It's now been 10 years since Quentin Tarantino arrived on the scene with "Reservoir Dogs", a brtually violent, occasionally shocking and darkly funny picture that introduced Tarantino's dazzling, electric dialogue and unstable, chaotic and energetic atmosphere. While "Reservoir Dogs" isn't quite as remarkable an achievement, in my opinion, as "Pulp Fiction", the low-budget "Dogs" often manages to equal the director's later work in terms of intensity.
As the film opens, a jewelry store robbery has gone severly wrong. Members are either missing, dead or badly injured. After an opening that introduces us to all the characters via one of the director's signature riffs on pop culture, we're thrown into a car where Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) and an injured Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) are driving back to their hideout. When they return, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is awaiting, complete with theories that there is a traitor in their midst. When coldly psychotic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) arrives on-scene with something in his car trunk, the paranoia and suspicion start to boil over.
As the film progresses, more and more of the story is revealed through flashbacks and elements of the story come together through the non-linear storytelling. Tarantino's exciting and well-written screenplay certainly attracted some of the finest actors out there, as all of them provide utterly terrific performances, especially Harvey Keitel. Madsen, Buscemi, Tim Roth and others provide excellent support.
10 years later, "Reservoir Dogs" remains a largely influential and fascinating work; while it's certainly not for everyone, Tarantino's electric dialogue and the strong performances are still exceptional.
Note: There is also an box set edition that includes four copies of the 10th Anniversary Special Limited Edition of Reservoir Dogs, each with one of four collectible covers: Mr. Blond, Mr. Pink, Mr. White, and Mr. Orange. However, the content of each of the DVDs are the same. I doubt even hardcore fans of the movie would want to buy four copies of it. Given the fact that the actual case cover under the outer slip-cover of each edition (mine, at least) shows a smaller version of the four covers, this box edition is even more puzzling. I can understand if Artisan offered a box set with the DVD accompanied by the soundtrack and the script, but again, I don't see anyone wanting four of the same DVDs.
VIDEO: "Reservoir Dogs" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen on this new edition from Artisan Entertainment. However, the new, "remastered" presentation is rather disapointing. The print used looks excellent, as rarely are specks or other marks noticed. Edge enhancement, while occasionally visible, is kept to a bare minimum. Although some artifacts are visible, they remain minor and don't cause much distraction.
However, for some reason, this new edition of the movie appears considerably washed out and different that I've ever seen the film look. Certainly, "Reservoir Dogs" is a movie with a subdued appearance, but this seemed too much. Previous editions I've seen of the film offer more vivid colors than this presentation does and even boast somewhat better sharpness and detail than this release does.
This presentation, while watchable, is certainly not what I was expecting from a brand new, "remastered" transfer. "Reservoir Dogs" is a low-budget picture, to be sure, but not one without fine cinematography that is unfortunately rendered flat and dull looking here. Black level is weak, looking like grey rather than black. Flesh tones look off, as well, appearing pale.
Certainly, this much-hyped presentation is going to disapoint a lot of the movie's fans, which is really too bad. Hopefully, Artisan will try again with this one. A 1.33:1 pan & scan presentation is included on the second disc. Oddly - and this is a problem with many Artisan titles - there are no English subtitles.
SOUND: "Reservoir Dogs" was not presented in 5.1 theatrically, but this new DVD edition offers a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation and, in addition, a DTS 5.1 edition of the soundtrack. The original 2.0 soundtrack is also available. Given that this film was not presented in 5.1 theatrically and is largely dialogue-driven picture, I wasn't really expecting a great deal.
Still, given the fact that this film, as with all of Tarantino's, has a classic soundtrack, I was pleased that the music at least does receieve a lot of presence in the audio. When the music kicks in, reinforced by the surrounds, it sounds sweeter than it ever has and really is quite pleasing. The rear speakers also add in some minor sound effects and ambience, but there's really nothing more than subtle touches.
