Robocop Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
1987, 103 minutes, Unrated
Released on November 26th, 2019
Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/ RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Ann Lewis
Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
Dan O’Herlihy as The Old Man
Ray Wise as Leon
Alex Murphy is a good cop recently transferred to a new precinct and partnered with dedicated veteran officer Ann Lewis in crime-ridden Old Detroit. They answer the call of a bank robbery and chase the criminals to an abandoned factory where Murphy is brutally tortured and murdered by a gang of thugs led by the evil Clarence Boddiker. But Murphy is not quite dead and becomes part of a cutting-edge project from powerful conglomerate Omni Consumer Products (OCP). He returns to the force as RoboCop, a cyborg designed to revolutionize law enforcement. His success rate is unmatched, but there is a glitch in his system and he begins experiencing haunting memories of his former life, specifically of his family and of the men who killed him. RoboCop is on a new mission to reclaim his identity and bring his murderers to justice. In doing so he uncovers a thread of corruption that goes all the way to the top of the corporate ladder and may be beyond the law.
First-time screenwriters Edward Neumeier (Starship Troopers) and Michael Miner (Lawnmower Man 2) knocked it out of the park with their explosive hit RoboCop. The briskly-paced script combines elements from several popular genres and creates something fresh and exciting. Loaded with social commentary and a healthy dose of black comedy and religious subtext, audiences are introduced to a new style of action hero. The over-the-top ultra-violence sets an aggressive tone that seldom lets up. Gleefully directed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall), the film satirizes the media and the corporate world while delivering a powerful message.
Peter Weller (Of Unknown Origin) stars as Murphy/ RoboCop, the hero resurrected to save the community from evil forces. He makes an immediate impression as the doomed Murphy and an even stronger mark as the titular cyborg. Weller is all business for the first half of the picture but becomes deeply sympathetic as he attempts to reclaim his humanity. Nancy Allen (Poltergeist III) co-stars as Lewis, a self-assured cop who can handle herself in a jam. She is the first to draw the connection to her old partner and becomes his biggest supporter.
There are multiple antagonists in this film, none nastier than Clarence Boddicker, and Kurtwood Smith (Rambo III) shines in the role. The always-welcome Ray Wise (Jeepers Creepers 2) plays one of his henchmen and also appears to be having a blast. The corporate world is run by the powerful Dick Jones, played against type by the incredible Ronny Cox (Deliverance), second in command to the company CEO – known only as The Old Man – played affably by Dan O’Herlihy (Halloween III). Miguel Ferrer (Twin Peaks) makes a memorable turn as rising talent Bob Morton, who designed the RoboCop project, but may be a bit too opportunistic for his own good.
RoboCop has a lot going for it with its incredible script, rock-solid direction and top-notch cast. It also features phenomenal special make-up effects by Rob Bottin (The Howling), who not only handled the gore but also designed the marvelous Robo-suit. Legendary composer Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian) adds to the win column with his driving score. The film was an instant success and launched a franchise that includes two sequels, starting with the equally graphic RoboCop 2 (1990). Later, as the character appealed to younger viewers through a variety of action figures and a cartoon, a friendlier PG-13 version arrived in RoboCop 3 (1993). The material was later revisited in a 2014 remake, but did not make the same audience connection. The original RoboCop remains the best in the series and it is amazing how well it holds up over thirty years later and it would be a crime to miss it.
Video and Audio:
MGM commissioned a 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative for their 2013 Blu-ray release and that same stunning transfer appears here. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is razor-sharp and rich with color. Black levels are solid and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
RoboCop arrives with three audio options, including the original stereo mix presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, a DTS-HD MA 4.0 surround mix and a remastered DTS-HD MA 5.1 expanded track. All three selections are satisfying, with the 5.1 mix taking the lead. There is a lot of activity spread around the room with piercing gunshots and thunderous explosions masterfully mixed with the infectious score. Dialogue levels are well-balanced and always understandable.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
This edition features both the unrated Director’s Cut and the R-rated Theatrical Cut of the film on separate Blu-ray discs.
Disc 1: Director’s Cut
There are three audio commentaries, starting with a vintage recording by director Paul Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and screenwriter Ed Neumeier. This is a lively discussion filled with great stories and asides paired with plenty of behind-the-scenes information you will definitely want to check out.
The second commentary comes from historian Paul M. Sammon, who worked in limited capacity on both this film and its sequel. He traces the history of the production and dissects the themes and subtext of the story. There are many production tales and some background information on the cast and crew.
The third commentary features filmmakers Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen, the team responsible for the upcoming documentary RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop. This is a fun conversation with three super-fans who happily share anecdotes and trivia about the making of the movie.
