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HTF REVIEW: "Reservoir Dogs" Tenth Anniversary Special Edition (with screenshots)

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#1 of 98 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 08 2002 - 12:26 PM

Posted Image

Reservoir Dogs Special Edition

Studio: Artisan
Year: 1992
Rated: R
Film Length: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
and Standard (1.33:1) Transfer

"Are you gonna bark all day little
doggie or are you gonna bite?"

Let's not kid ourselves. Reservoir Dogs
is one of the coolest movies ever made.
It's a neo-violent joyride full of raw power,
unyeilding brutality and frequent dark humor
whose motion flows seamlessly with music long

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In one of those rare but memorable cinematic
moments, the film opens as a group of thugs are
seated around a restaurant table. As the camera
continually circles around them we hear a
conversation on, among other things, tipping
philosophies and interpretations of Madonna's
"Like a Virgin." The dialogue is ingenious. As
the men rise and leave the table we hear the
radio sounds of K-Billy (Steven Wright), announcing
his Super Sounds of the 70s. The screen goes
black as George Baker's Little Green Bag
starts to play.

This is the very first film from writer and Director
Quentin Tarantino, who always knows where to put
the camera, when to cut to a flashback and how to
draw the best work from his brilliant cast.

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A jewelry store robbery has gone wrong for a
group of thieves. Two members the gang are
dead, and several are still missing. The survivors,
including Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve
Buscemi), and a critically-injured Mr. Orange
(Tim Roth), are stuck in a warehouse, trying to
figure out what to do next. Arguments and suspicions
run high, as White and Pink discuss the possibility
of a traitor in their midst. The tension further
escalates when Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) shows
up with a surprise in the trunk of his car.

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Though some would complain that Reservoir Dogs
is nothing more than a foul-mouthed film with
unnecessary violence, It's actually these traits
that help develop the character's personalities,
showing their utter disregard for human life.

How is the transfer?

What happened with this transfer?!

I was not impressed with this newly remastered
transfer. While the print is in immaculate
condition, looking very clean and without any
noticeable film grain, I was shocked to see how
washed out this film looks. You see it right
from the opening titles as the gang struts along
a brick wall. You'll see it again later in many
of the film's exterior shots such as when Eddie
Cabot is driving in his car trying to reach his
Daddy on the cell phone. It looks as if these
scenes were filmed through smoke or sheer cloth.
There's a certain lack of sharpness and detail
in the picture as well.

What bothers me even more is this strange green
tinge that haunts some of the interior scenes.
Though it's only slight, it's enough to bother
you and make you wonder why its there in the
first place.

I also need to mention that there are no English
subtitles on this DVD. How can this studio release
such an elaborate package while ignoring the
hearing impaired? There is absolutely no excuse
for the lack of subtitles on this DVD.

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The 5.1 DTS mix can be described as mostly adequate,
though one must remember that this is mostly a
dialogue driven film. What I did find impressive
was the remarkable stereo separation and the
detailed clarity of the sound. The beginning
sequence inside the restaurant places the dialogue
firmly in the center, but you can also hear the more
subtle sounds of utensils clanking alongside it.
These very quiet passages come through with
amazing clarity that gets suddenly interrupted with the
booming sounds of the film's 70s soundtrack that
had my subwoofer shaking the floor.

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What did seem to fall short was the robbery
shoot out sequence. The rears failed to capture
the sounds of flying bullets, making the film's
only action sequence seem subdued. The sounds
of wailing police sirens and helicopter flyovers
were cleverly diverted to the rear channel as
well as the constant hum of the air conditioning
system inside the warehouse where the gang is
holed up for most of the film.

Special Features

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Artisan has released a rather remarkable 2-disc
Special Edition that comes in many flavors. You
have your choice of 4 different covers: Mr. Blonde,
Mr. White, Mr. Orange or Mr. Pink. I was very
lucky to receive my screener with the cover that
I wanted the most.

