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Repo Man (Standard Edition)

review by James S.


Rated R

Running Time: 92 minutes

Starring Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton

Studio: Universal (DVD release by Anchor Bay)

Directed by Alan Cox

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Theatrical and video trailers, Commentary with cast and crew, talent bios

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital English 5.1, Dolby Surround English, THX Approved, English Captions, Chapter Search

This film was originally released in 1984, near the end of the punk era. "Repo Man" is a story about Otto (Emilio Estevez), a post-pubescent suburban punk from LA. After finding a fellow punk buddy in bed with his gal, he jumps the punk scene and gets a job as a repo man. Learning the "Repo Code" from mentor Bud, played by Harry Dean Stanton, Otto trades his jeans and flannel for square suits befitting a 1950's private eye. During the course of his work, he meets Leila (Olivia Barash). Leila works at United Fruitcake Outlet, a front for a group trying to prove the existence of aliens (and not the illegal variety). She begs for Otto's help in finding the aliens, which are in the trunk of a 1964 Chevy Malibu. Leila's group wants the car to prove the existence of aliens, the feds want the car to continue their cover-up, and rival repo outfits want the car for its hefty reward. What ensues is a wacky and wild chase with plenty of memorable lines and cheesy special effects. You'll either love it or hate, but if you love it, it will go down as one of your favorite films.

It's been quite some time since I've seen the theatrical release of Repo Man. I have an old video tape of it which has become a garbled mess. I was pleased when the first scenes appeared on my Sony Wega. The lighting effects came across in the transfer of the film. The colors were as flat and natural as I had remember from the original film. I was expecting a grainy transfer after all these year but found the picture clear. Repo Man is light on the special effects, so it won't tax your player. Ultimately, the video quality has a natural look, one that won't become a benchmark in your collection.

Never a big budget release, the audio in Repo Man is understated. The dialogue is lucid, and the soundtrack underscores the action. Put simply, the film is basic in presentation as it utilizes naturally occurring sounds instead of overdone sound effects. The musical score ranges from barely audible background music to full-fledged in-your-face statements. I actually heard songs in the movie I hadn't heard from my taped copy.

Wise to the fact that the special edition of Repo Man included only a booklet and CD over the standard edition, I opted for the regular release. I already have the original soundtrack (on vinyl no less), so I didn't see much sense in paying 50% more for a leaflet I'd read once.

Despite skimping on the DVD, I found enough in it to warrant the $20 street price of the movie. The audio commentary with the crew and cast, including writer/director Alex Cox, executive producer and former Monkee Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas, and actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, and Del Zamora had plenty of chatter. They spoke of interesting stories from the set as well as off the set. You could tell the cast was enjoying the reunion of sorts, and hearing about bit characters who ended up having successful careers in front of or behind the camera was enjoyable. Did you know they tried to get Dennis Hopper and Muhammed Ali in the movie?

Character bios of some of the cast are included. Despite the underground nature of the film, some of the cast went on to moderately successful careers. The bios, however, were nothing more than static displays and not too impressive visually. In addition, the theatrical and video trailers are a token gesture.

On this one I'm a biased reviewer. I have been looking for this title to be released for some time. The film is witty and is one of the few original films to emerge from the 80s. The punk music in the film sounds as fresh today as it did nearly twenty years ago. The story breaks down in the end, but the ending is weird enough to keep you interested.

I'd stick with the cheaper standard edition. The difference in price between the standard and collector's edition is actually more than the price of the CD itself. I simply couldn't find myself paying extra for that plus a special tin container and booklet. If the collector's edition contained the television version of the film, which has substantially different dialogue (due to excessive language in the original), it would have been a better buy.

(5/5, NOT included in final score)




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