” Those are the words of Quentin Tarantino, speaking about the derivative style to Reservoir Dogs, his break-out movie many still consider his best work. It’s ironic that many filmmakers are trying to emulate Tarantino’s style, but the majority of them aren’t even close to reaching the heights of greatness.

Most of you will know the story of Tarantino, his distinctly fresh visual and written style, and the attitude of his films which still remain unchallenged in terms of slickly written scripts, original storytelling techniques and, of course, a killer soundtrack. Having already written the script for True Romance, Dogs was the result of a playful Tarantino messing with conventional gangster films and injecting them with enough flair to revive what was a pretty flagging genre at the time.

Movie
If you haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs you can’t really call yourself a movie fan. The film remains one of the definitive signposts in cinema history, defining the creative and daring approach many filmmakers took during the 1990’s. Not that Tarantino could care less, though, because he’s just doing what he knows best, and if audiences don’t particularly like what he produces then so be it. That is Tarantino the enigma.

Reservoir Dogs: Collector's Edition

It’s pretty lucky that the film was made in the first place, especially considering Tarantino was nothing more than a wannabe filmmaker with a penchant for writing graphic and foul-mouthed scripts. Thankfully for the industry he had a little luck on his side, which spawned perhaps his most graphic and foul-mouthed creation thus far.

The story is quite simple but it’s the way it is told that makes the film stand out from the rest. You’ve got a robbery that’s never actually seen, a gangster named Joe who concocts the plan with his sidekick called Nice Guy Eddie, and a handful of other bad-to-the-bone gangsters who all want a slice of the pie. They decide to use colour-coded pseudonyms to avoid anyone knowing their details should one of them be caught, resulting in a kaleidoscope of black-suited gangsters. Assembled are some of the most charismatic actors in one big chunk of screen presence. We’ve got Mr.Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr.White (Harvey Keitel), Mr.Orange (Tim Roth), Mr.Blue (Eddie Bunker), Mr.Brown (Tarantino, who can’t act to save himself), and Mr.Pink (a brilliant Steve Buscemi), who argues the virtue of being a bad-guy while having to be called Mr.Pink.

We begin as the heist is wrapping up, having gone more than a little haywire due to the unexpected presence of the police. Mr.Orange has been given a bullet to the guts and is bleeding all over the place, while Mr.White becomes getaway car driver and heads for the meeting place, an old warehouse out of town.

In what was a very refreshing move on behalf of Tarantino, the story doesn’t follow a natural linear path, instead revealing details here and there as the scenes play backwards, forwards, then backwards again. Despite all this chopping around the story is quite easy to follow, helped by the fact that the majority of the action takes place in the one location. What takes place in this simple little warehouse is both captivating and intriguing, as the characters suspect there’s a rat in the ranks whilst trying to figure out for themselves what has just gone down.

There are several trademark scenes that have given many a quote-mongerer plenty of ammunition when talking film with their mates; the restaurant scene where the men argue the point of tipping a waitress, the infamous slow-motion walk by the suited gangsters and the oft-imitated finale that sparked furious debate over a particular missing bullet and the fate of Nice Guy Eddie. I shall say no more, so you’ll have to watch this film (again, in most cases) to get my point.

Reservoir Dogs: Collector's Edition

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out this is a genuine cult flick that has garnered mainstream acclaim due to its original style and clever approach. At the time it was the most original piece of filmmaking to come out of independent cinema for quite some time, and is still considered the catalyst for similar techniques used in film today. It did the rounds of all the major film festivals such as Sundance (where it premiered), Toronto, and Cannes before the interest piqued just enough for it to be afforded a wider release then finding it’s real niche in the home video market.

Fans of Tarantino’s self-created universe, incorporating characters from Pulp Fiction, True Romance and Natural Born Killers, will love his breakthrough work and thrive on recognising the links between several characters in his films. But as an outright story in itself, Reservoir Dogs is a masterpiece, driven by a fresh script, fantastic performances and a storytelling technique that lifts the film head and shoulders above the rest.

Watch it, or I’ll cut your ear off.

Video
Much has been said about the Region 1 transfer of this film, supposedly containing some very muted colours and a large chunk of grey where the blacks should have been. Thankfully the PAL version of the visuals fares a lot better, with the original state of the colours restored and the blacks looking as deep as can be. Tarantino didn’t want an overly-vibrant colour palette but what we do get is absolutely top-notch.

Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, there are no nasties at all to be seen, with the transfer completely free from aliasing, edge-enhancement and large amounts of grain. There are only a few minor defections in the print but nothing that will detract from the action, so consider this arguably the best-looking version of the film going around.

Reservoir Dogs: Collector's Edition

Audio
There was also some conjecture over whether the Region 4 disc would be afforded a DTS soundtrack. Thankfully it is included in this release, so DTS lovers can rejoice. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix present which is basically the same as the DTS mix just without the extra punch during the brilliant pieces of music Tarantino chose to use. The music is the biggest selling point of this soundtrack, so thankfully the audio mix doesn’t disappoint. Your ears will have a field day with such classics as Stuck In The Middle With You or the very fitting Little Green Bag during the infamous slow-motion walk.

