As well as a purveyor of quality cinema and a meticulous filmmaker in his own right, many people recognise Quentin Tarantino as a director who frolics in the delights of guts, gore and violence.
On one hand, this is a fair analysis, whilst on the other, the assessment overlooks the true greatness of the filmmaker who is so much more than his most provocative moments. Crafted like meticulous novels, the films of Tarantino are constructed with great care, with every scene perfectly structured to flow into the next to create, more often than not, a masterpiece of modern cinema.
Whilst his 1994 Palme d’Or winning feature film Pulp Fiction remains one of his most highly regarded films, it was his 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs that remained his most impactful feature film, catapulting his to international acclaim, at least in the underground cinema circles.
Premiering at Sundance at the mere dawn of the ‘90s, Tarantino’s film quickly became known for its violent elements, with word of mouth exciting youthful fans across the world. As the movie travelled around the world its notoriety grew month by month, with one particular screening at the Sitges Film Festival causing a moment now embedded in the history of the horror genre.
Attended by none other than the horror legend and director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven, Tarantino was initially delighted to see him at the screening, before the filmmaker did the unthinkable. Speaking at a panel to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Reservoir Dogs at the Tribeca Film Festival, the director revealed that before the film, “They showed Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, which was just drowned in zombie guts and brains”.
Finally getting the chance to introduce the film, Tarantino thought to himself, “I’ve got an audience that won’t walk out. I even joked about that in the opening introduction for the movie”. Despite this, and to his total surprise, “Five people walked out of that audience, including Wes Craven. The fucking guy who did Last House on the Left walked out? The guy who did Last House on the Left, my movie’s too tough for him”.
Revealing the secrets behind some of the first screenings of the film, Tarantino also recalled a conversation that he had with Steve Buscemi in which the actor told him that the audience believed the torture scene “ruins the movie”. Passionately disagreeing, the filmmaker replied, “‘What are they talking about? It’s the best thing in the fucking movie! Did you see how many people walked out? That’s the shit!’”
In borrowing from so many different types of movies, Tarantino created an original collage of ideas and genres that mixed remarkably well together to form a convincing, thrilling whole in Reservoir Dogs. Playing his film out like a novel that toys with the real-life pace of life rather than the montage of cinema, the filmmaker constructs an excellent hotpot of tension suffused with dread, paranoia and fear. Featuring all the nuances and subtleties of Tarantino’s later career, Reservoir Dogs still stands as a charming ode to the influence of cinema and the power of the filmmaker’s signature style.