Release Date(s)1994 (April 26, 2011)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
“Just because they serve you... doesn’t mean they like you.”
Kevin Smith’s low budget masterpiece Clerks is one of those “love it” or “hate it” kind of movies. It gave birth to countless imitators and was a major part of the raging independent film scene in 1994. Shot for $26,000 with a crew of amateur filmmakers and actors, the film managed to find its way into the Sundance Film Festival, and eventually, into the hands of Miramax.
Clerks spoke to a generation of teenagers and young adults who were stuck behind counters across the country and gave them a film with a premise that they could truly relate to. Smith’s penchant for witty dialogue and his ability to write colorful characters with true-to-life sensibilities is what made the film successful. Not only did he manage to carve out his own personal niche and fan base in the film market, but being outside of the cookie cutter filmmaking system allowed him the chance to take on more personal opportunities rather than professional ones. People have constantly criticized him and his work over the years, but he has always maintained that the personal statements that he makes within his work are far more important than aesthetic or style. The same argument could be made for Clerks. In addition to being cited by critics and fans alike as his most honest work, it’s also regarded as one of the most enduring independent films ever made.
For its 15th Anniversary, the rights to the film have been handed over to Lionsgate for the Blu-ray release. Shot on 16mm film with a black and white camera and blown up for theatrical release, Clerks has certainly never been seen as a cosmetic wonder. Its grainy monochrome look has always had the appeal of discovering an old worn-out VHS tape. Thankfully for this release, nothing has been done to enhance that lack of quality. There aren’t any signs of unnecessary augmentation or digital manipulation to be found anywhere. The contrast is high and brings out the deep grain embedded in the print more prominently, especially in the white areas of the frame. It also helps to alleviate the slightly soft focus stemming from the original production. You’ll be pleased to know that this is still a 16x9 enhanced frame-correct version, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which was cropped and letterboxed on the original DVD release. The presentation isn’t the best quality that the format has to offer, but again, this film has never been seen in that kind of light. The digital clarity is an improvement, but only marginally so.
The audio is also nothing to leap for joy over either. With only one option available, English 5.1 DTS-HD, this track is not a surround sound system’s dream come true by any stretch. Similar to the video presentation, the lack of aural aesthetic is really to blame here and the multiple channels aren’t really a benefit or an improvement. For instance, the rear channels only see real use during the musical portions without ever really opening things up. The dialogue and sound effects are all audible and clear, but they tend to dominate the front speakers. So don’t expect to be wowed by the acoustics, or lack thereof. However, I don’t perceive this to be a huge negative because of the nature of the film itself, but for reviewing purposes, I have to judge accordingly. For those that require subtitles, you’ll find a multitude of options including English, English SDH and Spanish.
The extras included have been culled mostly from the Clerks X DVD release and supplement the film well. New to this release is an intro by Kevin and the unreleased documentary Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. For the theatrical version, there’s an audio commentary with Kevin, Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes and Brian O’Halloran. The Enhanced Trivia Track has also been included again but updated to match the style of the menu design. For the original cut of the movie, titled The First Cut, the very entertaining video commentary has also been carried over featuring Kevin, Scott, Brian, Jason and Jeff Anderson. Also present is the introduction to The First Cut by Kevin and Scott in which they jokingly make a request to do a fan commentary for a future DVD release of Road House (which they later did). There’s also three multi-angle viewing modes for the commentary: picture in picture, full screen or audio only. The video quality of The First Cut is just as terrible as it was on the previous release of the movie while the video commentary has also been downgraded quite a bit. Regardless, it’s still nice to see its inclusion. The Clerks Restoration featurettes, Restoring the Clerks Sound with Scott Mosier and Restoring the Clerks Look with David Klein, as well as the intro by Kevin and Scott, have all also been carried over. All of the Original Clerks Auditions along with the original intro by Kevin and Scott are also present, as is the great documentary Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks, Outtakes from Snowball Effect, the 10th Anniversary Q & A, the Clerks: The Lost Scene animated segment, The Flying Car short film, the Soul Asylum Can’t Even Tell music video, the MTV Spots with Jay & Silent Bob, the theatrical trailer and finally the Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary short film with an intro by Kevin and Scott. Although this is a very wealthy set of extras, there’s also quite a bounty of reading material that hasn’t been included from previous releases. All of the reviews, articles and journal entries from Disc 3 of the Clerks X DVD release haven’t been included here. Also missing from that release is the original screenplay from the DVD-ROM extras, as well as the photo galleries and the insert booklet that included reproductions of posters, reviews and memorabilia. So if you’re thinking of upgrading, I suggest hanging on to that release if you want everything.
This Blu-ray release may not be flawless, but it’s the best-quality version of the film available, and that’s saying something. Clerks is not only one of the funniest films of the 90’s, but it’s also a snapshot of a bunch of amateur filmmakers pulling off a pipe dream. To be fair, the film isn’t perfect; people flub lines, sound effects are a little silly and even the camera work is a little dodgy at times (not to mention the visual and aural quality). Despite all of that, it still endures.
- Tim Salmons