A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #3: Mr. Blonde

Michael Madsen as Mister Blonde in "Reservoir Dogs" (1992)

Yep, it’s time for another blurring of the edges. While the eponymous gangsters in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992) are never referred to as such in the film, they have the same pack mentality as their canine cousins. From the opening scenes to its bullet-riddled finale, writer-director Tarantino’s caper gone awry is a study in male bonding and vicious rivalry.

Vying for the position of alpha dog is Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) a.k.a. Mister Blonde. Vic is a career criminal whose loyalty to the Cabot Crime Family goes largely unquestioned. Fresh off a four year prison stretch in which he said not a word about the Cabots, the diamond heist would be Vega’s first “real job” back in the free world. Something must have happened to Vic in prison, however, a psychotic break perhaps, because the moment the heist goes pear-shaped, he begins executing hostages with ruthless efficiency, an act that disturbs his fellow criminals and becomes a point of no return for all.

“It’s amusing… to me… to torture a cop. You can say anything you want, ’cause I’ve heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death… which… you ain’t gonna get.”
— Mr. Blonde

The most infamous Mister Blonde scene is the torture of Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz), a cop taken hostage to effect Blonde’s escape from the robbery gone wrong. Baltz had a handful of screen credits prior to Dogs and appeared in the Tarantino-written Natural Born Killers in a minor role. He has done some work in DC Comics-related projects, including an appearance in The Flash television series, a recurring role on the original Human Target television series starring Rick Springfield, and the distinction of being the only person to play a live-action version of Batman villain Clayface on the sadly short-lived television series Birds of Prey.

Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) tortures Lt. Diamond (Cornel Wilde) in "The Big Combo" (1955)

Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) tortures Lt. Diamond
(Cornel Wilde) in “The Big Combo” (1955)

An ad-lib by Kirk Baltz during the torture scene reportedly stopped Michael Madsen in his cowboy booted tracks. Filmed only a year or two after the birth of his oldest son, Christian, the sputtering plea “I’ve got a little kid at home,” hit particularly close to home.

But Madsen wasn’t the only person put off by the intensity of the scene. During a screening in Barcelona, fifteen people walked out, including iconic horror director Wes Craven and special effects legend Rick Baker. Baker would later tell Tarantino that the heightened realism of the violence unnerved him and that Quentin should take it as a compliment.

“You ever listen to K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies? It’s my personal favorite.” — Mr. Blonde

Michael Madsen as Mister Blonde in "Reservoir Dogs" (1992)

Michael Madsen as Mister Blonde in “Reservoir Dogs”

With Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino began his trend of using diegetic (source) music effectively and often ironically. In this specific example, Mister Blonde turns on the radio and tunes in K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies. As deadpan DJ Steven Wright explains “Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty were a duo known as Stealers Wheel when they recorded this Dylanesque pop bubblegum favorite from April of 1974 that reached up to number five as K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies continues.”

Released on their self-titled debut album in 1972, “Stuck in the Middle with You” was initially intended to be a parody of Bob Dylan’s distinctive style. The “clowns to the left” and “jokers to the right” mentioned in the lyrics refer to a meeting Egan and Rafferty had with record company executives and producers at a restaurant in which they were mere bystanders to the negotations. A series of line-up changes, financial woes for their songwriter/producers, and tension between Egan and Rafferty resulted in Stealers Wheel disintegrating before the 1975 release of their third album. At least, by all reports, it didn’t end in a Mexican stand-off.

With this scene, Tarantino changed the way people would perceive the otherwise innocuous song forever. Madsen would return to the Tarantinoverse in Kill Bill (2003-2004) as Budd (Sidewinder), the sole male member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Only Michael Madsen provided his voice and likeness for the lackluster 2006 video game based on Reservoir Dogs, a dubious distinction.

If you have the stomach, check out the original infamous scene below, and let me know if this little doggie’s bite lives up to his bark. Cheers!

Totally NSFW due to language and unbridled cruelty.

“Was that as good for you as it was for me?” — Mr. Blonde

We may no longer be in the literal “Dog Days of Summer”, but we’re still going to “let the dogs out” two more times as we count down “A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”. I hope you’ll join us.