A Widescreen version of the film resides
on Disc One, while a Full-Frame version
is presented on Disc Two. This is a great
move by Artisan -- especially since having both
these versions in one package hasn't seemed to raise
the purchase price much above a single disc
presentation. I hope more studios take note of what
Artisan has done here.

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The DVD begins with a clever menu that gives
us a montage of quick clips from the film in
an oddly colorized fashion. Nice way to start
the film.

Though the menu states that the film contains
commentary with writer/director Quentin
Tarantino, Producer Lawrence Bender and select
cast and crew, I can tell you exactly who
appears here. In addition to the above, we hear
Executive Producer Monte Hellman, Director of
Photography Andrzej Sakula, Editor Sally Menke,
and actors Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen
and Kirk Baltz. The problem is, all these people
are not in the studio together. Many of the featured
commentaries are from taped sources. This results
in the commentary coming across with very little
emotion that results from a party of individuals.
The commentary begins with Andrzej talking about
how he created the floating movements of the
characters in the opening sequence. He goes on
to talk about many of his shots in the first 12
minutes of the film, mostly handheld. At one point
Quentin jokingly talks about Steve Buscemi's audition,
and how he busted the actor's chops in order to get
the best performance he could out of him. Thing was,
Quentin knew Buscemi didn't need the audition. Tim
Roth has a more serious tone in his comments talking
about his former film career and what it was like
to work with different directors. Editor Sally
Menke talks about standard editing vs. computer
editing and the advantages that the digital technology
offers. Lawrence Bender talks about how difficult
it was to edit this film since they loved so much
of what they shot -- including the fact that this
was their first and most special film. During the
infamous "ear" scene, Quentin describes the kick
he still gets when people imitate Michael's little
dance. He describes it as the enjoyment that comes
before the kill. Later, Quentin talks about the
amount of sex that was common in independant cinema,
but not violence. People were hoping that the film
would be a breakout of sorts because of its violent

Overall, the commentary is informative, but it
certainly isn't as fun as it should have been.
You mostly have a host introducing taped clips
of commentaries that play throughout. It's hard
to understand why on the 10th anniversary event
of this film, the principal actors and filmmakers
were unable to be brought together for a spontaneous
commentary that would have kicked ass!

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Disc One extras include....

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Original Interviews with 6 of the major
actors/filmmakers of the film done in a highly
creative manner. First there's a hilarious
interview with Chris Penn (Eddie Cabot)
filmed in the back of the truck (watch the camera
jump). Chris takes some funny jabs at Quentin
Tarantino while talking about keeping up with
all the fast action on the set. He shrugs off
the violence of the film emphasizing what a
high-pressure dialogue film this is. Filmed
inside a warehouse, actor Kirk Baltz
(the cop) has always wondered what it would be
like to be driven in the trunk of a car. His
wish was granted as he was taken around the
block in the trunk while totally in the darkness.
Kirk fondly recalls working in rehearsals with
Michael, trying to get him to slap him harder.
Kirk tells an interesting story about the
scene where he is about to be lit on fire and a
piece of dialogue he happened to add. Let's
go inside the house of actor Michael Madsen
(Mr. Blonde), as we meet his kids, dog and pet
bird. Madsen jokingly talks about the many ways
he wanted to be killed off in the film as well as
mocking about his disgust of not being on the cover
of the film's novel. Watching this interview you
get the idea that Madsen isn't too far off from
the craziness of his character. Meet Producer
Lawrence Bender who had a quick cameo in
the film as a cop chasing Mr. Pink. Lawrence
talks about his first meeting Quentin Tarantino
while both were struggling with their careers.
Their so-called "marriage" showed that the both
working together would bring much success.
Lawrence recalls how Tarantino wrote the script
in a matter of 3 weeks. The casting process
was quite memorable. Harvey Keitel flew Quentin
and Lawrence to New York. All three sat in a room
and had some interesting casting sessions with
actors that brought real weapons with them to
the audition. Let's go pool side with actor
Tim Roth who tells us right off the bat
that he is not a method actor. He usually just
reads a script and asks the director questions.
Given the choice of playing Mr. Blonde or Mr.
Pink, Roth actually asked to play Mr. Orange
since he was the good guy in the film. Roth
goes on to talk about the atrocities of auditions
and the reason why he no longer auditions for
a film. Last but not least, we read the tale
of Quentin Tarantino, who started his
career working in a small video store. Quentin
sounds and acts as he just drank a pot of coffee,
rambling through this interview about how actor
Harvey Keitel brought some legitimacy to the
low-budget film project. Quentin attempts to
describe his style of filmmaking, citing that
the dialogue he writes comes very easily to him.
It's better to have his characters talk about
other things than just the plot, making the
dialogue more authentic and entertaining to the
(length: approx. 54 minutes)

