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They've killed Bill!
October 14, 2012 1:03 AM   Subscribe

Who do you think you're fooling? A comparison of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Ringo Lam's City on Fire. (Vimeo)

Pulp Fiction flavor also available: You're still not fooling anybody.
posted by mediated self (64 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, allow me to retort.
posted by Strshan at 1:14 AM on October 14, 2012 [22 favorites]


This is my surprised face.

Tarantino made some very entertaining movies, but wouldn't he come right out and say himself that he's borrowed left and right? Even if this goes beyond what you'd call *borrowing*, it still seems par for the course for ol' Quentin: not especially shocking, I'd say.

Otherwise, I'll take this opportunity to brag, shameless fanboy style: In 1995, at an entertainment/media company event in Taipei, Taiwan (that I was sort of on the fringes of, doing a gig in association with the company) I SHOOK HANDS WITH CHOW YUN FAT! WOOOOT!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:30 AM on October 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


Ya don't need proof when ya have instinct.
posted by mannequito at 1:46 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find the City on Fire argument totally compelling. Dogs completely appropriates the plot and the structure of City on Fire. That said, he does enough work to it to make it a whole new film, so I'm not sure what the real complaint is -- maybe Tarantino owes Lam a credit and a few dollars?

I do find Tarantino's denials that he'd ever seen City on Fire unconvincing though. I'm sure I've read interviews with him in which he talks about his love of HK cinema, and how much of it he watched when he worked at the video store.

The Pulp Fiction expose, on the other hand, was just crap. So he included homages to some of his favourite movies in the film? So what?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:12 AM on October 14, 2012


flapjax, while I've never touched his greatness, he did guide me once. I was in Hong Kong, and I'd taken a wrong turn. Instead of ending up on Nathan Road, to head down to the harbor, I somehow made my way to where the old airport used to be. I was completely and totally lost, and I started to try to get back to Nathan Road. At one point, I was at an intersection, knowing I should turn, but not sure which way. I looked up, and in the window of the shop on the left was a movie poster with Chow Yun Fat's face looking out at me. I took it as a sign, and I was on Nathan Road less than ten minutes later.

Chow Yun Fat, wielder of multiple pistols, saver of babies, giver of directions.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:37 AM on October 14, 2012 [22 favorites]


This has been widely known since forever, right? Still people do seem to forget all too easily where that smirking magpie Tarantino is concerned, so good to see it come up again.
posted by Decani at 3:39 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, he's thief but he made good use of what he stole... at least until half way through Kill Bill (IMHO)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:05 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, as has been said, good artists borrow, great artists steal.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:23 AM on October 14, 2012


Actually, Kill Bill 1 was kind of annoying for me to watch because it was so packed full of knowing references to other films that it actually because distracting. About every 30 seconds there was an "oh, this is just like that other movie, but this time the screens are blue instead of red" type of moment. No doubt this is exactly what some people love about the movie.
posted by Winnemac at 4:26 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


This has been widely known since forever, right?

Yeah, this j'accuse is nearly 20 years old, and I'm surprised it hasn't been posted before. For me, the more useful way to think about the subject is Everything is a Remix. Tarantino certainly wears his references on his sleeve, but he creates new art out of what's swirling around in his brain, like every artist does.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:52 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do find Tarantino's denials that he'd ever seen City on Fire unconvincing though. I'm sure I've read interviews with him in which he talks about his love of HK cinema, and how much of it he watched when he worked at the video store.

On the other hand when he takes other stuff he freely admits it - is proud of it even, goes out of his way to point it out - so it would seem odd to deny having seen something unless he hadn't seen it.

What would it's availability have been like in the early 90s?
posted by Artw at 6:10 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Quentin Tarantino never saw City on Fire, then the treatment for Reservoir Dogs was written by an intern who had.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:23 AM on October 14, 2012


I've not seen it, but the last ten minutes DO sound a lot like Reservoir Dogs. On the other hand, Reservoir Dogs is not ten minutes long.
posted by Artw at 6:26 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Django Unchained Primer
posted by Artw at 6:28 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've not seen it, but the last ten minutes DO sound a lot like Reservoir Dogs. On the other hand, Reservoir Dogs is not ten minutes long.

Or, actually, what that article strshan linked says.
posted by Artw at 6:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


it would seem odd to deny having seen something unless he hadn't seen it.

