Tag Archive for Wes Craven

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.

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #12: Prince

Prince chows down in Wes Craven's "The People Under the Stairs" (1991)

Prince is the family dog of The Robesons, and you will never meet a closer couple. They are so simpatico, they could be brother and sister. Oh, wait, they ARE brother and sister.

In Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs (1991), “Mommy” and “Daddy” Robeson are a pair of slumlords who want to tear down the low income housing they own and put up condominiums, where “clean people” can live who will pay their rent on time. The charming couple are played by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, who played a completely different creepy couple in the television series Twin Peaks. Here, they are the latest in a line of incestuous entrepreneurs beginning with the original owners of the Robeson Funeral Home, with each succeeding generation getting greedier and crazier than the one before.

Prince is their loyal and beloved dog. He even has his own doggie-door access to the labyrinthine catacombs between the walls of their funeral parlor home. While he’s surely menacing and gets more than just a nibble of would-be burglar Leroy (Ving Rhames), Prince isn’t technically a killer. He is horribly complicit in his owners’ murderous activities, more than happy to accept scraps from their own cannibalistic larder.

Please join us for the rest of these infamous “Dog Days of Summer” as we count down
“A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.

Honorable Mention: Precious

Purely from the way this scene from The Silence of the Lambs is shot, it looks like Precious is taunting her owner’s prisoner, Catherine Martin. “Yes she will, Precious. She’ll get the hose.” Still, there’s no reason to believe there is anything remotely malicious about the poodle, and <SPOILER ALERT>, she even leaves the dungeon in the arms of the rescued woman. I’d like to think Precious had a happy, healthy rest of her life, but you have to wonder if she ended up in the care of Ms. Martin and if that would really be such a good idea.

WARNING: Not Safe For Work due to harsh language and just being appallingly creepy.

Oh, and this is just too strange not to share. It’s not very obscure, admittedly, but I *do* love the recasting of “Precious”.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…

Movie Poster for "The Breed"

Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
Let’s All Go to the Lobby…
and Get Ourselves a Drink!

Some films are so bad they’re good. Some films benefit from a little liquid encouragement. Some people seek out such entertainment. We are such people, and we’re willing to share our discoveries with you.

Please remember to drink responsibly.

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.” — Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Tonight’s Feature:

The Breed(2006)

Produced by horror icon Wes Craven, The Breed marks the directorial debut of Nicholas Mastandrea, frequent assistant director to Craven and key grip for George Romero on many of his classics throughout the 70s and 80s. Filming took approximately two months in South Africa, but each actor had to undergo canine training for about a week prior. Too bad Mastandrea didn’t spend as much time training his human actors or reworking the script. The Breed debuted at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival to little fanfare, but we’re about to celebrate its cliche excess tonight!

Our principals are all cliche “Horror Young People”, but let’s get to know them anyway…

Taryn Manning and Michelle Rodriguez in "The Breed"

Taryn Manning and Michelle Rodriguez in The Breed (2006)

Michelle Rodriguez

Michelle Rodriguez had already made a name for herself in Girlfight, The Fast and the Furious, and as Ana Lucia Cortez on the television show Lost. Here, she plays Nicki, one of five young people visiting the remote island that serves as the film’s sole setting. She is romantically linked to Matt (Eric Lively), but had previously dated his older brother, John (Oliver Hudson), creating a bit of natural tension between the three.

Established early in the film, Nicki is a health food nut and an “outdoorsy type”. She comes prepared with not only soy milk, flax seed oil, and kasha, but climbing rope and Dyna-Locks. Hopefully, all that will come in handy when the diabolical dogs show up.

Taryn Manning

One half of the sibling poptronic duo Boomkat, Taryn Manning had already appeared in the musically driven films 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow before joining the cast of The Breed. I must confess that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her sing, but her performance here as the party girl Sara has a schtrange schpeech pattern that I’m not sure is an affectation for the role. It alternates between being cute and kind of annoying. Sch’est la vie.

Oliver Hudson, Eric Lively, and Hill Harper in "The Breed"

Oliver Hudson, Eric Lively, and Hill Harper in The Breed

Eric Lively

In 2005, Eric Lively joined the second season cast of the Showtime original series The L Word as the sleazy and self-interested documentary filmmaker Mark Wayland. The former Abercrombie & Fitch model plays it much more “straight” here as Matt, the responsible younger brother to John (Hudson). With “three final exams, two biology labs, and a term paper due in four days,” Matt is finding it difficult to get into the spirit of a vacation getaway like his roommate Noah and older brother John. The latter requests that Matt avoid acting like a “little vagina.” That’s both offensive and incredibly difficult for Matt, as you’ll see.

Oliver Hudson

Oliver Hudson is the son of Goldie Hawn and Bill Hudson, brother to Kate Hudson. Here, he’s John, the irresponsible brother of Matt (Lively). Up to this point, Hudson had been best known for a stint on the sixth season of Dawson’s Creek. Nicki (Rodriguez) is John’s ex-girlfriend. Now, he’s forced to stand back and watch her mack all over his more successful little brother, clearly rubbing salt in an old wound. He’s at least partly to blame, if everyone else is to be believed, because he doesn’t know how to treat a lady. Sometimes ya got to squeeze. Sometimes you’ve got to say please.

Hill Harper

Hill Harper plays Noah, the hard partying roommate of Matt (Lively). Harper began playing Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the television series CSI: NY in 2004, an award-winning role he continues to play as I post this. During their first year as Harvard law students, he befriended President Barack Obama. In The Breed, Noah keeps much less sterling company and is characterized as a mediocre student at best, “a fan of the five-year program.” As the token wisecracking black man in a sea of young white people, the literal “fifth wheel,” he’s doomed to never finish said program. Hardly a spoiler alert to anyone familiar with the tropes involved.

Before we let the dogs out, you must first “ante up.”

Ante: A Salty Dog (one shot of vodka and two shots of grapefruit juice in a glass, salt the rim). Alternatively, a Bloodhound, Greyhound, or even a Slippery Nipple. Hey, we’re not lawyers, and tomorrow morning, it’ll all be “Hair of the Dog” anyway.

Now, once the feature has begun, pick your poison (beer, hard lemonade, etc.).
These are the few simple rules you must obey:

  • Rule # 1: Drink to new acquaintances whenever a named character is introduced.
  • Rule # 2: Any time a named cast member dies, drink to their memory.
  • Rule # 3: Drink for courage any time dogs enter the scene for the first time.
  • Rule # 4: Whenever you see a character drink on screen, you must do the same.

I recommend a 15-minute intermission about halfway through for smokes, restroom breaks, water (hangover-proofing), snacks, etc. Appropriate snacks include cocktail weenies, pâté and bagel chips, or, for vegetarians, cookies shaped like little dog biscuits. In any case, I do NOT recommend drinking additional alcohol during intermission.

Beer BottleBeer Bottle
Difficulty Level:
Viewers will typically consume 22 oz.
(2 bottles at 1/2 oz. per drink, 12 oz. per bottle)
of alcoholic beverage if all rules are obeyed.

Running Time: 96 min. (+15 min. intermission)

If you want to check your work or just live vicariously through others, give man’s best friend a pet (click) and scope out our official scorecard for The Breed:

One of the many personable pooches from "The Breed"

One of the many personable pooches from The Breed