Repo Man: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Criterion Collection
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th June 2013).
The Film

Harry Dean Stanton strikes me as a very bizarre individual, he seems like the quiet type that is reclusive and occasionally comes out to make a movie every now and then. Kind of like how Marlon Brando in his later years, only not fat, not insanely crazy and eccentric and certainly not dead. So reading the synopsis of "Repo Man" I wasnít really surprised to see Stanton was in it. It sounds like something right up his alley. Widely considered as one of Americaís finest acting talents Stanton has spent the last 30 year proving himself yet it seems like not many people have listened, relegated to bit parts now. In the early 70ís and 80ís this guy was in one acclaimed picture after another ("Kelly's Heroes" (1970), "Alien" (1979), "Escape from New York" (1981), "Paris, Texas" (1984) and "Pretty in Pink" (1986) just to name a few). So why donít many people in the mainstream know who this guy is? Maybe he had a really s**t publicists? That or he never cared for fame just in making a good flick. Pair him with Britainís punk director Alex Cox and the then rising star Emilio Estevez (I never thought Iíd write a sentence like that before) in a film about repo men and alien devices in the trunk of a car and youíve got one very different, weird and confusing film. Yet itís also ultimately entertaining, even though a lot of the 80ís references and statements are lost on me (a lot, but not all), and can you blame me? I don't really remember the 80's since I was a child then, I did most of my growing up in the 90ís.

"Repo Man" tells the story of Otto (Emilio Estevez) a street punk whoís recently lost his job as a stock boy at the supermarket, when one day he is recruited to help steal a car for a repo man, Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) although at first he doesnít really know heís helping out a repo man. Turns out heís pretty good at it and soon enough heís got a new job repossessing vehicles for the company that Bud works for. He eventually gets thrown in head-fist into the cutthroat world of repo men. Meanwhile someone has (I assume) stolen a car, its contents include some kind of alien death device in the trunk that basically disintegrates anyone that looks at it. In an attempt to find this vehicle the government issues a reward to all the repo men in the area of $20,000 for anyone that finds and repossess the car. This of course sparks a rivalry between all the repo men.

"Repo Men" is not a particularly great film; its original release was mostly ignored, yet over the years it has gained an audience on Video, Laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray. It has been rediscovered by many people and means something different to the many fans of this film. Knowing very little I was wasnít expecting much and thatís what I got, I was also confused at the filmís end. I think trying to explain this film is a futile effort; it would be similar in asking someone to describe a David Lynch film. But while Lynch can be overly confusing to the point of frustration, "Repo Man" is confusing but very entertaining and nowhere near as frustrating. I enjoyed the silly characters, especially Bud, who else but Stanton could play a guy who's hiding many secrets but seems like someone youíve know for years? This is basically his film, Estevez fills in now and then but Stanton takes over the show.

This film also feels like a portal into another time that seems very alien to me, the 1980ís, a time of bad hair, bad clothes and the emergence of synth-pop and also the peak of crude punk music. There are many touches in the film that take viewers back to this time that many would wish to forget. I was also intrigued at the many statements this film was trying to make about where we as people and as consumers were headed (especially with the generic brand products). Iím still not quite sure what to make of this film, but I was entertained and this disc will sit proudly on my shelf as a relic of the 80's.

This disc features two versions of the film the original "Theatrical" (92:22) cut and the "Edited American Network TV" (96:54) version which was re-edited by Alex Cox and Dick Rude for American network television. It features alternate scenes, deleted scenes and any offensive dialogue was overdubbed. The TV version is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in English, no subtitles.

Video

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this high definition 1080p 24/fps widescreen image is mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The Criterion Collection teamed up with the film's director to produce this new and approved image transfer. Previous edition of this film where released with a ratio of 1.85:1, this image opens up the framing a bit on the top and bottom in 1.78:1, the slight space gives the film a "less crowed" frame. I've previously seen this film on DVD and generally thought the transfers were on the average side, Criterion does a decent job of improving the image, colors are nice and crisp, the image handles the shifts from bright to low light well. Low light scenes on DVD which were plagued by softness and noise are not really an issue here. While some scenes look a little too dark, I was pleased with the overall quality of it, noise seems less intrusive here. Textures look good, skin colors appear natural and for the most part the picture is clean of dirt and scratches, issues that seem to be a problem with films from this era. Overall it's a good transfer, not the strongest in the Criterion catalogue but worthy of their standards.