Dogs was his first movie -- and it wasn't really a hit. It was something of an arthouse sleeper. It did OK here in the UK, but did barely anything in the USA. It's hardly surprising that he lacked the confidence to acknowledge his debt at that time because he was right at the start of a career that could still go either way.

What would it's availability have been like in the early 90s?

Tarantino worked in an LA videostore that catered to cinephiles. He's spoken frequently in interviews about how that's the place where he developed his love of Hong Kong and Japanese exploitation cinema.

Ringo Lam was a major HK action director. It'd be pretty astonishing if the store where he worked didn't carry City on Fire.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:36 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maybe, but it's not a given that it was available when Tarrantino wrote Resevoir Dogs.
posted by Artw at 6:40 AM on October 14, 2012


...which would have had to have been 1988-1990, going by when he finished his second script and began filming RD, his third.
posted by Artw at 7:32 AM on October 14, 2012


Actually, Kill Bill 1 was kind of annoying for me to watch because it was so packed full of knowing references to other films that it actually because distracting.

This. I didn't always clock the references, but that 'cut 'n' shut' method of structure continually booted me out of the film. Ditto the musical cues lifted from other films. The bizarro use of title frames and sub-headings, the fact that all mention of Uma Thurman's character by name is loudly censored at some parts of the film, but not in others (seriously, what was that about?).

At least Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction have a fairly consistent narrative thread and structure to them. The nods are there, but (to this viewer) they're unobtrusive.
posted by panboi at 8:22 AM on October 14, 2012


...which would have had to have been 1988-1990, going by when he finished his second script and began filming RD, his third.

City on Fire came out in 1987. It was one of the biggest Hong Kong movies of that year. Ringo Lam won best director and Chow Yun-Fat won best actor for their work on the film. It was also nominated for best picture, best screenplay, best song, best supporting actress and a bunch of other shit.

Do you really suppose that one of the biggest hits in Hong Kong cinema wouldn't have been available the following year in a video store aimed at cinephiles in the city that's the heart of the global film industry?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no idea. I certainly don't think it's a given.
posted by Artw at 8:37 AM on October 14, 2012


I only saw City on Fire in the last year, but I see the similarities. It seems odd that no one shoved QT in the movie's direction because it was a compelling movie. Of course, he may not think Chow Yun Fat is as dreamy as I do.
posted by dragonplayer at 8:50 AM on October 14, 2012


the fact that all mention of Uma Thurman's character by name is loudly censored at some parts of the film, but not in others (seriously, what was that about?).

The Bride's name is actually only spoken without censoring by Bill. It's an interesting plot device, one which gives the audience some distance and provides some mystery. I don't think it's much of a problem at all. The bleeping only happens a handful of times across 5+ hours of runtime. Those with quick eyes will note that her name is not censored if it appears in print, and those who've seen the film several times will note that it's only the Beatrix which is censored, not the Kiddo (although on first viewing, it's assumed that "kiddo" is a nickname of affection, not her actual last name).
posted by hippybear at 8:52 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have no idea. I certainly don't think it's a given.

Not only did City on Fire take a couple of HK awards that year, Ringo Lam's other release, Prison on Fire, was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director. In 1988, Lam was about as hot as you can get in Hong Kong cinema. And Hong Kong cinema was hot among movie freaks.

But should there *still* be any doubt in your mind:

"I loved CITY ON FIRE, I got the poster framed in my house, so it's a great movie."
- Quentin Tarantino, Film Threat, 1994, Issue 18, pg. 23.

"I've got the poster right here. That's Danny Lee. Ringo Lam is like my second, after Jackie Chan, third favorite of all the Hong Kong directors."
- Quentin Tarantino, The Village Voice 10/25/94 No. 43, pg. 31
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:07 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of great Tarrantino panels from the Q & A podcast:
Django Unchained Q&A - Live From Comic-Con
Writing for Tony Scott: A Quentin Tarantino & Richard Kelly Q&A

The Tony Scott one on particular is of interest as it talks about that period when he was sitting on the scripts for True Romance, Natural Born Killers and Reservoir Dogs.
posted by Artw at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, so by 1994 Tarantino had seen City on Fire.

