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review added: 12/9/02



Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years
Special Edition - 1992 (2002) - Artisan

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): B+/A-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/A-

Specs and Features

Disc One: Widescreen
100 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, Amaray keep case packaging with 5 different collectible slipcases, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:16:09, in chapter 17), audio commentary (with writer/director Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, executive producers Monte Hellman and Richard Gladstein, DP Andrzej Sekula, editor Sally Menke, and actors Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen and Kirk Baltz), original video interviews with Chris Penn, Kirk Baltz, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino, 5 deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS 5.1 and DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Full Frame
100 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), 3 critics commentaries (by Amy Taubin, Peter Travers and Emanuel Levy), K-BILLY Interactive Radio, 6 Class of '92 featurettes, scenes from the Sundance Institute's Filmmaker's Lab version of Reservoir Dogs, 7 Tributes and Dedications featurettes, 6 The Film Noir Web featurettes, The Noir Files, Small Dogs featurette, Securing the Shot: Location Scouting with Billy Fox featurette, Reservoir Dogs Style Guide featurette, poster gallery, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (8 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0 Surround), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned

Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition (Mr. Pink)Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition (Mr. White)Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition (Mr. Blonde)
Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition (Mr. Orange)Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years - Special Edition (Mr. Brown)


Now that Kill Bill is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the new millennium, it's hard to recall that just ten years ago, the only person who was excited to see a new Quentin Tarantino movie was Quentin Tarantino. But the Sundance Film Festival is one of those rare places where it's actually possible to become an overnight sensation. That's certainly what happened to Tarantino when Reservoir Dogs became the movie to see back in January '92. Since then, of course, he's become a genre unto himself. Critics slam indie crime films for being Tarantino Lite. His dialogue is mimicked, copied, and parodied and his use of music has relaunched more than a few forgotten pop songs back up the record charts. His films have been analyzed, criticized, dissected and examined from every possible angle. Not too shabby for a guy who's only actually directed three feature films so far.

Of all his films, Reservoir Dogs remains my personal favorite. Partly because it hearkens back to those bygone days when you could actually just watch and enjoy Tarantino's movies and not have to interpret them through a prism of neo-feminist, post-modern deconstructionalist criticism. But the primary reason I still love Reservoir Dogs is that it's just a simple, perfect story. Six total strangers are hired by gangster Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) to rob a diamond wholesaler. They don't know anything about each other, not even their real names. Instead, Joe assigns them color-coded aliases: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blond (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), and Mr. Brown (frustrated actor Tarantino himself, in possibly his finest cinematic performance). However, the perfectly planned heist goes horribly wrong and Mr. Pink begins to suspect they have a rat in their midst.

To say anything more about the plot would be to ruin it for the three of you who have not yet seen the movie. But even when you know the entire story in advance, Reservoir Dogs remains an endlessly enjoyable crime yarn. Part of its success is due to Tarantino's much-praised dialogue. I don't find it nearly as realistic as some claim and frankly, wouldn't want it to be realistic. These lines are perfectly modulated in a way that dialogue in real life never is. Regardless, it's a real pleasure to hear the rhythms of these words coming from these skilled actors.

But what really sets Reservoir Dogs apart is Tarantino's controlled direction. Here's a guy who had seen and, as importantly, heard this movie in his head over and over again before a single frame had been shot. Most first-time filmmakers would never dare include a scene in which a character tells a four-page anecdote with absolutely no relation to the plot. Or if they did, it would be the kiss of death because they'd have no idea how to shoot it and keep it interesting. But Tarantino pulls it off beautifully with Tim Roth's "commode story". What could have been the moment where audiences refill their popcorn bucket is transformed into one of the most original sequences in '90's cinema.

But enough of my gushing. Tarantino has supporters up one side and down the other, so he certainly doesn't need me in his corner (and, by the way, don't mistake my praise of Reservoir Dogs for unadulterated Tarantino worship... I'll defend this movie to the high heavens but I'm not willing to go to the mattresses over Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, even though I like both of those movies very much). No doubt all you're really interested in is Artisan's new 10th anniversary DVD. I understand there are some folks out there who are displeased in the extreme with this disc's transfer, claiming the image is dull and "washed out" compared to Artisan's first DVD. While I wasn't able to directly compare this to the original disc, I can sort of understand these complaints. The Dogs' black suits are more of a dark charcoal gray here. And while Buscemi ain't exactly the healthiest looking dude in the world, he looks downright ghostly in some shots on this disc. But having said that, the transfer didn't really bother me. The reds in the blood (and there's a lot of blood) looked pretty spot on, so I suspect that slightly bleached look might just be a necessary evil in order to correctly reproduce the other, more troublesome colors. This is also a very clean print, free of any of the damage that you usually find in a movie of this age and low budget. My biggest problem with the image was some slight but very noticeable haloing virtually throughout. Other than that, I was generally pleased with the transfer, particularly because we can finally see the movie in 16x9 enhanced scope, the way Tarantino intended in the first place. If you don't want to see the movie the way the director would like you to see it, a pan-and-scan version is included on the second disc, but you're not that kind of person, now, are you?

As with most dialogue-driven films, the audio isn't horribly immersive. Even so, this disc sounds awfully good, especially if you can listen to the DTS track. The first drumbeats of the George Baker Selection's "Little Green Bag" over the opening titles raised goose bumps. I've never heard that song sound this good before. I was also impressed with the mix in the movie's most famous musical scene (if you've seen the movie, all I've gotta say is "Stuck In The Middle With You"... if not, you'll know it when you see it). Also, the subwoofer gets a nice little workout whenever the guns start blazing. If you don't have DTS, you shouldn't be disappointed by the Dolby Digital track. It, too, is quite nice.