  1. Satama says:

    or he just likes fucking with us. If Tarantino wnetad to make that prequel he would’ve done it at least five years ago. And that twin idea may have worked out if it was one of them but saying both characters have thier own twin and also happen to have the same last name is just pure lunacy. I could believe that Madsen is just setting up a prank that might happen, like maybe one of Tarantino’s fake trailers in Grindhouse will be The Vega Bros. with that completely insane twin idea and they get Travolta and Madsen to star in the trailer. Now that would be hilarious and genius. A little jab at the delusional QT fans.Any-hoo, I think we should stay focused on Grindhouse and Inglorious Bastards. And pray for awesome I.G. casting. I hope Christopher Walken and Steve Buscemi can get their hands on some more Tarantino dialogue.

    • RayRay says:

      Yeah, I don’t take rumors of The Vega Brothers or Kill Bill prequels/sequels seriously. I’d prefer to see Tarantino breaking new ground with each project. Inglorious Basterds was his tribute to Macaroni Combat and the likes of Sgt. Rock or Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos. While my high-minded friends are suffering through Les Miserables, I’ll be enjoying the Spaghetti “Southern” of Django Unchained

  2. Josman says:

    Horrible. At this point I think the only way Madsen can have meaningful cosoirnatevn with Tarantino is by spouting out terrible half baked ideas. Madsen should just let his natural hair color grow out, stop smoking and being in the sun all day CAUSE HIS SKIN IS SUFFERING FROM IT. Two words. Mel Gibson. He looks like a tanned leather bag that’s been thrown around the entire world. Michael Madsen isn’t too far behind. I used to love this guy. What happened? Oh wait. I know. Booze, drugs, alcohol and chain smoking. MADSEN, stop dyeing your hair darker than it was in Reservoir Dogs. I feel sad for you. And stop carrying on like you’re an icon. The only way you could’ve been is if you died RIGHT after Donnie Brasco was made. But you didn’t and YOU AREN’T an icon. You’re just a has been. At least that’s better than a never was, like that Bishop guy in that awful biker flick you were in. Now go ahead and be somebody.

    • RayRay says:

      Man, you act like the guy impregnated your daughter. Cut him some slack. It’s not like he’s “winning” or proclaiming he has “tiger blood” or somesuch nonsense. Just let the fella make crap movies in peace.

      • Sebastian says:

        I have only seen half of pulp fiction and 1/3 of kill bill I. I am a rorveecing drug addict. I have a good story as among other addicts, whether celebrities, commoners, reg joe smoes, or priveleged snobs like myself, ( I am not who my friends are, how pathetic, the way they think and live. I have always felt different from everyone one else, I have never felt so alone. But, I know I am not, millions of people struggle with addictions every day. Whether it is drug, alcohol, food, love, sex, co-dependency, gambling,ect .I am familar with all of above. Addiction is so very strong and controlling among all walks of life, if you want to make a film everyone can relate to or know of someone that can relate to this fucking world and fucking hell we go through every fucking second of our lives, you will be a hero, you will save many lives. I am not a writer, poet, or even a college gradute. I am a pretty, kind of smart, gal that thought I was exceptional, and just found out I am not, neither are they. My husband is running for mayor of Houston in 6 months, I was suppose to stay with him so he would look like a devoted husband, blah, blah. I want a real life and real love, don’t you? nikki

        • RayRay says:

          Sorry to hear about your struggles, but hope you continue moving forward in a positive direction. I must admit, I’m not sure what the last bit of your comment has to do with anything, but I wish you the best of luck and hope you give those Tarantino flicks a full viewing.

          I’m not big on films about addiction because most tend to be thinly veiled morality plays. Leaving Las Vegas, in particular, did nothing for me, and Less Than Zero really feels like an ’80s relic, and not in a good way. Never watched Trainspotting (crazy, I know), but I did enjoy The Basketball Diaries when it came out.

          Breaking Bad does a good job, but doesn’t really delve too deeply into that subject matter, choosing to treat it as a personal subplot rather than a natural extension of drug culture. Super Fly covers that much more effectively, I think.

          What do the rest of you think? Any recommendations for films that address addiction as a theme? Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path here. Vampirism has long been used as a metaphor for drug use, and one doesn’t have to be a professional critic to see the moral underpinnings of Jekyll and Hyde.

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