Now what?
posted by LogicalDash at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2012


Yeah, I'd say it would be vanishingly unlikely that Tarantino wasn't aware of and didn't WANT to see City On Fire while writing RD, and you can add to the evidence of that the shitload of HK references in True Romance, but it's leap from that to "therefore he must have seen it and be lying".
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on October 14, 2012


He totally stole Mr Pink, Mr Blue etc from the Taking of Pelham 123 too (but he really ran with it). And them all dressing the same... but that's also a real life thing, apparently that robbers used to do because it screws with people memories 'I don't remember what they looked like! They all had on black suits / coats, glasses, hats / Raiders jerseys / whatever, I remember that'

Interesting thing re his music cues on Radio 4's film program the other week... how he never wanted to a composer to screw his movie so always chooses songs and then later music from other films. The regular music guy was saying that a certain bit of music in Kill Bill for him will always be Ironside but a lot of younger people will just not get that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:45 AM on October 14, 2012


Heh. We are stealing IP from the Chinese. About time.
posted by Xoebe at 9:56 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]



Yeah, I'd say it would be vanishingly unlikely that Tarantino wasn't aware of and didn't WANT to see City On Fire while writing RD, and you can add to the evidence of that the shitload of HK references in True Romance, but it's leap from that to "therefore he must have seen it and be lying".


Have you actually seen City on Fire? If not, you're just flapping your metaphorical gums, aren't you?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:43 AM on October 14, 2012


No, I haven't, as mentioned above. Does it include a "watched by Tarantino 1/1/88" datestamp or something? We're all flapping our metaphorical gums here.
posted by Artw at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2012


Does anybody still care about this stuff, especially these days? Tarantino is well known for doing these things, and it seems this is kind of a commonplace thing now. Both Scorsese and Cameron have lifted ideas, scenes, and movies for their own use. And made huge blockbusters by doing it. Soderbergh does it all over the place. Looper has a ton of references to other flicks.

I don't know, it's kind of a non-story for me nowadays. Anyway, Reservoir Dogs is what got him his money for Pulp Fiction, and that movie arguably changed the course of popular cinema at that point.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:54 AM on October 14, 2012


If not, you're just flapping you're metaphorical gums, aren't you?

C'mon, guys! Nobody wants this! We're supposed to be fuckin' professionals!

Regardless of whether QT had seen CoF before he made RD (I am inclined to believe that he had), the Vern review that Strshan linked has it: "Is it a reference? Is it a rip off? Who gives a shit, it works, it stands on its own, and way moreseo in this case, where RESERVOIR DOGS isn’t really the same type of movie at all and in my opinion is a better, more original and obviously more influential movie that I can rewatch many times over the years and it only gets better and better."

This has been widely known since forever, right?

I'd heard for forever that City on Fire was a "stylistic influence" on Res Dogs, but had (and still haven't) actually seen City on Fire. So when I came across this (years old) video I thought it was pretty neat to finally see scene comparisons between the two movies.
posted by mediated self at 10:58 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


That said, he does enough work to it to make it a whole new film, so I'm not sure what the real complaint is -- maybe Tarantino owes Lam a credit and a few dollars?

Never a bad time to quote an old favorite: Warren Ellis recounts an urban legend about George Lucas meeting Akira Kurosawa.
In the weeks after STAR WARS ate the box office alive and made George Lucas instantly richer than God, the man himself could be found in his shiny new offices, stroking the high-tech goods on his beautiful wooden desk. His top-of-the-range intercom system burped, his secretary announcing that she’d received a visitor without an appointment. A Mr Kurosawa.

Lucas leapt up and gushingly welcomed Akira Kurosawa, his cinematic hero, who, as the story has it, was in town to sort out some foreign-rights business.

Kurosawa is ushered into Lucas’ office, placed in a seat opposite him, they sit, and… silence.

And the silence stretches for a minute.

At which point, so the story goes, George Lucas nods once, slowly. Opens the drawer on his beautiful new desk. Extracts his personal chequebook. And, the tale alleges, he drafts an extraordinarily large cheque to the name of A. Kurosawa.

Kurosawa takes the cheque from Lucas’ fingers. They stand, they bow, and Kurosawa leaves, never having said a word the entire time.
posted by mhoye at 11:04 AM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Does anybody still care about this stuff, especially these days?

Well, yeah. "X is just a rip off of Y" is a frequent talking point for trying-to-sound-smart internet bores, and one that's just as often provably wrong (the whole Dredd vs. The Raid flap) or petty and irrelevant. Or some bullshit Harlan Ellison uses to scam money out of people.