While I certainly didn't expect anything groundbreaking from the soundtrack of this largely dialogue-driven picture, this new presentation does add a kick to the music and at least opens up the soundtrack somewhat. It's probably as good as the film's audio is going to sound.
MENUS: The main menu on the first disc puts clips from the movie to stylish use, with basic main menus. The menus on the second disc, however, are rather strange, complete with eerie music and menu art that makes the film look like a supernatural thriller.
Commentary: This commentary is a series of intervews edited together, with participants Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, cinematographer Andrej Sekula, exec producer Monte Hellman, editor Sally Menke, and actors Tim Roth, Kirk Baltz, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen. While I was a little disapointed that this was not a screen-specific affair, I was surprised that this commentary was as informative and enjoyable as it was. Tarantino is his usual high-energy and animated self, enthusiastically discussing both story and production details. Bender is a bit more informative, discussing the early history of the film and other elements of the process to get the smaller film to the screen. Menke and Sekula provide information and insight about their roles, while the actors discuss what it's like to work with Tarantino. The only little off aspect is that Tarantino's interview seems to have been recorded outside and some of the outdoor sounds intrude slightly upon the director's chat.
Critic's Commentaries (Disc 2): Three critics: Peter Travers, Amy Taubin and Emmanuel Levy, provide scene-specific discussions about the picture. Their commentaries are insightful and enjoyable, providing solid analysis of specific scenes, Tarantino's work in general and the sort of genre of take-offs that was born after "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction". The commentaries only cover a handful of scenes each - they don't run the full movie. Still, they're all very much worth a listen.
Class of '92 (Disc 2): This is a 25-minute documentary covering the sort of buzz that was running through independent cinema in 1992, offering interviews with directors Katt Shea Rubin (uh, "Poison Ivy" and "Carrie 2"), Alex Rockwell, Chris Munch and Tom Kalin, along with Tarantino, as well as film critics Levy and Taubin. Tarantino's interview footage is utterly hilarious at times, while the other participants offer equally insightful and amusing chats about that period in time.
Sundance Lab (Disc 2): This featurette offers the chance to see some of the early versions of the scenes from the film, with Steve Buscemi acting.
Tributes and Dedications(Disc 2): The first section of this area offers dedications to actors Lawrence Tierny and Eddie Bunker, who have both passed away recently. Both featurettes, which offer memories from cast and crew members alike, are moving tributes and occasionally, offer a funny moment - especially one discussion of how Tierny and Tarantino seriously didn't get along. The second part of the area offers tributes to the film from Monte Hellman, Pam Grier, Jack Hill and Roger Corman, who are all interviewed.
Film Noir Web(Disc 2): This area includes interviews with noir filmmakers/writers Mike Hodges, Robert Polito, John Boorman, Donald Westlake and Stephen Frears.
Securing The Shot(Disc 2): This is a short featurette narrated by Billy Fox, who narrates footage of the locations and discusses the process of finding locations for the film. There's also some additional discussion about the involvement of other members of the crew and their roles in transforming the locations.
Small Dogs(Disc 2): An additional short featurette about the creation of the "Reservoir Dogs" action figures.
Original Interviews: Interviews with Chris Penn, Kirk Baltz, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Bender, Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino are included.
Deleted Scenes: 5 deleted scenes are offered, two of which are alternate angles of the "ear" sequence. No additional commentary is offered to explain the deletions and some of the footage is in pretty rough shape.
Also (Disc 2) : Poster gallery (all of 3 posters included), KBILLY Radio area w/additional quick supplements.
Final Thoughts: "Reservoir Dogs" remains a stylish, well-acted and extremely well-written crime/noir thriller that boasts some of the director's finest work. Unfortunately, the DVD is not Artisan's finest hour: while the supplements are solid in terms of both quality and quantity and the audio's very good, the video quality is lackluster. Fans may want to rent this DVD first.