‘You’re not blind; you’ve just got blood in your eyes’ Cult Classic: Why are they important?

Lindsay Adams

Many cult films enjoyed by various audiences permeate pop culture and are responsible for a vast array of references. Cult films usually attract a small or specific audience, so many habitual movie-goers aren’t familiar with notorious cult titles. Though oftentimes derogatory with language and humor, cult films in the late 80s and 90s were unarguably progressive for their time. Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick are notable directors who typically produced cult movies. Our goal here is to unearth some of the greatest cult titles that you may have heard about, but never got around to watching. Next time you plan a movie night, reconsider re-watching your favorite film and substitute it for a classic cult movie that reformed the film industry.

Mal Hartigan

One of the posters for  “Reservoir Dogs.” The film was the first to have seperate character posters.
One of the posters for “Reservoir Dogs.” The film was the first to have seperate character posters.

From the opening lewd roundtable analysis of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the argument about tipping waitresses to the final four man stand-off, “Reservoir Dogs” is electric, comical and gritty.

Six crooks who are complete strangers are hired to pull off a jewelry store heist. Instead of using real names; instead they are codenamed Mr. White, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange and Mr. Pink. When the job immediately goes south, it becomes clear that one of them is a snitch. They are left in a warehouse trying to figure out which one ratted out the job. The movie escalates as the tension between the men builds to the breaking point.

They have no proof which one is the rat, but as Joe Cabot, the mob boss that hired them says, “You don’t need proof when you have instinct.”

The film is very stylized. The slow-motion walk toward the camera to the rock strains of “Little Green Bag” of the six criminals, boss Cabot and his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie, during the opening credits is one commonly copied in more recent films. The tiny flashback segments of the heist are sharp and in constant motion.

The violence, however, is anything but stylized in the film; it is real. From Mr. Orange slowly bleeding out on the warehouse floor filled with coffins, to the infamous ear scene, the violence is graphic and disturbingly realistic.

The violence and dark lewd humor plays a jarring, yet classic counterpoint to the DJ K-Billy’s narration during the “Super Sounds of the Seventies” weekend on the radio that is played throughout the film. The film touts a brilliant soundtrack with classics like, Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” Bedlam’s “Harvest Moon” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” Many of the songs I am unable to hear on the radio without picturing the scene they correspond to in the film. After watching this film, listening to “Stuck in the Middle with You” will never be quite the same.

Harvey Keitel as Mr. White (standing) suspects Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink (on the ground) of being a rat.
Harvey Keitel as Mr. White (standing) suspects Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink (on the ground) of being a rat.

The cast is filled with brilliant actors: Harvey Keitel as Mr. White, Tim Roth as Mr. Orange, Chris Penn as “Nice Guy” Eddie, Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue and Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot. Steve Buscemi kills as Mr. Pink, a character that Quentin Tarantino intended to play himself until Buscemi auditioned for it. Tarantino acts in the film as Mr. Brown as well as directing and writing. The film helped to jumpstart Roth and Buscemi’s careers. Both were cast again in Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”

This is the film that created one of the scariest and most magnetic psychos of film—Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen. He can slowly torture a victim, which he admits is for the thrill of it, and then ask, “Was that as good for you as it was for me?” He slices off a man’s ear and then holds the disembodied ear and talks into it in front of his victim.

Its obscure pop culture references cement it among great camp films, from “The Partridge Family,” to Madonna’s “True Blue” to Mr. Orange’s protest to “I’m trying to watch ‘The Lost Boys’!”

“Reservoir Dogs” was also one of the first major independent films. It had a budget of only $1.5 million, and the budget was only that high due to Harvey Keitel’s involvement as a producer and actor.

This film has been vilified and deemed mediocre by many critics and hailed as a masterpiece by Tarantino fans. It has been on lists of the most dangerous and most influential films. While not very high grossing in its opening release, the film was a huge hit in Britain and has noticeably influenced directors of crime capers there.

This film is striking on its own merits, but it transcends that to become a classic. “Reservoir Dogs” has a special sort of nostalgia to the viewer now, knowing this was Tarantino’s first movie, and the one that first started the beautiful odes to violence, kitsch and the “f”-word that have become trademark of Tarantino films.

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