And yes, everyone steals from everyone, nothing comes from nowhere. Those are the conditions in which art is made. Tarantino is usually pretty up front about his references - he totally talks about Pelham 1 2 3 for instance - and generally more blatant with his "sampling" or "homaging" or what have you than most. That he'd lift wholesale from a movie and not mention it seems odd given that.

Looper has a ton of references to other flicks.

Looper is entirely constructed from bits of other movies, and for my money a bit less than the sum of it's parts. Great central performances though, and the first third of it at least is great. It's actually a pretty interesting contrast with Res Dogs which has similar magpie tendencies but is generally considered to be much better than the sum of it's parts.

Thank god Tarantino doesn't randomly put [LOOPER SPOILER] in things.
posted by Artw at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brick, on the other hand, absolutely transends it's forebears. That's a wonderful movie.
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on October 14, 2012


Brick, on the other hand, absolutely transends it's forebears. That's a wonderful movie.

You could say the same re The Brothers Bloom which I liked a lot.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:36 AM on October 14, 2012


mhoye: "At which point, so the story goes, George Lucas nods once, slowly."

Of course, in the special edition, he tried to change it so that Kurosawa nods first.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


Yeah, the GOTCHA! aspect is BS. Has Tarantino ever conceded that he borrowed from City on Fire? If not then it would be kind of odd that there is a lot of crossover. Not that it would matter, Reservoir Dogs is still a great movie.

Thank god Tarantino doesn't randomly put [LOOPER SPOILER] in things.

I wouldn't say it was random, as it was an important part of the story, but I get that it was kind of "and then there's this thing, but anyways...".

Never a bad time to quote an old favorite: Warren Ellis recounts an urban legend about George Lucas meeting Akira Kurosawa.

Lucas has always been upfront about his love of Kurosawa. I think most nerds glom onto the idea that Lucas TOTALLY STOLE Star Wars from the Hidden Fortress, when in reality it goes a bit deeper in that he "stole" from it for all three films. Also, Lucas' inspiration for those films is owed to more than just Kurosawa.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:30 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if Lucas was cutting checks like that story suggests there would've been people lined up outside his office.
posted by mediated self at 12:37 PM on October 14, 2012


Going to jump in here because well why not a guy just jumped from space.

It'll start to fade like crazy now, but it was a big, big big BIG deal and debate for many years whether Dick Francis wrote his own novels. The most pressing discussions were that he was a horse rider with a real limited formal education who only started writing anything once he was injured and retired, and his first book was a memoir about racing for the Queen, followed by a pretty generic thriller. His later, acclaimed books jacked up the quality and characterization to a huge degree, and yet still on the front was the name "Dick Francis". Meanwhile, his wife, Mary, was an intense english scholar who had major credentials in education and work she'd done.

Over the years, it was this huge debate as to whether she wrote all of or a significant part of the "Dick Francis" novels, and caginess abounded from the Francis camp, with refusals to discuss such a thing.

Upon Mary's death, her and Dick's son Felix took over writing with Dick, and he got co-credit on the books. He gave a quote around this time, saying, in essence, "Dick Francis is a name given to a stellar writing team that has worked together to produce wonderful books, and I will miss my mom and her part of this."

I think it's quite obvious, as mentioned above by Peter McDermott, that Tarantino borrowed quite liberally from City of Fire, and then rebuilt up a very compelling, nice arthouse work, which anyone who works in a video store and has bigger dreams would consider a Major Victory in life. Remaking isn't as easy as all that, especially directing some pretty veteran stars and bringing the performances he does.

So somewhere in there, when the buzz on Tarantino was getting bigger but he held no sway beyond "made a film people have come to like", the City of Fire thing started to come up, and I think he did what a lot of people would do - panic and circle the wagons. I'm sure he had people in his corner, maybe even the Weinsteins, tell him to take this approach. And you have to admit - it worked. Tarantino has gone on to make many more films, some of them very original indeed, and he has continued to be a voice in cinema, good or bad.

