FilmsStuck in the MiddleJoe Egan and Gerry Rafferty were a duo known as Stealers Wheel whenthey recorded a Dylanesque pop hit, “Stuck in the Middle With You”, inApril of 1974. The single reached number five on the charts – littledid they know that eighteen years later it would become a cult favorite.In 1992 Quentin Tarantino, a little known writer/director, took theCannes film festival and the world by surprise with his motion pictureReservoir Dogs. The movie is about the difficulties that occur whenfive “master” criminals are hired by a crime king pin named Joe to pulloff the biggest diamond heist of the century. Stuck right in the middle of the movie, the Egan/Rafferty hit isplayed as a introduction to one of the best or worst torture seens everin the history of movies. It depends on how you look at it.
I’ll set-up the scene in the movie where it is being played, try andfollow me… The five criminals hired go by color-coded names . Duringthe heist the cops show and things got out of control. Two of therobbers were shot and killed after Mr.
Blonde, the “on the edge”gangster started shooting up the place when an employee triggered thealarm. Mr. White and Mr. Orange (an undercover cop) escaped the sceneand headed for the hideout where all the men were supposed to meet. Onthe way to the hideout Mr. Orange was shot, he was bleeding severely butthe injury was not life threatening.
Shortly after their arrival, Mr.Pink met with them and they all anxiousley waited for Mr. Blonde.Mr. Blonde, acting cool and unaffected by the mornings events, made hisentrance.
After being questioned by Mr. White about why he went psychoin the store, Mr. Blonde called them out to see a “surprise” he had inhis trunk.
Mr. Blonde in an effort to find out how the police heardabout the robbery in advance had kidnapped a police officer. Theycarried the man into the warehouse and after tying him to a chair Mr.White and Mr. Pink commenced beating the hell out of him. They Askedhim to tell how the police knew of the heist, he said he knew nothingand after beating on him some more, Nice Guy Eddie came in. He wasJoe’s son and told Mr.
White and Mr. Pink that they would have to comewith him to ditch the cars. Mr. Blonde was told to stay and keep an eyeon the cop and the injured Mr. Orange.My idea is that the following scene was written by Director Tarantinochoreographed to the song by Stealers Wheel. Rather than the norm wherea scene is written and the music is picked thereafter.
As I describethe scene I will give the lyrics to the song and show how theycorrespond to the characters actions in the scene.Mr. Blonde starts talking to the cop, who still insists he knowsnothing. The lyrics to the song begin; keep in mind that I amsuggesting that the words are what the cop is thinking. Well I don’t know why I came here tonight.I got the feeling that something ain’t right.I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,and I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs.Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right.
..Here I am stuck in the middle with you.The words being sung tell us that the cop is wondering how he got intothis situation, he knows something is up, and he is scared that he maynot be able to make it through the rest of this torturous interrogationalive.
The clowns are his fellow officers who allowed the situation toget so out of control, and the jokers are Mr. White and Mr. Pink. Andnow he is stuck in the middle of this whole ordeal with the mostcynical, evil, and hardest criminal of the bunch.
…Mr. Blonde.Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you and I’m wondering what it is I should doIt’s so hard to keep this smile from my facecause I’m and I’m all over the place(chorus)These are the lines that justify what I am saying the most.
He iswondering what he should do, he knows that Mr. Orange is a cop and if hewere to mention it to Mr. Blonde it may save his life. It is aninternal conflict in which he heroically decides to keep quiet. Hecan’t keep the smile off his face because he knows the cops are outsidejust waiting for Joe to come to the warehouse so they can bust the wholeoperation, and when he comes the torture will be over.Well you started out with nothin’ and your proud that your a self -mademan.And your friends they all come callin’ – slap you on the back and say -please, please.Tryin’ to make some sense of it allBut I can see it makes no sense at allIs it cool to go to sleep on the floor?’till I think that I can’t take anymore.
(Chorus)Here, the officer is bringing out the fact that Mr. Blonde is proud ofhis life as a criminal, and proud that his friends, Joe and Nice GuyEddie come callin’ -begging Mr. Blonde to work for them right after hegot out of prison. The cop tries to understand the situation that he isin but he realizes it is a lost cause.
The last two lines show what theofficer is asking himself. Should he spill his guts or should he keepquiet until Joe shows up.The music stops. The cop is a bloody mess, Mr. Blonde had not onlybeat him, he had cut off his ear, and doused him with gasoline. He wasjust about ready to set him on fire when six gunshots rang out– Mr.Orange, the undercover cop had shot Mr.
Blonde to death. Joe, Nice Guy Eddie, Mr. Pink and Mr.
White all return shortlythereafter. They find Mr. Blonde, the cop, and Mr. Orange all coveredin blood and question Mr.
Orange about what happened. Mr. Orange triedto explain that Mr. Blonde was going to burn the cop, and split with thediamonds. Joe called him a traitor and would not believe him. Joe shotthe police officer and was ready to kill Mr. Orange when Mr.
White turnshis gun on Joe to protect his friend. Intern Nice Guy Eddie turns hisgun on Mr. White. Sirens could be heard as the movie hit its climax -the cops bust in and three shots are heard, and three bodies drop to thefloor. Quentin Tarintino is a acumen in the the field music, I believe hetruly wrote the seen I described – the torture seen – to coincide withthe Stealers Wheel song. In the research of my opinion I luckilystumbled on a quote from Tarentino taken from the compact disc bookletof “Truth and Fiction.
“”Personnally, I don’t know if Jerry Rafferty neccessarily appreciatedthe connotations that I brought to “Stuck in the Middle With You”.There’s a good chance he didn’t. But that’s one of the things aboutusing music in movies that’s so cool: the fact that if you do it right,it’s about as cinematic a thing as you can do.You’re really doingwhat movies do better than any other art form. It works in thisvisceral, emotional, cinematic way that’s special. And when you do itright and you hit it right, then you can never really hear that songagain without thinking about that image from the movie. That’s whatcomercials are counting on, but it never quite works with commercials.The thing is, once a movie has done that with a song, as far as I’mconcerned that movie owns it.
I mean, they’ve used “Stand By Me” somany times, but to me the one that used “Stand By Me” that way was TheWanderers. They play “Stand By Me” as the lead character, Ken Wahl,realizes that JFK has been shot. And it’s perfect.” I couldn’t agree more with what Tarentino is saying. His moviesespecially draw upon music to make the scenes flow together in asurreal, inspiring style.
What more can a movie connoisseur like myselfask for in a movie? As Tarentino says “Stand By Me” is perfect in TheWanderers, I say “Stuck in the Middle With You” is perfect in ResovoirDogs.