Audio

A single audio track is presented here in the film's original English PCM 1.0 mono track. The Lossless audio track isn't going to blow anyone away, but it will keep purists happy. I'm glad that an expanded 5.1 mix wasn't included, there's no need for it. I was pleased with the tracks overall quality, for a single speaker mix the sound works well, dialogue is clean, crisp and clear. Dynamics, depth and range are limited but is to be expected from a 1.0 mono track. Despite this the mix works nicely acting as a balancing act between dialogue, music, sound effects.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired only.

Extras

The Criterion Collection has provided a wonderful collection of supplements for fans of this film aside from two versions of the film itself, included here are an audio commentary, interviews,

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director Alex Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas and cast members Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss and Del Zamora. I found this track very enjoyable, the light-hearted nature of the participants made for a rather amusing listen. There are many topics covered here, including the difficulties the filmmakers had to overcome while making this film, as well as the casting and location shooting. Some aspects regarding special effects are touched on, but generally the group fondly remembers their experience on the film and occasionally joke around.

Next up is an interview with musician Iggy Pop which runs for 11 minute 57 seconds (1080i), this new clip features Iggy discussing his involvement in the film in the form of composing the theme, his collaboration with the director and also shares his thoughts on the film itself. On a side note HD does nothing to soften Iggy's features.

"Plate O' Shrimp" are a series of interviews with musician Keith Morris and actors Dick Rude, Olivia Barash, and Miguel Sandoval which run for 19 minutes 19 seconds (1080i). This is another set of new interviews in which the participants discuss their involvement in the film as well as it's soundtrack and the overall themes of the film. It's a nice collection of clips but could have benefited from either Harry Dean Stanton or Emilio Estevez's input.

"Repossessed" is a round table discussion about the making of the film, featuring writer/director Alex Cox, producers Peter McCarthy and Jonathan Wacks, Del Zamora, Sy Richardson, and Dick Rude which runs for 25 minutes 30 seconds (1080i). Filmed in 2005, This is a discussion between the director and producers about the genesis of the project, problems they encountered while in production as well as the response to the film. The clip is inter-cut with scenes from the film, additionally the cast members Rude, Richardson and Zamora reminisce about their involvement in the film. Overall itís a fairly solid piece that includes an array of informative bits that may be of interest to fans. Besides the audio commentary is my favorite supplement on the disc.

"The Missing Scenes" featurette runs for 25 minutes 11 seconds (1080i) and covers the cut scenes of the film with a conversation with writer/director Alex Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, and neutron bomb inventor Sam Cohen. While the scenes play the two discuss the effects of radiation among other things. Itís a very interesting way to present the missing scenes, but certainly work considering the film itself is very bizarre and off center.

"Harry Zen Stanton" featurette is a conversation between actor Harry Dean Stanton and producer Peter McCarthy which runs for 21 minutes 21 seconds (1080i). In what is essentially an interview clip Stanton discusses various topics that includes this character and memories from the filming of this movie, he also sheds light on this career, pre-destiny and nihilism. He seems like a very strange individual at first then as the interview progresses you realise this guy is crazy-nuts, but in the kooky kind of way and not in the "Iíll knife you were you stand, b*tch! kind of way." Itís a very odd yet overly entertaining clip, fans of the film and the actor will certainly get a kick out of this.

Two of the film's original theatrical trailers are included and run a combined 4 minutes 5 seconds (1080p).

An extensive 68-page booklet is included and features an essay on the film by author/critic/Californian Sam McPheeters entitled "A Lattice of Coincidence", an illustrated history of the production by Alex Cox, entitled "The Repo Code," and a 1987 interview with Alex Cox and Dick Rude with repo man Mark Lewis (who was credited as Technical Advisor on the film, and essentially based on his experiences as a repo man).

Packaging

This disc is packaged in a digi-pack housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B Audio: B- Extras: A+ Overall: B

 


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