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Release Date(s)1984 (April 26, 2013)
Studio(s)Universal (Criterion - Spine #654)
Alex Cox’s futuristic sci-fi classic Repo Man was a winner with critics in 1984, but it didn’t make an enormous dent with the public. It made its budget back and a little extra, but it wasn’t a smash hit. It stuck around though and garnered itself a nice little cult status over the years.
For those who haven’t seen it, the film is about a newly-hired repo man by the name of Otto (Emilio Estevez), a street punk who’s looking for some direction in his life. One of the repo veterans, Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), takes him under his wing to show him the ropes. Otto soon becomes caught up in wars with other repo companies, street gangs and a deadly alien car that everybody, including the FBI, is out to repossess.
Even though Repo Man is considered a cult film, it’s one that no one really ever talks about, at least in my experience. It seems to be sort of overlooked, but thanks to Criterion, that may all change and the film may see a bit of a revival. It deserves one. It’s certainly a stylistically-driven film with a lot on its mind, like a lot of films of its ilk at the time. It also has a great punk soundtrack, and it’s no surprise that Alex Cox would go on to make Sid and Nancy later. He considered himself punk so it bleeds over into his work. I also find it kind of odd that Criterion would pick this. It’s an odd choice for them, and I’m kind of glad when they pick something truly out of left field like this. Both of Alex Cox’s films Sid and Nancy and Walker have been in their collection before, so I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s certainly not a film for everyone though. Some won’t get it or understand it, despite the great performances and great dialogue. But thankfully, there are enough fans out there to warrant this release, which is a great thing.
For Criterion’s Blu-ray release, they have a brand-spanking new 2K restored transfer, which was approved by director Alex Cox. The results are really fantastic. It has a very healthy and even grain structure throughout. Skin tones, textures and colors look great, although I think there’s slightly too much blue as it made some surfaces appear a shade darker than they should have. The colors overall are very strong though, with lots of blacks, greens and grays being quite deep. Contrast is nearly perfect, but it could have brightened up just a wee bit higher than it is. Overall, this is a nearly perfect picture, but I just feel like it could have been a little brighter. It’s not a major issue, but one that I picked up on. The soundtrack is also very good, which is the original English mono, uncompressed. Dialogue is very clear and precise, and is mixed in well with the sound effects and score. There’s some impressive dynamic range to it, but it won’t be leaping out of your speakers and tossing your eardrums around or anything. It’s a very good soundtrack overall and should little to complain about. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
In the supplemental department, you get a nice array of material to cull through. There’s an audio commentary with Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss and Del Zamora; Plate O’Shrimp: new interviews with actors Dick Rude, Olivia Barash, and Miguel Sandoval; new interviews with musicians Iggy Pop and Key Morris; deleted scenes and theatrical trailers; Repossessed: a roundtable discussion about the making of the film with Cox, producers Peter McCarthy and Jonathtan Wacks, Zamora, Richardson and Rude; Harry Zen Stanton: a discussion between actor Harry Dean Stanton and McCarthy (by far, the most entertaining video extra on the disc); Alex Cox’s “cleaned-up” TV version of the film; and finally, a 68-page booklet featuring an essay by critic Sam McPheeters, an illustrated production history by Cox and a 1987 interview with real-life repo man Mark Lewis. So you get a great set of extras to go with a great film and a great Blu-ray release.
Criterion’s Repo Man is definitely one you’ll want to pick up, especially if you’re a fan of films like Blade Runner, or any dystopian films from the 1980’s really. It fits right in with the pack. Intense.
- Tim Salmons