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Every dog has its day.
Well, here's where we get down to where it all began. All of the kitschy drama homages, all of the long-forgotten B-celebrity restoration attempts, all of the cool music inclusions, all of the movie references within a movie, the then-blossoming independent film movement in the early '90s started (or was at least recognized) with Quentin Tarantino's feature film directorial debut in Reservoir Dogs. Is this one the version to own?
Facts of the Case
Written and directed by Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs takes the unusual approach of being a heist film without showing the heist. It shows the preparations for it, when Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney, Dillinger, Born to Kill) and his son "Nice Guy" Eddie (Chris Penn, Rumble Fish, True Romance), pull together a group of six career criminals (one of which is an undercover cop) as part of an elaborate and hopefully risk-free plot to steal some diamonds.
If the film isn't showing the preparations for the crime, it's showing the chaos occurring from it. When Mr. Brown (Tarantino) and Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker, Runaway Train) are killed in the chase afterwards, the focus shifts to Mr. White (Harvey Keitel, Mean Streets, From Dusk Till Dawn), who is tending to Mr. Orange (Tim Roth, Four Rooms), who got shot after the robbery (and unbeknownst to everyone is an undercover cop), and the loose cannon Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen, Kill Bill), who may or may not kill everyone in the process of taking the diamonds.
Well, what else is there to say that hasn't been said in two previous DVD Verdict decisions, right? When it comes to Tarantino, you either love or hate him, but Lionsgate won't make you forget about him, as this release is the third from the studio that was formerly known as Live and Artisan, so I'll just skip straight to the details. The big gripe about the 10th anniversary edition of Reservoir Dogs is that the transfer from this version had a green tint to it, and the pool of blood that Mr. Orange stayed in most of the film looked, well, orange. This time, the blacks actually look black and the blood actually looks like blood. Having cast off the old version a long time ago, I don't have anything to compare and contrast, but it looks pretty solid. And thankfully, the full screen version of the film got dropped for this version too. The audio options are DTS and a Dolby Digital EX track, both of which sound a little more robust than the anniversary five years ago. "Stuck in the Middle With You" has never sounded better.
Many of the extras from the 10th anniversary edition were retained for this new release of the film, though dropped are the cast and crew interviews and some quick looks at the noir genre. But first and foremost for creativity's sake, the set is housed in a metal red and yellow gasoline can with the characters on the front of it. As one who likes bright shiny metallic things, the outer case appealed to me, but pop the top of the "can" and both discs are housed in a matchbook-type case, one disc on one side, and the other on the other side. The problem with that is that the discs don't stay too secure if one were to, say, get it sent to them when they order it from an online store or something. So give the packaging a B+ for looks, but a C- for functionality. Anyway, the commentaries from the last version of the film have been retained for this one. Tarantino, Madsen, Penn, Roth, cinematographer Andrzej Sekula (Hackers) and a cast of several more talk about their experiences on the film. Sekula's seems to be the most active, if you can call it that, as he talks about the look of the film and recalls some production memories from the film. The actors talk about their thoughts on working on the film, and everyone talks about the phenomenon it unleashed. It's not really all that impressive. There's a mix of critics that talk about various scenes from the film, and they all seem to share different thoughts on the same scenes, which is not really a big deal, it does get into some historical and biographical information, but there's not too much that you'll miss from either track. The trivia track is also retained from the last version
Moving onto disc two, there's not much new here, but what is there is fairly bland. "Playing it Fast and Loose" is a discussion by several critics, including Sharon Waxman (whose Rebels on the Backlot is an interesting read if you're not on the internet film sites with regularity) and Harry Knowles (who I always like to see when I watch a DVD). There are several "back stories" with narration about the characters' backgrounds, but if you've seen the film at all, this extra is fairly pointless. A tipping guide for each character is equally silly, but then there are deleted scenes in anamorphic that are actually pretty good, with some more on the police planning side for the heist, and a couple of alternate takes on the ear scene. Those scenes (along with the cool action figure re-enactment of the ear scene) are holdovers from the old disc, along with some interview audio footage on the "K-Billy's Super Sounds of the '70s" section. The old, quick style guide is still here, and some of the location scout footage is included. Or to be more accurate, there are some location stills with narration by crew member Billy Fox. The "Class of '92" feature with the other budding independent directors of the Tarantino era is retained from the old edition, along with the "Tributes and Dedications" section, which include some hilarious stories about the late Tierney. A quick and cheesy look at the (gasp!) video game based on the film completes the set.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
DVD-wise, several things bug me about this new anniversary edition of Reservoir Dogs. Number one, the fact that very little is unchanged on the supplements, save for a couple of nips and tucks. If I was the family of Chris Penn, I'd feel a little bit insulted by that, especially since the tributes to deceased cast members Tierney and Bunker are included. And since the extras are virtually unchanged, why was the earlier 10th anniversary edition even released with the transfer it had?
OK, so is this the last, best, most definitive version of Reservoir Dogs the home video buyer will see? Short of next-generation video, probably. But as it stands, for roughly $15, you're paying for a new transfer and a package that's kind of cute. If you really want to upgrade that bad, know what you're getting, so this may be enough in a lot of people's minds.
Everyone at Lionsgate is found guilty for the crime of double-dipping, and they are sentenced to watch all of their horror films until their ears want to be cut off too.
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• Commentary with Cast and Crew
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