Befitting a film of its stature on its tenth anniversary, Artisan has put together quite a list of special features for Reservoir Dogs. And, if nothing else, I give them an A+ for effort. The execution falls a little flat on some but in general, this is an outstanding package. Starting with the bad news first, the commentary track is not what many of you may be hoping for. This is not a scene-specific commentary but a series of interviews edited together, sometimes well, sometimes not. Director of photography Andrzej Sekula's comments gel with what's happening on screen more often than not, but other participants seem forced in utterly at random. And I'm always disappointed when a commentary simply repeats information found in other supplements. Well, this takes that to a new level by literally repeating verbatim some of producer Lawrence Bender's interview. This is not to say that the commentary track is worthless. There are some choice pieces of information here. Unfortunately, Tarantino just seems to be one of those filmmakers like Steven Spielberg who doesn't care to do solo, scene-specific audio commentaries for the movies he directs. Weird, since in every interview I've ever seen with the man, it seems like you can hardly shut him up.

The remaining features on the first disc help make up for the lackluster commentary. Leading the pack is a series of original interviews with Tarantino, Bender, and much of the cast (notably absent are Keitel and Buscemi). It's obvious with these interviews that the disc's producers wanted to avoid the staid, old talking-head style. Some of these attempts work some don't, but at the end of the day, an interview's an interview and there's only so much you can do to jazz things up. Anyway, if what the subject has to say is interesting, you shouldn't have to. Disc one also includes the original trailer and five deleted scenes. These are actually well worth watching and might just help out a struggling screenwriter or two. Much of the deleted material has to do with Freddy the cop's investigation into Mr. White. Every conventional rule of screenwriting says you need to have this information but Tarantino wisely realized you really don't.

Disc two is kicked off with a trio of critics' commentaries. These are fairly interesting, though I'd be willing to bet Tarantino was surprised as hell to learn some of the things he was "really saying" on Amy Taubin's track. The K-BILLY Interactive Radio provides a number of audio treats, including DJ Steven Wright's original, unedited recording sessions with Tarantino, an interview with songwriter Gerry Rafferty about "Stuck In The Middle With You", and a "jailhouse" interview with an allegedly bona fide inmate giving a professional criminal's opinion of Reservoir Dogs (but considering how scripted the whole thing sounds, I call bullshit on the veracity of this interview). Also found on this disc is a brief but illuminating featurette on the movie's locations, a piece on the development of the Reservoir Dogs action figures, a poster gallery (which holds a whopping three posters), and a truly pointless bit called the Reservoir Dogs Style Guide.

The highlights of the second disc are found under The Class of '92, Tribute and Dedications, and The Film Noir Web. Class of '92 puts Reservoir Dogs in the context of its Sundance premiere, interviewing Tarantino and other Sundance directors, including Alex Rockwell (whose In The Soup won the grand prize that year), Chris Munch (The Hours and Times), Katt Shae (Poison Ivy), and Tom Kalin (Swoon). You also get to see scenes from the Sundance Institute's Filmmakers Lab version of Reservoir Dogs made back in June of '91. It's very rare to ever see footage of other actors playing familiar parts. For instance, I'll be stunned beyond words if there is any footage of Eric Stoltz playing Marty McFly on the upcoming Back To The Future disc. But here, we see David Jensen playing Joe, Buscemi playing both Mr. White and Mr. Pink, and QT himself playing Mr. White. And as strange as all that is, it's nothing compared to the surrealism of seeing the first warehouse conversation between Pink and White played out in a rustic mountain lodge in Utah. This is fascinating stuff and may well be my favorite feature on the whole disc.

Tributes and Dedications is just that, tributes to the two Dogs you'd least like to mess with (the late Lawrence Tierney and writer/actor/ex-con Eddie Bunker) and interviews with some of the people who inspired Tarantino, like Pam Grier and Roger Corman. The Film Noir Web examines Reservoir Dogs place in the canon of crime fiction through video interviews (with folks like novelist/screenwriter Donald Westlake and Get Carter director Mike Hodges) and a lengthy series of text bios and synopses written by David Schow. At first glance, it may appear that a lot of this stuff doesn't really belong here because it really doesn't have much to do with the movie itself. But Reservoir Dogs is a movie steeped in references and history. It's important to know where this movie came from because without these people, it literally wouldn't exist.

Finally, I should add that Artisan has taken a page from the bad old days of the comic book explosion and released Reservoir Dogs in five different collectible slipcases, each spotlighting a different character. The Mr. Brown cover is supposed to be the rarest of the bunch, but I've seen it all over the place. Each slipcase folds out to reveal a character dossier, some notable quotes, and a little booklet with pictures and more quotes from your favorite Dog. Personally, I don't have much use for this kind of thing but if it turns you on and you want to buy all five, hey, it's your money.

At long last, the complete works of Quentin Tarantino are available on DVD in appropriately loaded editions. While you could probably argue about the quality of the transfer endlessly, the bottom line is that Artisan has delivered a pretty damn good special edition of Reservoir Dogs. Maybe it's not quite as great as Miramax's Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, but it sure beats getting shot in the belly.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years (Mr. Pink)


Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years (Mr. White)


Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years (Mr. Orange)


Reservoir Dogs: Ten Years (Mr. Blonde)


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