A Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch

If you’re like me (And who isn’t?) you really liked the phrase “a pair of pliers and a blowtorch” in Pulp Fiction. It isn’t that I’m into torture; it is just that it’s a great phrase, “I’m gonna call up couple hard pipe hitting niggers to go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.” This video is queued to the exact right place so go ahead and click play; I’ll rejoin you in about 15 seconds.

After Reservoir Dogs was all the rage, many people pointed out that Quentin Tarantino had lifted many ideas from other films. I suppose that he thought he was creating an homage to his predecessors, and I’m inclined to agree. But it is still a little bothersome when the things you most like in his movies are all lifted verbatim from others.

And that brings us back to, “A pair of pliers and a blowtorch.” About a year after seeing Pulp Fiction, I was watching TV late one night and Charley Varrick came on. It is about a bank robbery that goes wrong for unusual reasons and the consequences. And it stars Walter Matthau in an unusual kind of star role. Two-thirds into the film, we get this scene (which is also queued so I’ll meet you back here in 15 seconds after you click play):

I have given up chasing this video. Go rent the video. It’s a very good movie. But every time I find it, it disappears soon after.

That’s John Vernon delivering the line, “You know what kind of people they are. They’re gonna strip you naked and go to work on you with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.” Truthfully, I don’t know if the line is original to this movie; it may have been a common turn of phrase. The one thing I do know is that Tarantino got it from this film. Just watch the film; it is his kind of movie.

If you haven’t see Charley Varrick, I recommend it. It is very good. And it is on this page, because the entire film is included in that clip. You’re welcome! (It took me a long time to find the scene; I thought it was right at the end.)

Update (4 February 2013 10:50 pm)

YouTube is really getting to suck because of copyright issues. Both of the videos originally embedded were removed from YouTube. It took me about a half hour to find new videos and get the starting times right. What a pain!

4 thoughts on “A Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch

  1. The other night the AMC channel showed "Pulp Fiction" with "story notes". The story notes correctly attributed the line about the pliers & blowtorch to "Charley Varrick" (1973), but then they said that the line about "going medieval on his ass" was also lifted from this picture, which was plainly wrong. There is no such a line in "Charley Varrick".

  2. @Oswaldo – Nice catch. I’ve seen [i]Charley Varrick[/i] a couple of times, but it has been a while. Still, I agree with you. "Going medieval" strikes me as a more recent linguistic vintage. Also, I think it is more generic. I think I’ve heard that line any number of times.

    I’m struck by the fact that when AMC does one of their story notes views, they often don’t know as much as I do. And this is nothing compared to the film geek community online. But it’s always nice to have the opportunity to feel smart. I don’t get that very often!

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