Today’s Classic 80s Movie guest post comes from Matt Clarke.
Movie Title: Repo Man
Writer/Director: Alex Cox
Lead Actors: Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton.
Plot Summary: Young punk Otto becomes a repo man after helping to steal a car, and stumbles into a world of wackiness as a result.
Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movie: I’ve been a big fan of Repo Man since I first watched it in a locked study room at the library in my old University. If you asked me what I liked about it right after that first viewing, I’d probably tell you about the oddball 50s comic serial vibe, the cool surf punk soundtrack and the surprisingly spiritual themes that run throughout. Overall, It is a story that wouldn’t be able to exist without the world that was created for it, right down to the agents with metal hands or the nihilisitc punks taking on one liquor store at a time – a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Conning TV evangelists, smooth Hispanic repo rivals, men in black style feds; Repo Man bubbles in its own mythology. This will give you a good idea of what I mean:
But my love of Repo Man only grew upon discovering Alex Cox’s website. His extensive library of screenplays (check it out if you haven’t – it’s a fucking goldmine), prove that the themes on discussion here are apparent in his entire body of work. From the pulp trash style and the channeling of contemporary zeitgeists, Cox recycles as much as he innovates. The cypher may change, but the cores stay true to himself.
So why don’t I think his other films have made the same impression as Repo Man? For one, the performances. Emilio Estevez might have nailed the dissolute loner drifiting aimlessly in a punk apocalypse but it is the ecclectic cast of sardonic repo people that have it down. Harry Dean Stanton has never been better as Otto’s mentor, the speed-snorting, perenially pissed off Bud; his pitch-perfect performance hitting us in the face as soon as he coaxes his prodige-to-be to help get his wife’s car out of ‘this bad area’. And then there is the horrendously overlooked Sy Richardson as Lite, the gun-toting Dirty Harry of the repo game. On top of that you still need to add Tracy Walter as junkyard philosopher Miller, Olivia Barash as Otto’s geeky squeeze and Fox Harris who puts in one helluva demented stab as lobotomised scientist/alien corpse courier J Frank Parnell.
The icing on the proverbial cake, however, is the ending. Suddenly all this talk of time machines and flying saucers makes sense as the now luminous Chevy Malibu takes off. With one last gasp, the film transcends its trash genre trappings and enters into the pantheon of greatness. If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself:
My Favorite Moment In The Movie: Despite being Otto’s story, Harry Dean Stanton’s Bud is the one you’ve come to see. Their mentor-mentee relationship is the best thing about the film. Here’s why:
My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:
Duke: “The lights are growing dim Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.”
J Frank Parnell: “Eveyone could stand a hundred x-rays a year!”
Miller: “The life of a repo man is always intense.”
Bud: “Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people.”
Agent Rogersz: “ It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.”
Bud: “You know, kid, uh, usually when when someone pulls shit like that, my first reaction is, I wanna punch his fuckin’ lights out. But you know something? YOU’RE ALL RIGHT.”
Oly: “Best goddamn car on the lot”
Bud: “…and that’s why I don’t know a repo man that don’t do speed.”
And then there’s this gem from Miller. It’s theme time everybody!
Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: I could go on and on about the fun visual flourishes that Repo Man basques in or how the film sizzles in its own satire but, for me, it is the soundtrack that pulls the whole thing together. Whether we are careening through an aqueduct repo race or pondering on Otto’s melacholia, The Plugz mould their own particular brand of soulful surf punk into a fitting, and often powerful, score to set the mood.
As well as this, Repo Man boasts a crop of tracks from the burgeoning LA scene that, again, helps to weave the tapesty in place. From Black Flag’s ‘TV Party’ to Suicidal Tendencies ‘Institutionalized’ and even the inclusion of a live Circle Jerks performance, Repo Man has an awesomely solid musical accompaniment from beginning to end. And that’s not even mentioning Iggy Pop’s inclusion of the film’s title track and this fucking great piece of rugged pop by Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers:
Thanks, Matt! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!
Tomorrow: Two more Classic 80s Movies!