Repo Man(Universal Home Entertainment, 1.24.2006)
With the advent of new special edition DVDs with clever names (Airplane: Don't Call Me Shirley Edition, Clueless: Whatever Edition), they should have named this Repo Man: The Harry Dean Stanton Intense 'n' X-Treme Edition. In 2000, Anchor Bay released a flashy, but Dean-free edition of the film (in a tin case with a whole bunch of cool stuff). There were plenty of bells and whistles but, aside from stellar THX a/v specs and some promotional junk, the excellent audio commentary was the only substantial goodie in the set. With Focus Features' new collector's edition, we get a couple of great featurettes that bizarrely/entertainingly portray "The Dean Machine" as some sort of wacko (not that there was any doubt).
You're probably thinking, "Whoa, this special edition jargon is intense." In all fairness, the life of a Repo Man is always intense, so it's completely fitting that we get another supped-up edition of this quintessential 80s classic. My only gripe is that the cover art looks uncannily like that of Sin City. I know it sounds odd, but trust me. Emilio Estevez looks like Mickey Rourke, Olivia Barash looks like Rosario Dawson, and crazy Dean looks like That Yellow Bastard (more bastard and less yellow). The Repo font looks more like the Sin City font than it ever did and the city background looks identical to Sin's theatrical poster backdrop.
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the film. Obviously, it's a classic and you should be ashamed if you've never seen it (much less own it). The writing is terrific, the acting is superb, the high concept punk soundtrack is inspired and, best of all, the film's tone is pitch perfect social commentary/absurdist satire. Essentially, everything works in perfect 80s cult classic harmony. Alone, a lot of these elements wouldn't shine, but the sum of everything makes for a truly one-of-a-kind film experience. There's nothing quite like Repo Man so accept no substitutes (not even Sin City).
The a/v is great, but it isn't an upgrade over the previous edition, as this appears to be the same transfer (which is fine because it was great to begin with). There's a little grain here and there, but overall the picture quality is excellent. The film can be heard in 5.1 Dolby Surround or in its original 2-channel mono. It's good to have the mono for purists (being one myself), but the immersive 5.1 track does suit the film quite nicely. I'm glad to have both.
Our first extra is a new 20-minute "Up Close" interview with Harry Dean Stanton. Here, The Dean talks about his life and times, his career, politics, and existentialism. He even sings us a song on his gee-tar. For our listening (dis)pleasure, we get to hear Dean and his interviewer (who is also a Repo Man producer) sing "Row Your Boat." Also, at several points in the interview, Harry loses his temper and, naturally, hilarity ensues. This is a transcending, life-altering, somewhat religious experience that only comes once in a lifetime. Seriously, it's an awkward, fairly creepy actor's portrait that's not to be missed. I watch it once a week.
Next up is a brand-new 25-minute featurette called "Repossessed" that has writer/director Alex Cox and two of the film's producers discussing the selling of the script, casting, shooting on location, etc. They also talk about how wacky and difficult Harry Dean was on the set. Unfortunately for them, at the time Dean was the only well-regarded actor on the set so he pretty much got away with everything (hence the payback with this H.D.S. 2 Tha X-Treme Edition).
Another interesting comment is made when one of the producers claims that Napoleon Dynamite's persona was stolen from Otto's (Emilio Estevez) friend Kevin (Zander Schloss). Dick Rude (Duke), Del Zamora (Lagarto Rodrigues), and Sy Richardson (Lite) also contribute to the featurette with several amusing anecdotes. Several film clips are also used to highlight what the people are saying and (for a change) this technique actually works as more than just time filler.
There's a third featurette on the film's "Missing Scenes" with writer/director Cox and...wait for it, Sam Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb! This intriguing collection of omitted material lasts just over 25 minutes. The scenes themselves are cool but overall uneventful. Still, the candid discussion with Cox and co. is pretty interesting.
Lastly, we get the feature length commentary that was on the previous release. Cox, exec producer Michael Nesmith, casting director Victoria Thomas, actors Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, and Del Zemora all discuss the highs and lows of making Repo Man. All and all, this commentary is very informative, dense, and extremely enjoyable to listen to. The cast and crew's overall appreciation and fondness for each other really shows. Still, one can't help but fantasize about an Estevez/Stanton dual/duel commentary where, at the end, they fight to the death (stranger things have happened: again, see that Stanton interview). Lastly (for real this time) we get cast/crew bios and the film's snazzy theatrical trailer.
What exactly are you waiting for, a fourth edition? High-definition Stanton? Go get some sushi, don't pay and, instead, use your money to pick up this new, moderately-priced collector's edition. If you don't, Harry Dean Stanton will get upset and pull some crazy shit. -- Neil Karassik