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Tagline: Part man. Part machine. All cop. The future of law enforcement.

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Preshow Entertainment: HIDDEN VALUES: MOVIES OF THE '50S


The whole movie hinged on one piece of dialogue. When I first saw ROBOCOP, that's exactly what I thought. I still fool myself into thinking that, but it's just not so. What I really thought, and still think, is that ROBOCOP is a smart and fun movie that happens to have one of the best in-the-pocket, satisfying lines of dialogue, delivered a mere 33 seconds before the end of the movie. And it’s not even a full line; it’s just a few words. If you've seen the movie, you know what they are. I sure hope someone in next year’s (2014) remake uses them. I also hope the remake upgrades RoboCop’s software from DOS to Mountain Lion.

ROBOCOP was a perfect entry in the spate of playful sci-fi movies like THE TERMINATOR, THE THING, MAD MAX, TOTAL RECALL, and, I suppose E.T. and the BACK TO THE FUTURES. With its tongue-in-cheek tone, its low budget-ness and its comic book villains, this movie, like its hero, fights and wins. Part of the reason is because it's not simply about a robot that obliterates bad guys like a Terminator does. No, our guy - because that's what he was before he was killed; a guy - has a heart somewhere inside him.


Having just seen Dirty Harry Callahan in SUDDEN IMPACT at the last RMC, this felt like a good companion piece – the cartoon version. A lone indestructible cop with a massive firearm ridding the city of miscreants, or as RoboCop’s prime directives state – 1) Serve the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law, and a 4th one I won’t get into here because it’s classified (and a spoiler). I will say this, though; the movie ROBOCOP, made in 1987, was prescient. It said that in the future, Detroit would run out of money, and lo, in 2013, Detroit filed for bankruptcy. It also predicted (or was smart enough to realize) things like GPS, computer facial recognition, discs inserted to show video, and pocket cell phones, all of which were so sci-fi back in ’87.

It’s the not too distant future (which has probably passed by now) and things have changed. With women and men using the same changing room, you'd think the future would be awesome, but it's not. Detroit's gone to hell, and not just because of the return of 80’s fashion and dance clubs. No, it’s all about crime, which is now so bad the city wants to destroy “Old Detroit” and rebuild it into Delta City. Part of the plan to reduce crime is to use cops that are indestructible because…they are robots! Yay! But, of mice and men…

The prototype, a (stop motion yet oddly thrilling) robot named ED-209, pictured left, backfires (frontfires, actually) in one of the best scenes in the movie. But as fortune would have it, there’s another prototype – RoboCop. But can they get it up and running? Sure. "All we need is a volunteer." Enter Murphy (Peter Weller), a cop who transferred from Metro South (I don’t know why I wrote that. Who the fuck cares where he was transferred from??) and on his very first day is shot enough times to keep the makers of Karo Syrup afloat for decades.

Murphy becomes RoboCop. Finally, some hope in this lawless, dystopian, meshugenah Michigan city, whose crimes are largely courtesy of Clarence Boddicker (played by the always fun Kurtwood Smith) and his band of merry cackling men.


But ROBOCOP has more than one villain. Naturally, the Evil Corporation is a bad guy, headed here by Dick Jones (Ronny Cox, who I think I saw in a Mongolian BBQ place in Sherman Oaks a few months ago). When Jones and Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer as the exec championing RoboCop) get together, well, that can’t be good.


There’s so much going on in this pretend-to-be-silly movie. There’s comedy and violence (“Somebody wanna call a goddamn paramedic?” says Morton, after someone is shot hundreds of times), there’s sci-fi, there’s Christ metaphors and there’s social satire. Remember, this was the 80s, and Reaganomics was in full swing, as was coke, consumerism and yuppies. All that’s well and good, but personally, I think this is a pretty great movie with or without all that stuff.

I like that director Paul Verhoeven admitted he was insecure working on this film (good to know I’m not the only one insecure about their work). This was certainly a departure for the Dutch filmmaker, whose previous films like SPETTERS, SOLDIER OF ORANGE and TURKISH DELIGHT were videostore faves in the USA. ROBOCOP was his entry into “American” films. He went on to make, for better and for worse, TOTAL RECALL, HOLLOW MAN and STARSHIP TROOPERS. And BASIC INSTINCT. And SHOWGIRLS.

I listened to the commentary on the Criterion DVD, featuring super chatty co-writer/co-producer Eric Neumeier, who walked the tightrope of informative and headache-inducing, at times sounding annoyed if Verhoeven or producer John Davison wanted to say something. To his credit, Neumeier does acknowledge that it was Davison that came up with the movie’s coolest line (the one I mentioned up top), but then he follows it by saying, “I was smart enough to go ‘Oh that solves all our problems.” Still, Neumeier and co-writer Michael Miner did a bang-up job with a tight by-the-numbers script featuring smashcuts like, "You better pray that that unholy monster of yours doesn't screw up." CUT TO: RoboCop acting a bit quirky (he's dreaming...or more accurately, flashing back).

Peter Weller: “I’ve done maybe five or six movies that I’m really proud of and ROBOCOP is definitely one of them.” He should be. He did a great job as Murphy/Robo. You have to commit even when you think something may be silly. That’s one of the secrets of acting (sshhhh!). And did he commit. He worked months with a mime coach to get his robo-movements down. And during the shoot, he suffered. It was so hot inside that suit that he was constantly drinking water, and cool air had to be funneled in there in between takes. The day the suit arrived on set, it took 8, 10 or 11 hours (depending on who tells the story) to suit up the first time (it needed to be altered, chiseled, sanded, whatever; subsequent fittings went much, much faster.) “Whenever I felt bad, I used to look at Peter, and I didn’t feel nearly as bad,” remarked Kurtwood Smith. It’s said Weller lost 3 pounds a day in that thing. I say patent it and sell it on an infomercial – The RoboDiet. And while you’re at it, maybe give one to Louie Anderson.

There’s lots of fun stuff in ROBOCOP, like the Miranda Warning scene where Robo read the bad guy his rights while tossing him through windows. Another favorite scene of mine is when ED-209 and RoboCop fight. I won't give it away...okay, maybe just a little bit. It's technology, or rather lack of technology that defeats one of them. It’s clever as all hell and brilliantly animated, which means it’s time to give high praise to Phil Tippet and his Harryhausen-ish stop motion. And speaking of effects…

So many of the effects, including Robo’s suit, were created by the very talented Rob Bottin (pronounced bo TEEN), who....wait…huh?...Rob Bottin??? Could this be the same Rob Bottin that worked for me in a videostore in NYC only a year earlier? Who had already worked on THE FOG and THE HOWLING? Yes, it could. I'm 99% sure, because I remember him talking about making models for movies. But I’m also 99% unsure (I was never good at statistics) because 1) He doesn’t look like I remember him and 2) How can that even be??? A special effects whiz taking a job in a videostore? Maybe he can email and tell me. Anyway, I may not know if he’s the same guy, but I sure as hell know that he and Verhoeven weren’t talking to each other by the time production started. And that wasn’t the only bad thing about the shoot. Let’s just say that it was a troubled production in more ways than one, so much so that producer John Davison said, “I swore I’d never make another picture.” (He did…though not many.)

Originally given an X rating (this was three years before X became NC-17) by the hateful and useless MPAA, Verhoeven and Co. had to cut several moments (not more violent than other moments that the MPAA approved, says me). But in the interest of something called honesty - who cares? The added “violent” footage, amounting to mere seconds, wouldn’t have made some kid become a serial killer, and cutting it wasn’t going to make anyone say the movie stinks. It’s a great movie with or without the extra few seconds. Sure, maybe a little better with, but as I said…who cares?


A quick tale. There was a Detroit Police RoboCop prop car parked on RMC’s street for months. I’m guessing it belonged to someone on RoboCop’s remake, someone from Transportation who took it home every night. After our screening of ROBOCOP, I went to take some photos of the picture car for this write-up, and of course, it was gone, never to return.

I'm curious about the impending doom, I mean, impending remake. So much of the technology was new (to us) back in 1987, and I fear it'll now be unimaginative CG (digital effects came to fruition in the 90s). And as mentioned, the original film reflected on the times – witness the fake commercials on the TVs. I’m not sure how, or if, the remake will handle these things. Maybe Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs will be the villains. But as far as the original is concerned, my advice to you is to forget its social satire and all that Verhoeven “I wanted to show Satan killing Jesus” schtick. It’s ROBOCOP for Christ’s and everyone else’s sake. Toss the metaphors away and have some fun. Just ignore the part near the end where RoboCop walks on water.

Preshow Entertainment: HIDDEN VALUES: MOVIES OF THE '50S

With nuclear war a possibility, America was changing, and so were its movies. HIDDEN VALUES is a great documentary about influential movies of the 50s and how they reflected the culture. The 60s went off the rails into Indie World, and the 50s served as its launch pad.


Talking heads tell us stories about movies like THE WILD ONE, BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, and of the era’s strong production codes (and hypocrisy of not being able to show sex).

"We want to go to the movies to see who we are. That's what we did in the 50s and that's what we do today," John Carpenter correctly muses. He also rhapsodizes about Howard Hawks, whose THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD made Carpenter want to make movies. Thirty years later, Carpenter would remake THE THING in one of Hollywood’s only good remakes. (There was a tepid third version in 2011, but as any Dr. Seuss fan will tell you, there is only Thing 1 and Thing 2).

Also relating personal stories, Roger Corman and Lee Grant, the latter telling of her "date" with Brando.

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