I think when the danger period for "rip-off derivative" had passed, he made more of an effort to acknowledge how critical this work was to his success and his inspiration. And I think Kill Bill, with its use of original Hong Kong studios and crews, was part of doing that.
posted by jscott at 12:40 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like how in a recent 'get a load of novelists to do a novel in a tweet' gimmick article, notoriously rumoured to not write his own books, Jeffrey Archer managed to come up with exactly the same plot as famous Roald Dahl Tales of the Unexpected...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:57 PM on October 14, 2012


Well that's a twist in the tail.
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think when the danger period for "rip-off derivative" had passed

I think this is key. Reservoir Dogs was his first movie, he was probably insecure about being upfront on how much the ending scene especially owed to City on Fire, so he denied having ever seen it, which I think is disingenuous. But all these years later his films are largely acknowledged to be cinematic "mix-tapes", and that's part of the fun of watching his movies for cinephiles ("That's a reference to x, that's a y homage, that song is lifted from z," etc.). Consider Kill Bill and Lady Snowblood: there aren't accusations of plagiarism (like in Mike White's videos in the FPP) so much as an understanding of "OK, this was a major inspiration for QT this time around."
posted by mediated self at 1:21 PM on October 14, 2012


Reusing plots (with modifications) is a conventional literary trope. Shakespeare did it. Dante did it. Brecht did it. James Joyce did it (would you actually make the claim that Ulysses is just a copy of The Odyssey. Plots matter, I suppose, but not as much as everything that fills out those plots.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 1:29 PM on October 14, 2012


I asked a friend who lived in Taipei about the reaction to Tarantino's movies there, and she said basically, yes, the audiences were aware that Chinese movies were being ripped off, but they liked Tarantino anyway.
posted by texorama at 3:24 PM on October 14, 2012


I tried metaphorical gum once or twice. I prefer Black Black*, though.

*"No way, no way. Tried it once, it don't woik. Ya get four guys all fightin' over who's gonna be Mr. Black"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That malarkey about Kurosawa receiving a check from Lucas is rich. I wonder if it was supposed to be much bigger than the one Kurosawa would have written the Dashiell Hammett estate a decade or so earlier.

Where Tarantino and the Ringo Lam film are concerned, the question isn't really whether the video store he worked at would have stocked the film. He certainly could have seen it there, or he could have picked up a laserdisc copy somewhere in Chinatown. But more to the point, City on Fire almost certainly played the Chinatown circuit in the U.S. (if not any other adventurously programmed arthouse in the L.A. metro area), so Tarantino could easily have seen it on actual 35mm film in an actual movie theater.
posted by Mothlight at 4:50 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


actual 35mm film in an actual movie theater.

Haha! Good point! People have forgotten about movie theaters! I remember the old Chinatown movie theater just at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Wonder if it's still there? Tarantino must've LIVED in that place.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:03 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I moved here in the mid-1990s, there were still two on that block, flapjax — the Rosemary and The Music Palace. I don't remember ever seeing anything at the Rosemary (which is now a Buddhist temple) but I saw a few horror movies and cop dramas at the Music Palace before it closed. I don't know if I had ever been in a movie theater full of cigarette smoke before ...
posted by Mothlight at 5:27 PM on October 14, 2012


I would be willing to concede CoF was a serious inspiration, or even that RD was an homage to CoF, but I will go no further than that.

It seems to me the biggest negative critics of QT are small filmmakers. Perhaps they are driven by jealousy that QT seems to make the movies he wants to make, they actually get released and are given more critical acclaim than the filmmakers' own works?

(Of course, as usual, I may be completely full of crap, so take my comments however you want.)

fires up an MP3 of Dick Dale's version of Miserlou as he wanders off
posted by Samizdata at 8:17 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


fires up an MP3 of Dick Dale's version of Miserlou as he wanders off

Funny, because back in the 1990's, the CBC-radio late nite weekend show once started on a Friday Midnight shift with a funny audio interview clip of QT ranting about he really just wanted to start his film with the most intense music possibly imaginable, and then try to make the rest of the project live up to that level.
posted by ovvl at 8:51 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I watched City on Fire a long time ago just because a friend insisted Tarantino had stolen the plot for Res Dogs. Some plot elements are similar, and Tarantino even seems to recreate a couple of scenes from the older film (like the two-fisted unloading on the cops in the vehicle as they come around the corner).

However, call it homage or call it theft, the bottom line is that Res Dogs is a much, much better film than City on Fire.
posted by Max Udargo at 10:34 PM on October 14, 2012


Res Dogs is a intensely great film, ILTHO, and was my introduction to QT's work (yeah, I got into it late).

