Sunday, November 24, 2019

All hail Paul Verhoeven, as the 1987 sensation, ROBOCOP, makes its grand Blu-ray debut

Only the other day I was complaining about an unusually poor Blu-ray transfer from the almost-always excellent distributor, Arrow Video. The firm more than makes up for that faux pas with the release it has coming out next week: a sleek new Blu-ray of the groundbreaking sci-fi/action/satire ROBOCOP.

Though beaten to release by James Cameron's The Terminator three years earlier, that film (still the best by far of all the Terminator movies) did not have Robocop's sterling social satire and anti-Capitalist stance, via screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and its internationally acclaimed director Paul Verhoeven.

Mr. Verhoeven (shown at right) doesn't pile it on here as much as did in his later Starship Troopers, but the satire still sparkles and penetrates. From the first scene of a television newscast (these just don't change much over the decades, do they?) through our trip to corporate America and its plan to eviscerate society by pretending to help us, the movie is often simultaneously violent and hilarious, as was/is often Verhoeven's wont.

And don't worry if the image during that and other newscasts seems low-def. So will the scenes involving computer screens and imaging (as below). But once we leave TV and technology screens behind, the rest of the movie's narrative -- seen in utter hi-def sharpness and juicy chrome-bred colors -- proves amazing and a joy to view.

The tale here is one of a would-be corporate take-over and privatization of Detroit's police force. The movie was released during the British "reign" of Margaret Thatcher, during which privatization became a kind of holy watchword, with the fall of British unions the sad byproduct. (Or maybe privatization was actually the byproduct of union demise.)

The introduction of a new policing machine (above) at film's beginning is both funny and horrific, and Verhoeven's and his writers' wit and humor are further seen when this same machine, later in the film, must negotiate a flight of stairs.

The cast is aces, too. In the leading roles, Peter Weller (above), as the rookie cop who soon becomes robo and Nancy Allen as his policing partner could hardly be bettered. Weller spends much of his screen time behind his robocop attire (below), but there' no mistaking those luscious lips.

Ms Allen (above, left, and below), far too infrequently seen after her role in Dressed to Kill -- movies just didn't seem to know what to do with her or how to best use her -- brings enormous humanity to the film (and to robocop himself), and she's a treasure to watch in action. (There a very nice close-to-present-day interview with the actress among the enormous Bonus Features on one of the discs in this two-disc set.)

Verhoeven knows when to give us down-and-dirty action and violence. But he also understands less is more, just as he does the occasional need for more is more. His pacing is on the mark, and his excellent use of lost memory (and how to give this to us on screen) remains about as good as we have yet seen, even after the many times we've by now endured this Oh, gosh, I'm starting to remember! routine.

Dan O'Herlihy, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer (horizontal, above, in the third photo from top) and Robert DoQui lead the fine supporting cast, but the film's ace-in-the-hole is probably Ronny Cox (above), who plays the smartly tailored, extremely nasty villain with just the right combination of relish and disdain.

As with almost all the Blu-ray of Arrow Video, the Bonus Features are plentiful, but Arrow has  really outdone itself here: TrustMovies counted a total of 32 (you can peruse them all by clicking here and scrolling down).

Distributed in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual, Robocop hits the street this coming Tuesday, November 26, in both a Blu-ray limited edition and a Blu-ray Steelbook edition -- for purchase (and I hope, somewhere, for rental, too).

No comments: