Repo Man comes to Blu-ray

“Repo Man” is a whacky B-movie about the workers at a car repossession company who get mixed up in a shady government cover-up of alien visitors from outer space. The film’s MacGuffin is a Chevy Malibu with deadly stolen evidence from a top secret air force base. UFO believers are trying to expose the existence of aliens before the authorities can reclaim their property and silence the rebellious elements permanently.

Otto (Emilio Estevez – “Young Guns”, “The Breakfast Club”) is a young white punk who jacks in his dead-end job at a supermarket and unwittingly takes on the role of a repo man when Bud (Harry Dean Stanton – “Alien”, Big Love) dupes him into repossessing a car. Although he initially resists taking on the job permanently, Otto realises he has no other choice and so he joins the firm and embarks on a series of increasingly dangerous escapades with Bud and his offbeat colleagues. The more valuable the vehicle they are assigned to collect, the larger the commission but also the greater the risk.

Repo Man hits Blu-ray“Repo Man”, one of the titles reviewed in Cult TV’s very own Behind the Sofa television series, is viewed as a quintessential cult movie, and it certainly has all the ingredients one might expect. The plot is an irreverent mishmash of comedy, thriller and sci-fi elements that interweave at will. The characters are generally outlandish figures who spout philosophical twaddle, and the actors pitch their performances towards the comedic spectrum. The soundtrack is a classic blend of punk rock tracks including a specially commissioned title track by Iggy Pop (which is very reminiscent of ‘Peter Gunn’). As with many cults, the picture was ditched by the studio soon after its small-time release and subsequently grew considerably in stature, partly on the back of burgeoning soundtrack sales!

To my mind the movie has much in common with the likes of “The Blues Brothers”, not least in terms of some very over-the-top characters, lots of car-based action and the anarchic, devil-may-care attitude of Otto and some of his friends and colleagues. The establishment are just as incompetent in this as they are in that film. Add some song and dance numbers and you have got “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Estevez delivers a winning performance; his trademark crazy cackling and contempt for authority figures fit in perfectly here, whilst Stanton’s standard burnt-out, chilled-but-stressed-beneath-the-surface take on Bud creates an interesting dynamic when the duo embark on a job. Otto gets to do sorties with other repo men as well, and each one has a different take on how the work should be done.

The alien-in-the-boot sub-plot is a silly distraction that takes centre stage later in the film. Each time someone is foolish enough to open the Malibu’s trunk they are vaporised, leaving behind just a pair of smouldering boots. Shortly afterwards an army of biohazard-suited goons turns up along with Agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes – “They Live”), a Woman in Black with a bizarre metal hand. The real meat of the film (such as there is) is in the exchanges between the repo men and their nerve-wracking day-to-day work.

The comedy is a bit hit-and-miss. The most successful elements include three punk friends of Otto’s who keep ineptly robbing stores to feed their drug habbits, and the increasingly violent competition between the repo firm Otto and Bud work for and that run by arch rivals, the Rodriguez Brothers. There is no love lost between the two groups, a bit like the news room rivalry seen in “Anchor Man”. There is plenty of whacky humour elsewhere but it falls a bit flat.

Before I close it is worth mentioning that the movie could be seen to have political subtext, not least concerning bland, mindless mass-consumerism. For example, the shops are all stocked with identical, faceless products that simply announce themselves as ‘Food’ or ‘Beer’. The government is jokingly depicted as a hard-line, conspiratorial force that does not think twice about torturing or silencing its opponents, and Otto’s parents are witnessed sitting in a near catatonic state watching a TV evangelist, having given all their savings away to send bibles to Salvador, much to their son’s disgust. Director and writer Alex Cox may well have intended these themes to be considered and discussed in more depth, but in the context of such a zany film it is difficult to take them very seriously.

This newly polished Blu-ray edition presents the movie in pristine clarity, and immediately promotes itself as the format to have if you are a fan of the film. Although much of the film takes place in grubby city streets, the opening shot of the Malibu weaving along the endless desert Interstate looks superb.

The ‘director-approved’ special features include:

  • New high-definition master in the original aspect ratio 1.85:1
  • Original mono soundtrack and 5.1 remix, both in DTS-HD Master Audio
  • English SDH subtitles on the main feature
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • Audio commentary with Cox and executive producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas, and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, and Del Zamora
  • All-new 2012 video piece by Cox offering further thoughts on the film (HD)
  • “Repo Man” (entire TV version) - this legendary variant, prepared by Cox for network television, incorporates deleted material and surreal overdubs in place of profanity
  • “Repossessed” - a retrospective video piece on the making of the film, featuring Cox, producers Peter McCarthy and Jonathan Wacks, and actors Del Zamora, Sy Richardson, and Dick Rude
  • “The Missing Scenes” - a roundtable viewing of deleted scenes from the film with Cox, executive producer Michael Nesmith, real-life neutron bomb inventor Sam Cohen, and character “J Frank Parnell”
  • ’Harry Zen Stanton’ an extended interview with the legendary actor
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A 44-page full colour booklet specially created by Cox, entitled The Repo Code and incorporating all manner of Repo ephemera.

Most of this bonus content has been transferred over from the Region 1 DVD edition, which might sound a bit disappointing until you realise that the UK version had none of it to begin with! Cox’s brand new introduction gives us an overview of the troubled release of the movie, tussles with Universal over the rights to the “Repo” franchise/word and which brings us up to date in terms of the much more recent launch of “Repo Men” (no relation) and “Repo Chick”, which is apparently some kind of reimagining by Cox of his own picture. The booklet is a crazy mixture of scribblings, cartoons and notes by Cox, along with the original proposal for the movie.

“Repo Man" (1984) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 92 minutes appro., carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £19.99 on regular Blu-ray, £29.99 for the Limited Steelbook Edition, or less from www.culttvstore.com