There are five deleted scenes presented
here that include:

* Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), sitting at his
apartment table, looking through a book of
mug shots. He places a phone call (voiced
offscreen by another actor) inquiring about
Mr. White's real name. Outside of a burger
stand, a female cop gives a complete rundown
of Mr. White's criminal past to both Mr.
Orange and his black police contact.
(length: approx. 4.5 minutes)

* Mr. Orange and his black police contact are
on a building rooftop, crouched over a piece of
paper, discussing their plans. Orange learns
that he is going into this situation totally
unprotected from the police force.
(length: approx. 2.5 minutes)

* Eddie Cabot, Mr. Pink and Mr. White are
riding in a car after the day's robbery. Cabot
talks about the mission being a sort of success.
The three begin to argue about the lack of medical
care being given to Mr. Orange.
(length: 2.5 minutes)

* Two alternative takes of Mr. Blonde hacking
off the cop's ear. The first shot is sort of
tame as we see the cutting action blocked as
the camera films it from the opposite side of the
cop's head. But in the second sequence, we clearly
see the ear (which looks very prosthetic) being
cut off with extensive bleeding that follows.

Finally, the film's original theatrical
is included.

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Let's now take a look at the extras that can
be found on Disc Two...

How did the critics feel about this film? In
The Critics Commentaries we watch a
few choice scenes and listen to the narratives
of critics Amy Taubin (Film Comment),
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and
Emanuel Levy (author). Most of the
critics agree upon the film's remarkable
flashback structure. Peter Travers rarely
smiles during a movie, but recalls laughing
out loud during the film's Madonna dialogue

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K-Billy radio is an interesting collection
of audio interviews that you select by pressing
your remote on a radio dial. One of the sound bytes
is of Gerry Rafferty who talks about the creation
of the song, Stick In The Middle With You,
which is a song that came out of mayhem and
craziness. Another is raw audio footage of
Steven Wright (K-Billy) and Quentin Tarentino
in a studio putting together the radio tags that
appear in the film and CD soundtrack. Quentin
and Steve are laughing hard between takes. Press
the final button and you'll be treated to a
hilarious rendition of Mr. Blonde and the cop
recreated by Reservoir Dogs Dolls.

Class of '92 Sundance Festival features
interviews with those who remember some of the
films and filmmakers of the '92 Sundance Film
Festival where Reservoir Dogs was introduced.
All the clips are rather short. Those who are
really interested in independent films of that
time will take more interest in these short
interviews than most mainstream audiences.

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Tributes and Dedications as well as
consist mostly of praises from the cast and
filmmakers as well as directors like Roger Corman.
One of the most enjoyable sequences in this section
features a car interview with Eddie Bunker who
along a Los Angeles freeway, talks about some of
the wilder times of his youth. The Film Noir Web
talks to writers and directors associated with
the classic genre that Reservoir Dogs represents.
There are interviews with Directors Mike Hodges,
John Boorman and Stephen Frears who talk about
their films as well as authors Robert Polito and
Donald Westlake. The Noir Files contain
pages of descriptive text that look at the roots
of film noir. How to hold your gun is an
interesting look at how guns were held and used in
cinematic classics such as Bonnie and Clyde,
The Wild Bunch
and The Big Sleep.

