This Tuesday, December 4, Quentin Tarantino’s debut feature, the nerve-wracking, supercool thriller Reservoir Dogs, returns to theaters for one night, some 20 years after its original theatrical run. I’ll guesstimate that the majority of ticket buyers will be seeing this modern dramatic classic on the big screen for the first time. Thankfully, I am old enough to have been there the first time. And it was one of those movie moments that still sticks out in my brain.
Indulge me: It was 1992. I had read in the New York Times that people had walked out of a recent festival screening of Reservoir Dogs, a strange, shocking debut feature from a new hotshot director. I figured something that polarizing (good enough for a fest, offensive enough to piss people off) was a must-see. I worked evenings at the time, so I attended a daytime showing at the now-defunct Nickelodeon theater on the Boston University campus. There were probably about nine people in the theater.
Quick interruption!: Love this Reservoir Dogs movie poster with some crackling Tarantino dialogue.
Anyway, about ten minutes into the film, I found myself looking at the stranger to my left. And he was looking across the aisle at me, both of us with the same look on our faces: Can you believe what’s coming off this screen?
Tarantino’s style has been mimicked and ripped off so many times — and those ripoffs have been ripped off — it’s tough to remember how original and thrilling Reservoir Dogs felt. Yes, you dork purists can go on and on about the Asian films that Tarantino lifted from (or paid homage to, depending on your view of filmmaking), but instinctive reaction is everything to a moviegoer. And when Harvey Keitel, Lawrence Tierney and the late Christopher Penn have their standoff in the final scene, I was feeling it.
Yet, the film you’ll see on the big screen Tuesday night, like so many movies, could have looked very different. Tarantino has talked about how often his screenplay for Reservoir Dogs was rejected, with people recommending he stage it as a play instead. He had been planning on a super-low-budget, 16mm production (according to a Sight & Sound article)… until Keitel stepped in and helped make things happen, both financially and creatively (encouraging casting sessions on both coasts).
If you’re interested in tickets for Tuesday’s Reservoir Dogs screening in your city, check out the page on Fathom Events.