When it was released in 1994, my parents forbid me from seeing Pulp Fiction.
I’m sure the reasons provided included the rampant drug use, gratuitous violence, and extensive profanity. But thinking back on it now, I’m pretty sure the sole reason was the whole sequence surrounding the redneck pawn shop owner and his security guard friend keeping a gay sex slave in their dungeon and raping local crime boss, Marcellus Wallace.
Needless to say, once they forbade it, I wanted nothing more than to watch this movie.
Last week, for one night only, to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the release of Quentin Tarantino’s first feature Reservoir Dogs, both that and Pulp Fiction were re-released in theaters. I’ve seen both of these movies probably more than 100 times each, and I was amazed by things I picked up seeing it on the big screen.
In Reservoir Dogs, right before Mr. Blonde is set to light the cop on fire, when I watched it at home, I always heard him say “How ‘bout a little fire… scary stuff.” That’s a serviceable enough line, but incorrect. He actually says “How ‘bout a little fire, scarecrow?” as I may have yelped in glee (out loud in the theater – I’m 90% sure this happened, you’ll have to ask Jason) watching two of my favorite things – Tarantino dialog and The Wizard of Oz come crashing into each other before my very eyes.
During that same scene, I always thought the radio just sort of faded out after “Stuck in the Middle with You,” but thanks to the sound system in the massive theater, the song ends and we go to commercial. A commercial for what? Jackrabbit Slim’s, home of the famous Jackrabbit Slim’s Twist Contest.
And speaking of that famous Pulp Fiction scene, thanks to a history of old, shitty, square TVs, I never noticed how much is happening around the edges in all of Tarantino’s movies. When the Ed Sullivan clone announces the Twist Contest, two guys playing Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are hamming it up offstage and to the left. While Vince and Mia dance, the James Dean lookalike bobs his head in approval of their moves.
I had planned to watch Pulp Fiction in Denver with my friends and wife, just like I watched Reservoir Dogs with Jason. Unfortunately, the rough adult equivalent of having parents – my employer – decided I should go to Reno instead for a big meeting that lasted all afternoon and thus, forbid me from seeing Pulp Fiction in its proper state yet again. Undeterred, I found a theater in Reno showing it and determined that I wouldn’t miss my chance to see it in theaters 18 years after my parents made the movie look like a huge, gleaming pile of candy that I wasn’t allowed to touch.
An extension of our meeting two hours longer, a dead rental car battery, botched iPhone directions to the hotel, frantic changing of clothes, skipped dinner, and an over the speed limit jaunt up I-580 later, I finally saw Pulp Fiction in theaters. And thanks to the magic of the big screen, I saw it in a new way for the first time in years.
In Tarantino-speak, I was Madonna in his hypothesis of what “Like a Virgin” is actually about at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, and seeing Pulp Fiction in theaters was the guy with the huge dick. I can’t wait for the feeling again with Django Unchained.