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Small Dogs introduces us to the creators
of the Reservoir Dogs action figures. We learn
how some of these figures were individually
designed while we are shown many of the accessories
for each figure. Michael Madsen was heavily
involved in the action figure project and is
proud to have a bronze statue of himself inside
his home.

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In Securing The Shot, features location
scout Billy Fox who revisits the locales used
in the film. The warehouse used for the film
which was actually a mortuary. The apartment
that Mr.Orange inhabited was actually another
room located above the mortuary. A gay bar
in the valley was used as the strip club where
Mr. Orange told his rehearsed joke. A really
cool look and listen as to how locations were
chosen for this film.
(length: Approx. 4 minutes)

Reservoir Dogs Style Guide is an oh-so-brief
montage of film clips accented with text that
emphasizes the different styles of driving, maiming
and killing in style!

Finally, there's the poster gallery, which
is actually one page devoted to the three theatrical
poster styles used for the film.

Final Thoughts

I really wanted to compare this release to
the original DVD release. Like the dummy I am,
I sold it upon learning of this Special Edition.
That was a bad mistake, for the transfer of this
new 10th Anniversary Edition leaves much to be
desired. I don't know why there is so much
washout and green tinge scattered throughout
the film.

The decision in replacing your old copy should
rest more on the extra material provided here.
Some of the material such as the deleted footage
and new interviews with the cast are worth the
cost. Some of the film noir and Sundance sequences
will only be appreciated by those that are into
the material.

Perhaps the best bet is to spend the $20 online
price and buy BOTH versions. You can decide which
transfer you prefer and have the extra material
to boot.

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In any event, Reservoir Dogs is a film that
is likely to stay with you for a long time. You'll
certainly never hear Stuck In The Middle With
in the same way again. It's trademark movie
making from director Quenrin Tarantino.

Release Date: August 27, 2002

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 98 Sean Oneil

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Posted August 08 2002 - 12:31 PM

Nice plates.

#3 of 98 Marc Colella

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Posted August 08 2002 - 12:40 PM

Well it looks like I'll still be picking this up.

I sold the old one long ago, and really don't want to re-purchase it since it's non-anamorphic.

I'll have to live with the washed-out colours in the meantime. I wish I could trade all the extras in this SE for a better transfer.

Oh well, I'm excited about Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown - so my Tarantino fix won't be completely ruined.

#4 of 98 Craig_T


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Posted August 08 2002 - 12:47 PM

I think I'm gonna cancel my preorder. All the extras in the world don't make up for a bad transfer. I mainly wanted this release for the new anamorphic transfer, the extras were just that, extra. And I still think those covers are the cheapest-looking pieces of crap I've ever seen.

#5 of 98 Kenneth Cummings

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Posted August 08 2002 - 12:56 PM

You mean Ron's signture? Anyways, while the transfer sound disappointing, I will end up getting this movie, as I never seem it before, and it would a good dvd to have.
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#6 of 98 Joseph J.D

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Posted August 08 2002 - 01:25 PM

Such a shame about the transfer. Seeing as how I've never had this title in my collection up until this point, I will still pick this one up. The overall coolness of this film will help me forget about the washed out colours of the transfer.....and the extras look pretty good as well.Posted Image
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#7 of 98 FrankT


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Posted August 08 2002 - 01:50 PM

While the transfer sounds bad I really don't care. This is a must buy for me. I am really looking forward to this as I have not see this since I watched it awhile ago on crappy VHS.

I hope the other two (PF and JB) are better transfers.

Anyway, Thanks

#8 of 98 Tim RH

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Posted August 08 2002 - 01:57 PM

I have two questions:

1. Wasn't the original DVD presented in the 1.85:1 ratio unlike the 2.35:1 presented on this SE DVD? If so, why the change?

2. Is there really a full-length audio commentary from Quentin Tarantino on this new DVD? It seems odd that he would do one for this film, but not his others. Hmmm...