Surround use is minimal, as is any serious work for the subwoofer, but there are some ambient sounds dotted around to remind us we’ve got some rear speakers and a woofer in the corner. Most of the action takes place in the front speakers, with the dialogue clear at all times as it shifts around the front three outlets. For a heist flick the film contains minimal audio punch, so thankfully the brilliant soundtrack is represented wonderfully on the DVD.

Extras
Another rumour bites the dust. The Region 4 disc gets exactly the same extras package as the Region 1 version, leaving those in Australia with a lot more money in their wallets thanks to an identical package save for the coloured slipcases used for the US release.

On disc one there is an audio commentary with various members of the production, including Tarantino, several cast members and producer Lawrence Bender. While the track isn’t your usual scene-specific “live” commentary, all the good bits have been laid down in the relevant places, leaving us with a very informative track to listen to that is always appropriate to the action on screen.

A relatively original extra on disc one is a feature called The Critics, where three critics provide their own little commentary track on different parts of the film. We jump to the relevant scene immediately when we choose one of the critics and they impart their views on those particular moments. Film Comment’s Amy Taubin talks about Tim Roth’s brilliant performance, the controversial Peter Travers (of Rolling Stone magazine fame) looks at the story and the characters as a whole and gives us his view on the impact of the film, and author Emanuel Levy deals with the structure and length of the scenes. Overall, the three critics have some good information and opinions to put across, making this a worthwhile extra to listen to.

Reservoir Dogs: Collector's Edition

Rounding out disc one is the theatrical trailer, a rather low quality original cut set to the classic Steeler’s Wheel track. It’s actually a pretty cool-looking trailer, consistent with the film itself. Good for nostalgic value.

Moving on to disc two the first cab off the rank is the original interviews section, which provides us with lengthy snippets from Penn, Roth, Tarantino and Bender. There’s some great stuff in here, particularly with Tim Roth.

Next up is K-Billy Radio where there are various audio pieces included, from a tongue-in-cheek opinion from a real criminal about the film to Gerry Rafferty’s recollection of how the Stuck In The Middle With You came about. There’s also Steven Wright’s introduction to K-Billy radio with Tarantino directing him in the background (I think these are some sort of outtakes) and a comical look at the “ear” scene using the dolls instead of the actors, complete with the original movie footage in a little square in the corner. Brilliant!

The next piece is entitled Class Of ‘92, a collection of interviews with some of the bigger names at Sundance that year. There’s Tarantino himself as well as the likes of Chris Munch and Alex Rockwell, providing some interesting fodder to look at even if it doesn’t have much to do with the film. The Sundance Institute Filmmaker’s Lab is some working footage for the production, with everything from rehearsals to demo scenes thrown in here. Just laugh at Tarantino trying to act and you’ll be happy.

The Tributes And Dedications section contains more interviews, this time relating to the late greats Eddie Bunker and Lawrence Tierney. There are also pieces on Pam Grier, Roger Corman and Monte Hellman, with snippets from Tarantino and others as well.

Still going strong, The Film Noir Web contains even more interviews about the subject as well as some text-based pieces on how to handle a gun and “Dave’s Handy Pocket Guide To The Big Three”. These are probably better suited to a DVD-ROM due to the relatively small font, but they do provide some decent information pertaining to the themes of the film.

Also included is a featurette entitled Small Dogs, which looks at the creation of the Reservoir Dogs action figures. This is a great little piece about how these figures came about, how Tarantino’s character wasn’t going to be in the original product line and exactly how these little plastic figures came to sit on toy store shelves in America. The editing is in a similar style to the film and provides a very slick look to a rather humorous off-shoot of the production.

Reservoir Dogs: Collector's Edition

Another featurette included is called Securing The Shot, where the crew breaks down the location scouting for the warehouse. We see some original photos from the scouting, some clips from the film side-by-side with photos of the apartment and footage of the restaurant compared to the finished film. This is a really interesting featurette with great information as to how they secured the locations for the film.

The Reservoir Dogs Style Guide is a pointless little piece that does nothing but give away the ending to those stupid enough to view it before the feature. Then there’s the poster gallery featuring the three posters used in the promotion for the film. And finally we have a collection of deleted scenes, three of which didn’t make it into the final cut as well as two alternate takes of the “ear” scene. There’s some interesting stuff in there as well and worth a look for fans of the film.

Well, after all that’s over I think I know everything about this movie and more, which makes me appreciate it even more than before, if that’s at all possible. This is a very comprehensive look at the film and is a great addition to what is a brilliant film.

Overall
As a DVD package you really can’t get much better than this. The film is outstanding and is a must own for lovers of landmark cinema titles, the video quality surpasses the Region 1 version and the audio is top notch thanks to a DTS mix that compliments the awesome musical soundtrack extremely well. With a stack of extras about practically everything to do with the production there’s no doubt this is the definitive version of the film to own and should sit proudly in everyone’s DVD collection.


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