And Dick Dale is always seriously intense.
posted by Samizdata at 11:09 PM on October 14, 2012


You were not late. Reservoir Dogs was pretty much everyone's intro to Tarantino, if not Pulp Fiction. Tarantino really did not want to part with either Natural Born Killers or True Romance. He disavowed Killers because Stone rewrote it, and was in a dispute over Romance because he wanted to direct it
posted by P.o.B. at 11:48 PM on October 14, 2012


Funny, because back in the 1990's, the CBC-radio late nite weekend show once started on a Friday Midnight shift with a funny audio interview clip of QT ranting about he really just wanted to start his film with the most intense music possibly imaginable, and then try to make the rest of the project live up to that level.

I think that would be the excellent Tarantino Connection that was released in the late-90s. It's got music from his first two films plus True Romance, Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Til Dawn and Four Rooms and a couple of interviews - the first would be the one you heard, and the second is specifically about using Stuck In The Middle With You for that scene in RD.

When I bought a beat-up pickup truck last summer that came with a CD deck, it was the first time I'd pulled out my old CD binder in 5 years or so. I basically just alternated between that disc and Nirvana's Bleach until the truck itself died. Good times.
posted by mannequito at 1:10 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


huh. That's weird though - taking a second look at the track listing, track #14 is listed as Bedlam from Reservoir Dogs, but my copy has a totally different song in its place - Dire Straits' Six Blade Knife, from Dusk Til Dawn. I wonder if that's a Canadian/American thing.
posted by mannequito at 1:20 AM on October 15, 2012


Echoing a lot of what was above: I'm sure that at the time I heard an interview with Tarantino where he was asked about RD just being a copy of CoF and he copped to it: Hell man, I've got the poster in my room! And it certainly wasn't hard to see or get a copy of CoF at that time, at least as far as cult cinema goes. My friends and I were Hong Kong cinema fans and we certainly passed around a (possibly pirated) videotape of CoF.

But I'm not seeing it as a ripoff or blatant copy. RD took the other movies plot and completely readjusted it, cutting out parts, emphasizing some, de-emphasizing others. The robbery is the main part of CoF, you don't even see it in RD. In a way the robbery isn't important, it's just needed to get you to the aftermath - which CoF just breezes through. It's almost as if they were two different stories taking place during the same events, much like Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.
posted by outlier at 1:38 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing 'CoF' a couple years (?) after seeing "Reservoir Dogs" - or sometime around when I first heard about the connection and then had a chance to see the former. I was mostly struck, at the time, by how much more I preferred Tarantino's movie. Sure, he uses a lot of the plot and etc., but not much else - that is, the tone and pacing and basic sinister-as-fuck quality of Mr. Blonde were totally missing from "City on Fire" and made me like it a lot less.

And those movie theaters on Canal, by the Manhattan bridge, were fucking great but I'm not sure if "City on Fire"ever played there. (And I'm pretty positive Tarantino is from the West-coast).
posted by From Bklyn at 3:02 AM on October 15, 2012


Guys. Guys. Guys. Sometimes, sometimes, artists take ideas from other places.
posted by belarius at 4:25 AM on October 15, 2012


P.o.B.,

My understanding was not that Tarantino was in a dispute over True Romance because he wanted to direct it, but that his complete lack of experience as a director made it impossible. Instead, he agreed to sell the much-valued True Romance script at a discount on the condition he would be able to direct Reservoir Dogs.

That's the story I remember, anyway. And I think Tarantino was telling it. Whether that supports the veracity of the story or not is, I guess, debatable.
posted by Max Udargo at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2012


Sounds about right. From what I recall, Keitel was the one who supported Tarantino and allowed him to get Reservoir Dogs made. It looks like he got a co-producer credit on it, so maybe my memory finally served something up that is close to being right.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:21 PM on October 15, 2012


And those movie theaters on Canal, by the Manhattan bridge, were fucking great but I'm not sure if "City on Fire"ever played there. (And I'm pretty positive Tarantino is from the West-coast).

The video store he worked at was in Manhattan Beach (California) which may or may not be where people are getting confused on this?
posted by mannequito at 12:46 AM on October 16, 2012


In L.A. this probably would have been the place.
posted by Mothlight at 4:44 AM on October 16, 2012


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