#9 of 98 Florian B

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Posted August 08 2002 - 02:24 PM


There's another review up now at Gamenikki and imagine that, the guy who reviewed it gives the transfer a 10/10.

This whole situation seems a little strange to me, but since I have read much more reviews from Ron, I don't trust the Gamenikki one that much. We'll see.

I'll be picking this one up anyway. Posted Image

#10 of 98 Scott Burke

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Posted August 08 2002 - 02:40 PM

I think I'll be keeping my original copy. After seeing the before and after shots on another thread, I don't like the SE transfer. It's a bummer.

#11 of 98 ArnaudP


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Posted August 08 2002 - 02:45 PM

"Being ten years old can hurt the look of a film of course, because the aging of the elements and stored transfer means nothing is the same as it was. Luckily, someone did a really nice restoration job on the movie, and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ shows up to it’s birthday looking absolutely gorgeous. The colors are vibrant, everything is clear, the clarity is great and there’s no grain. Everything looks like it must’ve in the theatres in 1992, perhaps better." from Gamenikki.com.

Is this guy looking at the same transfer??

#12 of 98 Ron Reda

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Posted August 08 2002 - 02:47 PM

Hmmm, I'm wondering if I should snag the older version from my local Best Buy...they still have a few copies left.
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#13 of 98 Patrick McCart

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Posted August 08 2002 - 02:53 PM

Perhaps the film is supposed to be a little desaturated...

Anyone see the film in the original theatrical run?

#14 of 98 Rob Tomlin

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Posted August 08 2002 - 03:29 PM

Hmmm...I will probably still have to pick this one up as I am a big fan of the movie. Doesn't sound like the transfer is unwatchable or anything.

Can't wait to pick up RD, JB, and PF! Posted Image

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#15 of 98 Prentice Cotham

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Posted August 08 2002 - 03:45 PM

Is Harvey involved in the commentary at all since he doesn't seem to have an interview? It's very disappointing if he doesn't have much participation in this disc. He used $350,000 or so of his own money to fund the film and was responsible for getting many of the great actors in the film. It seems like he would be represented more.
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#16 of 98 Daniel P

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Posted August 08 2002 - 03:53 PM

Thanks for the review Ron...

I am not deterred at all by the transfer, as I don't have RD on DVD yet, and think the washed out look will not appear out of place.

One question to Ron:

Have you listened to any of the commentary yet?

And if not, can you please - and let us know what it's like?

#17 of 98 Jim Bivins

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Posted August 08 2002 - 03:55 PM

I did see the movie theatrically when it first came out, and if memory serves, many of the interiors had a green tint to them, though very subtle.

As far as the rest looking washed out? Well, I remember the film having a very 70's look to the photography, but the samples posted seem like more of a haze.

I am tempted to cancel my pre-order if it is this bad.


#18 of 98 Michael*K



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Posted August 08 2002 - 04:25 PM

I'll only be renting this version for the commentary and bonus material. Ugh...those screenshots look awful.

#19 of 98 HenrikTull


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Posted August 08 2002 - 06:59 PM

What bothers me even more is this strange green
tinge that haunts some of the interior scenes.
Though it's only slight, it's enough to bother
you and make you wonder why its there in the
first place.

This has ALWAYS been in the print. I've seen it in many different formats, from VHS to LD, and it has plagued those transfers as well. I'm 100% sure this is director's intent.

I still think those screen grabs you took Ron look pretty bad ass and is a huge improvement over the previous over saturated DVD, VHS and LD releases.

However! I will admit to the fact that this transfer is framed wrong. The first screen grab shows a building over the brick wall, this is not meant to be seen. The framing should be lower only showing the brick wall.
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#20 of 98 Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 08 2002 - 09:34 PM


I have added comments about the commentary track
in my review.

It was my plan to review the commentary, but that
review took me 3.5 hours to write and it was just
too late last night to touch upon it.

This morning I took a listen to many portions
of the commentary, but I must warn, it's not what
you would anticipate it to be.

I have also gone back to my notes and slightly
revised the transfer review as well.


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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