It’s no secret that Quentin Tarantino gets inspiration from a variety of movies and pays homage to them in his own works, and Reservoir Dogs’ most shocking scene is inspired by one disturbing but acclaimed movie. Reservoir Dogs introduced the audience to Quentin Tarantino’s narrative and visual style, as well as to some of his most used tricks, but it also caused controversy due to one specific scene starring Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), which in turn showed viewers the type of violence they could expect from Tarantino’s works.
Reservoir Dogs follows a group of thieves assembled and led by crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son Eddie “Nice Guy” Cabot (Chris Penn), whose plan to steal thousands of dollars from a jewelry store goes wrong. The failure of the heist and the deaths of some of the group’s members by the police ended up pushing them to show their true colors at the warehouse where they reunited, and the one who showed how cruel he really was was Mr. Blonde. Vic Vega a.k.a. Mr. Blonde arrived at the warehouse with a kidnapped policeman named Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz), who he tortured in what became the most disturbing scene in Reservoir Dogs, which is actually inspired by a disturbing movie: Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
How A Clockwork Orange Inspired Reservoir Dogs’ Torture Scene
When Eddie arrives at the warehouse, he orders Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) to retrieve the diamonds and ditch the getaway vehicles, while Blonde stayed in the warehouse with Nash and Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), who was bleeding to death. With Orange unconscious, Blonde proceeded to mentally and physically torture Nash to get information on who set them up, with Nash never revealing that Orange was the rat in the group. Blonde taped Marvin’s mouth before pretending to be about to shoot him and cutting his ear, the latter after dancing around to Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You”. This scene was inspired by A Clockwork Orange, which also has a scene involving an act of violence and music that doesn’t really fit the tone of the moment.
Tarantino has confirmed that Blonde’s torture scene in Reservoir Dogs is a reference to one of the most controversial scenes in A Clockwork Orange, in which Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs break into the home of writer Frank Alexander, beating him to the point of crippling him and Alex sexually assaulting Alexander’s wife while singing “Singing’ In the Rain”. Tarantino made his own juxtaposition of a pop song and a violent act in Reservoir Dogs with Blonde and Marvin, and while it arguably wasn’t as shocking and unsettling as what Alex DeLarge did, it definitely had the desired effect of disturbing the audience.
Other Movies That Inspired Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs
Of course, A Clockwork Orange isn’t the only movie that inspired Tarantino while making Reservoir Dogs. The movie’s plot was inspired by the 1962 movie Kansas City Confidential, which also follows a group of criminals planning a bank heist, and it took some elements from The Big Combo (where police Lt. Leonard Diamond tries to expose a powerful gangster called Mr. Brown) and Sergio Corbucci’s Django, this one once again reflected in Blonde’s torture scene. In addition to that, the characters being named after colors were taken from the 1974 movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and the final minutes of Reservoir Dogs are very similar to the 1987 movie City on Fire. Mr. Blonde’s torture scene in Reservoir Dogs is unsettling on its own, but it might be even more after learning where its biggest inspiration came from.
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