As a certain auteur’s film debut approaches its twenty-fifth anniversary, easy to see why in the two-and-a-half decades since Reservoir Dogs‘ release1, it maintains an influence that’s only grown. Even if comparisons to the HK crime film, City on Fire (1987), cramp many. Besides, among my fellow film bloggers, and me, it matters little as Quentin Tarantino managed to make them his own, even if cribbing some of director-writer Ringo Lam’s original premise and execution.
QT has made quite a unique career using pieces borrowed, and distinguishing them enough to benefit his work while highlighting that of others. Goes without saying different filmmakers have done similar, no less sanguinary, in the wake of the man from Knoxville, Tennessee (and L.A.’s South Bay) efforts. Mark Walker’s review and his look at that now classic opening “Why I don’t tip” scene bear that out. Especially, if you get to experience the sequence in its native-Scottish:
Yet, it’s that particular opening that’s worth further scrutiny. Referring not to that candid cafe conversation that immediately grabbed moviegoers and critics attention (before the rest of it blew whatever expectations totally out of the water), but the opening titles sequence that so succinctly followed. For a relatively short credits segment, it showcased elements that also foreshadowed what this writer-director inaugural launched, career-wise. Let’s give it another gander, shall we?
Lola Landekic‘s fine look over at Art of the Title bears repeating:
“As the besuited band of men strolls down an alley, each actor is introduced in a mustard serif typeface and the George Baker Selection’s 1970 hit “Little Green Bag” pulses upbeat. The sequence, originally filmed in 24fps and stepped down to an almost-jumpy 12fps, achieves a sort of snappy grace. Slowly, the title sweeps up into the frame and the men get smaller in the distance as K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend just keeps on truckin’.”
Let the record show this almost senior citizen has raised his hand.
The delayed start of the titles set in motion as all get up from the table they’ve held court upon. Injecting the voice over by Steven Wright as the K-Billy DJ (who will mark scenes throughout) with his distinctly droll delivery of an FM playlist recognizable by anyone who survived The Seventies. Through style, and prevalently by music, the tumultuous decade surfaces in Reservoir Dogs at inception2. Infusing a sight and sound of America’s most influential cinematic period as the screen blackens.
Splashing the person responsible prominently across the screen as the George Baker Selection’s bass tabs Little Green Bag, upping the cool factor to an eleven…
“Pretty much reinventing American independent cinema in just a few moves, Tarantino follows the instantly memorable dialogue of his opening diner scene with the much-imitated credits sequence, where he introduces his cast in their sharp attire over George Baker’s “Little Green Bag.” It might have inspired a million douchebag’s Halloween costumes, but if you can find a cooler way to make some people walk across a parking lot, we’ll give you all the money we have.”
Tarantino’s dialogue, so prominent in the pre-titles scene, nowhere to be heard here (save for the end), leaving pop song to invigorate the piece, and thereby become a filmmaker tell.
You can feel the bass and drumbeats reverberating off that brick wall and blacktop as the gang’s slow-motion steps gather up the diner’s parking lot. Little Green Bag3, released as ’69 rolled one higher, a European hit for Dutch musicians Jan Visser and George Baker (aka Hans Bouwens), charted well in the U.S. that summer (#16 on Cashbox, #21 for Billboard’s Top 100). Quentin’s musical “men in black” oeuvre revitalized it internationally4 and granted his production company a logo5 in the process.
By the time the ditty’s guitar solo kicks in, our crew have crossed the expanse, reached their cars in the distance, as the film’s acknowledgments begin their scroll. It’s here Tarantino and Dave Gregory of the uncredited Title House Inc. begin to blur the proceedings. This opening, with its titles now parked against a stark black background, seems more end-credits-like. More a capper, almost funereal as the song wanes and Tim Roth’s pain-filled, mournful groans bleed into the soundtrack.
The audible and visual suggestion as the sequence winds down the criminally cocky and colorful band of Mr. White, Orange, Blonde, Pink, and Brown simply not long for this world.
- Release date: October 8, 1992 (USA). ↩
- The filmmaker’s first five motion pictures — Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (which was broken into two films), and Grindhouse (which plays as an exploitation film double-feature) capitalized on gritty ’70s chic. ↩
- “The track’s original title was “Little Greenback”, in reference to the color of the US dollar. The first line of the lyric, “Lookin’ back on the track for a little greenback“, has three rhymes (underlined); “green bag” would not be a true rhyme. However, the single was given the erroneous title, “Little Green Bag”, which some took to be a “bag of marijuana”.” ~ Wikipedia ↩
- Actually, reaching #1 in Japan after being used in a whiskey company’s commercial. ↩
- A Band Apart. ↩