The Future of Law Enforcement: Creating RoboCop (17 minutes) is a newly-filmed interview with co-writer Michael Miner, who discusses the creation of the script with Ed Neumeier. He reflects on shaping the story and developing the characters. Other topics include his thoughts on Verhoeven and Peter Weller, the design of the suit, and the MPAA reaction to the violence.
Filmmakers Nick McCarthy (At the Devil's Door) and David Birke (Slender Man) sit down for a discussion with co-writer Ed Neumeier in RoboTalk (32 minutes). He reflects on coming up with the idea and partnering with Miner to write the script. He talks about RoboCop’s religious subtext and shares his thoughts on character development, pacing and the tone of excess. He goes on to tell of attracting Paul Verhoeven and Jon Davison to the project and also his memories of seeing the film with an audience.
In Truth of Character (18 minutes), actress Nancy Allen remembers her time as Robocop’s trusty partner and shares some of her favorite scenes. She tells of being immediately hooked by the script and its rich characters. Other topics include working with Verhoeven, gun training, filming on location, the great cast and crew and a positive set experience.
Casting director Julie Selzer appears in Casting Old Detroit (8 minutes), who has great memories of Weller and Allen and the challenge of casting great actors against type. She remembers the experience as a highlight of her career.
Connecting the Shots (11 minutes) features acclaimed editor Mark Goldblatt (Nightbreed), who served as the film’s second unit director. He talks about his longtime working relationship with producer Jon Davison and of meeting Verhoeven. He was hired to shoot coverage and specific shots and scenes in the style of the director. Goldblatt went on to work as editor on Verhoeven’s Showgirls and Starship Troopers.
Visual effects artists Peter Kuran and Kevin Kuchaver detail their work generating photographic effects in Analog (13 minutes). They were in charge of “Robovision” – that is, all of the graphics and displays seen on screen in Robocop’s POV shots. They also discuss the scenes featuring heat vision and an early form of GPS. In a nice touch, the interview features clips of their early Super8 short films.
In More Man Than Machine: Composing RoboCop (12 minutes) film music experts; Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, Daniel Schweiger and Robert Townson pay tribute to composer Basil Poledouris. They analyze the score’s character themes and motifs and praise the emotional fanfare of Robocop’s triumphs.
Super-fan Julien Dumont shows off his amazing collection of original props and memorabilia in RoboProps (13 minutes). Highlights include the original RoboCop suit and gun, rare photographs from make-up artist Rob Bottin’s workshop, a collection of original storyboards and some truly gigantic international poster art.
A May 31, 2012, panel discussion with the filmmakers (43 minutes), featuring Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, co-writers Neumeier and Miner, actors Peter Weller and Nancy Allen and animator Phil Tippett is a fun viewing experience that moves at a steady pace and will keep your interest with fun anecdotes and interesting trivia.
RoboCop: Creating a Legend (2007, 21 minutes) is a vintage featurette looking back on the making of the film with several members of the cast and crew. There are many great production stories about the Robo-suit worth checking out.
Paul Verhoeven, co-writers Neumeier and Miner and actors Ronny Cox, Ray Wise, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer reflect on RoboCop’s colorful bad guys in Villains of Old Detroit (2007, 17 minutes).
In Special Effects: Then & Now (2007, 18 minutes), production designer William Sandell, matte painter Rocco Gioffre, ED-209 designer Craig Hayes and animator Phil Tippett explain their process and show examples of their work including models. They also discuss how special effects have evolved into the digital realm.
A brief moment of levity from the shoot is presented as the Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg (1 minute).
Four deleted scenes (3 minutes), including an extended ending are included; all involving additional “media break” segments. These are interesting to see but were wisely trimmed.
The Boardroom: Storyboard (6 minutes) features original drawings appearing alongside shots from the finished film with commentary by Phil Tippett, who explains the process and possibilities of stop-motion photography.
Gore-hounds will be happy to see the segment Director’s Cut Production Footage (12 minutes), a collection of raw dailies from the filming of the uncensored gore scenes.
Two theatrical trailers are paired with three TV spots for a look at the marketing campaign.
There are three extensive photo galleries: production stills (109 images), behind-the-scenes shots (84 images) and international poster art (56 images).
Disc 2: Theatrical Cut
The archival commentary with Verhoeven, Davison and Neumeier from the director’s cut is also included on this edit.
Two isolated score tracks (Composer's Original Mix & Final Theatrical Mix) in lossless stereo are included and are awesome.
RoboCop: Edited for Television (19 minutes) is a compilation of alternate scenes from two edited-for-television versions, newly transferred in HD from recently unearthed 35mm elements.
The complete edited-for-television version of the film, featuring alternate dubs, takes and edits of several scenes (95 minutes, SD only) is also included.
Split-screen comparisons of the theatrical and director's cuts (4 minutes) and the theatrical and TV cuts (20 minutes) are presented for study.
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