Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Opening Titles and Song: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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…

Olivia Lyttleton phrased it perfectly in her IndieWire piece for “The 50 Best Opening Credit Sequences Of All Time” in 2015:

“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 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 not long for this world.


  1. Release date: October 8, 1992 (USA). 
  2. The filmmaker’s first five motion pictures — Reservoir Dogs, Pulp FictionJackie BrownKill Bill (which was broken into two films), and Grindhouse (which plays as an exploitation film double-feature) capitalized on gritty ’70s chic. 
  3. “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 
  4.  Actually, reaching #1 in Japan after being used in a whiskey company’s commercial. 
  5. A Band Apart
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20 Responses to “Opening Titles and Song: Reservoir Dogs (1992)”

  1. Cavershamragu

    Great stuff Michael – always good to read intelligent thoughts about a filmmaker and a film too often slighted. Despite the borrowings from CIRTY OF FIRE, this remains a very distinctive work it seems to me, and a still hugely influential (for instance, Ben Wheatley’s latest, FREE FIRE)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      We’re definitely on the same wavelength regarding this QT work, along with Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE. I was lucky to catch it before it left theaters here, Stateside. Awful U.S. marketing likely killed it; there were only two other people for the screening I attended but will continue to recommend FF to friends (see my response to Courtney below). Thank you very kindly, Sergio.

      Like

      Reply
  2. Mark Walker

    Great piece my friend. This has to be one of the very finest opening titles and songs. Everything you need to know about the characters is played out throughout that tipping scene. It’s one of my all time favourites. Thank you very kindly for the linkage as well, sir. Much obliged! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Thank you very much, Mark. More than happy to include your articles regarding this stunning debut by QT. Hard to believe it’s reaching 25 this year. Wow.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Mark Walker

        I know, man. 25 years. I remember it one of the films that really took me by surprise. All my love for movies pretty much began with Reservoir Dogs. It will always hold a special place for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        • le0pard13

          No doubt a number of movie fans can point to Reservoir Dogs as their beginning with the filmmaker and/or cinema. Good to hear, Mark. Thanks, my friend.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  3. Courtney Young

    Great post! This is such a solid opening and so classic Tarantino! I can’t believe I was only 6 when this came out…I would die to see something of this caliber in theaters today!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      It’s probably fallen off the radar of current releases (care of really poor marketing), but my friend Sergio (see first comment) and I recommend taking in “Ben Wheatley’s latest, FREE FIRE” to see something very much influenced by the likes of RESERVOIR DOGS. Thank you so much, Courtney. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      • jackdeth72

        It’s nice to see that director’s are still following the tenets of John Ford in making the first scene the more interesting while setting the foundation for the tale.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  4. Colin

    Really enjoyed that, Michael. I have to say my fondness for Tarantino’s work has declined over the years but I still rate his early material very highly. This was just one of the coolest intros back when it first came out and it still packs a punch.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Oh, thank you very much, Colin. Yeah, his earlier work retains a spare tightness that is quite something. This certainly was, “…just one of the coolest intros”, ever. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. jackdeth72

    Definite Classic Opening Scene, Michael.

    And so wise of Tarantino to completely avoid the crowded, cramped heist and Close Quarters Shoot Out Scene! Picking up with Mr. Pink’s (Buscemi) running gunfight with the law as he flees with the clichéd and obligatory satchel of diamonds.

    While Tim Roth’s undercover Mr. Orange near qualifies for pitiful “Cinematic Sapdom” by getting gut shot by a civilian whom he kills in mid carjack after the heist.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      Yeah, I’m sure no one expected what we’d get as it splashed, with heinous glee, across the movie screen, even with “…the clichéd and obligatory satchel of diamonds.”

      Good one. Thanks so much, Kevin. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  6. Three Rows Back

    Now this is a great piece. Was at a very formative age when I watched Dogs at the cinema and those oh-so-cool opening credits (followed of course by a scene that really ain’t cool) are still awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • le0pard13

      I certainly see where this one would, Mark. Hell, it all marked me, and I’m a was as far from “formative” by the time this was released in ’92. BTW, I went to see this based on a newspaper movie review, of all things.

      Quoting Jody from PULP FICTION: “That was pretty f*cking trippy…”

      Thanks, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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