Paul Verhoeven’s career in Hollywood stretched to just six films over 13 years all of which were memorable for one reason or another and his first, Robocop was a violent sci-fi blockbuster satire which became a huge hit with brilliant sequences and a wealth of quotable dialogue that would only really be eclipsed once Tarantino was on the scene.
Co written by Michael Miner and Ed Neumeier, respectively a DoP and junior studio executive who had a similar ideas with Miner’s about a supercop metal uniform that transformed any cop wearing it and was very anti-capitalist in theme whereas Neumeier’s similar idea included the corporate board’s and their arrogant execs who, in one of Robocop’s iconic scenes, saw a prototype robot law enforcer eviscerate one poor exec in a seemingly unending hail of gunfire in what was probably a bit of wish fulfillment on Neumeier’s part. Robocop had speculatively been pitched to 20th Century Fox and also Columbia but turned down and ended up at Orion where a Dutch director was working having finished the Rutger Hauer starrer ‘Flesh & Blood’. Unfortunately their script went straight in the director’s bin until his wife retrieved it, read it and told her husband that it was ideal for him. So without Mrs Verhoeven it’s unlikely we would have had the Robocop film that we know and love have today.
What followed was Peter Weller cast as Murphy a cop transferred to a crime ridden Detroit (a city which had made tanks for the US tanks in Vietnam) and paired with Nancy Allen’s, Officer Lewis. It’s whilst out on patrol that they corner a violent gang headed up by a sociopathic criminal Clarence (a chillingly psychotic Kirkwood Smith who in real life is utterly charming) who captures, tortures and seemingly kills Murphy only for a corporation to rebuild him as Robocop in an effort to clean the city of crime in turn supporting their corporation’s empire building in Detroit not realizing that their new law enforcement Robocop starts having memory recall.
The central idea of Robocop was not an unusual one but it was brilliantly bought to life by effects genius Rob Bottin the man behind the jaw dropping make up in John Carpenter’s The Thing. With Weller inside the costume bringing humanity to the cyborg cop who was both a ruthless criminal killing machine but at the same time haunted by submerged memories of his family. Weller bought the character to life having worked with a mime artist for Robocop’s movements. It was a stunning performance in a costume that was far from comfortable to work in.
Verhoeven then as he is now was an unstoppable bundle of energy and jumping around and performing everyone’s role on set the set and he even gets a blink and you miss it cameo in a scene in a nightclub. The violence in Robocop was a template for that which would follow in his subsequent films and this blu ray edition of the film has a director’s cut which includes that boardroom massacre scene as well as other that were cut down usually due to the violence. It’s little surprise that in the US the MPAA censors wanted some of the violence cut back to prevent the dreaded X-certificate. Apart from the violence Robocop has some brilliantly subversive satirical swipes at capitalism in a series of mock TV commercials and an almost endless number of lines to quote and even featured stop motion work which was coming to the end of its day as CGI loomed on the horizon.
Released in 1987 the film was a huge hit earning back four times its budget and Weller as Robocop popping up in the Oscar’s audience when the film won an Oscar for its sound effects editing.
This blu ray steel book release has two discs packed with bonus features albeit many from the 2007 disc which in itself was a great release. Here the film has been restored in 4K and includes both the theatrical and directors cut (with a split screen comparison) with three separate commentaries the best being from the still excitable Verhoeven – there’s also an edited for TV friendly version which is hilarious with its substitution of swear words with nonsensical replacement words (‘Fun you! Fun You! Fun you!’). In addition there’s a huge array of featurettes with Nancy Allen, the writers, casting directors, a 2012 Q&A with cast and crew, deleted scenes and a whole load more. If the discs falls down on anything it’s a new interview with Peter Weller especially who is notably absent from the disc. This is probably as Ultimate a version of the disc as we’ll ever see with Verhoeven having returned to Europe where he made the controversial Elle and is shortly to release ‘Benedetta’ which we reported on HERE. Robocop is a firm favourite amongst sci-fi fans and anyone in any doubt about not buying it ….well in the words of Robocop himself, Think it over, Creep!’
Here’s the Robocop trailer…….
ROBOCOP LIMITED EDITION BLU RAY STEELBOOK & BLU RAY IS AVAILABLE FROM 25TH NOVEMBER 2019