This article contains minor spoilers for Reservoir Dogs, but you know what? You've had 25 years to watch it by now.
Much has changed in the 25 years since Reservoir Dogs premiered: digital cameras, Quentin Tarantino's commercially successful career and, perhaps most importantly, a desensitization to the violence that propelled Tarantino and his films into the spotlight. "We used to count the walkouts," Tarantino remarked after the screening of his first feature film at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the now-infamous scene, as Mr. Blonde (played by Michael Madsen) prepares to torture the cop he kidnapped, dancing "maniacally" (as Tarantino writes in the script) to Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You," early 90s moviegoers would be so disturbed they would leave. "I counted 33 one time," Tarantino boasted, referring to the number of people who left the theater during the scene. Nowadays, the audience squirmed in their seats, not out of repulsion, but out of mimicry.
At the Beacon Theater, the sold-out audience, many of whom were infants or unborn at the film's 1992 debut, mouthed the lyrics to the 70s pop hit as Mr. Blonde sauntered and slashed. The audience even disrupted the film with an applause seconds before Mr. Blonde removed the cop's ear.
The scene has "followed" Madsen through his career. While christening a small theater in Detroit, Madsen recalled, the theater owner requested he do the "Mr. Blonde dance" at the mic. "I was like, I'm not doing that," he explained. "I immediately had a vision of myself doing that dance at 80… No way." The scene that once prompted audiences to bail has become something of an embarrassing party trick. Whatever the effect, the dance undoubtedly still resonates—in no small part due to Madsen's disturbing and unforgettable performance.
As it turns out, Madsen wasn't the only choice for Mr. Blonde. In a conversation following the screening with Madsen, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and Quentin Tarantino, the director revealed that a slew of actors auditioned for the role, including Tom Waits—appropriate, given Waits and Madsen both have two of the most memorable growls on tape. Waits would have been an unforgettable Blonde, but few can deny Madsen's imprint on the role.
The ear-cutting-dance scene is a mere blip in the 99-minute movie, but it's that sadistic lullaby that is seared in audiences' minds 25 years later. Audiences no longer seem affected by the scene in the same way they once did, but it's clear that its resonance remains.
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