Every Dog Has His Day
Quentin Tarantino was both the writer and director of Reservoir Dogs, which was his debut into the world of film (unless you count working at Video Archives as the movie business). In fact, Reservoir Dogs was conceived when he was still working there: He was a high school dropout and a self-proclaimed film geek. From these obscure beginnings, he skyrocketed to fame and fortune, picking up Oscar directing nominations and screenwriting wins for Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained. Not too shabby.
Originally, Tarantino was just going to shoot the Reservoir Dogs movie with his friends, including the producer Lawrence Bender, on the infinitesimally small budget of just $30,000. (That was probably the weekly catering budget for War of the Worlds.)
Then Harvey Keitel (the actor who plays Mr. White) somehow got hold of the script (apparently through the wife of Bender's acting class instructor) and became interested, ultimately starring in the film and securing a $1.5 million budget. Then Tarantino actually hired real actors (he really wanted to play Mr. Pink himself but Steve Buscemi was just too awesome) and started making the film with a real staff of professionals, including a paramedic hired just to make sure Orange's blood loss was realistic.
There Will Be Blood
Tarantino's first venture turned out to be quite a success (we are Shmooping it after all) and he's since gone on to direct many more equally bloody and shocking films—just check out this list of Tarantino body counts.
Next on his plate was the cult classic Pulp Fiction, which actually has a lot of crossover references from Reservoir Dogs. Who knew that Vic Vega (Dogs) and Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction) were brothers? This was followed by Jackie Brown, two volumes of Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained. When the majority of a director's work consists of movies that everyone who's anyone has seen, you know the man has skills. Oh, and then there are those Oscars for screenwriting and Golden Globes and BAFTAs…
When your name becomes synonymous with over-the-top violence, there's bound to be some controversy involved. Tarantino doesn't think there's a connection between gun violence in movies and real world shootings, although due to the nature of his films, it's no wonder he's a prominent target when it comes to critiquing violence in entertainment media (source).
The thing about the violence in this film, and in all Tarantino films, is that it's sickeningly realistic. Mr. Orange, dying slowly from a gut wound, is soaked in blood from the neck down, saturating the floor of the funeral home. He's not dying bravely or stoically; he's terrified, moaning, passing in and out of consciousness, and wanting someone to hold him. There's no melodrama whatsoever in all the shooting. It's just sudden and shocking.
The question to think about as you're watching the film is whether this violence is gratuitous or unnecessary. Tarantino thinks every instance of violence is essential to the plot—what's your take?
It's easy to picture a young film-obsessed Tarantino hunched over the counter at Video Archives watching and re-watching the countless movies. He's the kind of person who got into making films because he was so enamored with his experience as a viewer, and his experience in the store gave him a broad and deep knowledge of cinema.
Tarantino's a big fan of genre movies. From horror to spaghetti western to Blaxploitation, he doesn't just recreate genres, but adds his own twist to them or even purposefully subverts them. Reservoir Dogs is a classic example of this. It comes straight out of the heist movie genre.
In fact, as he mentions in an interview (see our "Best of the Web" section), he was putting together a shelf of heist movies in Video Archives when he realized that there hadn't been a good heist movie released in a while. So he decided to make one, but Reservoir Dogs isn't just your typical heist movie, namely because the heist is never actually shown. Head over to our "Production" and "Genre" sections to get all the details.