RoboCop: Special Edition (1987)

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Released 13-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Making Of-Flesh And Steel: The Making Of RoboCop
Audio Commentary-Paul Verhoeven (Director), Ed Neumeier & Jon Davison
Featurette-1987 Featurettes; Shooting RoboCop; Making RoboCop
Deleted Scenes-5
Theatrical Trailer-2
Trailer-RoboCop 2; RoboCop 3
TV Spots
Storyboard Comparisons-with Phil Tippett Commentary
Gallery-6
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 98:56 (Case: 102)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (25:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Version Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Verhoeven
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Peter Weller
Nancy Allen
Dan O'Herlihy
Ronny Cox
Kurtwood Smith
Miguel Ferrer
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Basil Poledouris


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Greek
Hungarian
Hebrew
Turkish
Czech
Smoking Yes, frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "People seem to have this strange idea that films can influence people to be violent, but in my sincere opinion film only reflects the violence of society." --Paul Verhoeven

    If ever there was a quote that reflected the sheer genius contained in each and every frame of RoboCop, then that's the one. Not only has Hollywood tried and failed to diminish it with sequels and television spin-offs that get more appalling and insulting as time goes on, but every aspect of the film is perfect. Paul Verhoeven's direction, as well as the ideas he contributed, are the stuff of genius, and Ed Neumeier's script takes more sarcastic bites at Reaganism in two minutes than most films that specifically set out to do so can muster in two hours. Then we have Peter Weller and Kurtwood Smith practically becoming their characters from their first appearance, and they're not the only ones. As if that wasn't enough, Rob Bottin contributes special effects the likes of which remain unmatched, even today, and Basil Poledouris' score music is truly one of the great unrecognised masterpieces. Ken Russell has called RoboCop the greatest science fiction film since Metropolis, and I call it the biggest punch in the face of family-oriented trash there ever has been or ever will be.

    Considering that the screenplay for RoboCop did the rounds for a couple of years before Paul Verhoeven threw the script across the room, re-read it on the insistence of his wife, Martine (to whom fans like myself will be forever thankful), and then finally agreed to direct it, the simplicity of the main story is really quite striking. It's the little details, such as the mock commercials and super-violent action scenes that make this film the gem that it is. The story is set in a non-specific future, where the city of Detroit is falling apart as a result of crime, while a multinational conglomerate known as Omni Consumer Products has been contracted to fund and run the police force. Since they have taken up this task, dozens of police officers have been killed, most of them by a cocaine dealer who goes by the name of Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). Meanwhile, at OCP headquarters, senior president Richard Jones (Ronny Cox), demonstrates the ED-209 robot that he has been developing, which proceeds to kill an innocent OCP employee in a showering of gore that is truly hilarious in its uncut form. One of Jones' staff, a cocky young executive by the name of Robert Morton (Miguel Ferrer), sees his big chance and pitches a project to the CEO known as The Old Man (Daniel O'Herlihy).

    Morton's project is codenamed RoboCop, and he needs a dead policeman in order to build a prototype, which should pose no problem since police officers seem to get killed faster than they can pick their nose. After pursuing Clarence through the industrial sector of Detroit, two police offers by the names of Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) and Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) get "taken out" by he and his gang. Anne lives to fight another day, but Alex is literally shot apart, piece by piece, and he dies on the operating table in spite of the best efforts of emergency surgeons (who, according to the commentary on the Criterion disc, are played by real emergency surgeons). Anyway, you don't need to be a genius to figure out which dead officer OCP use to create the RoboCop cyborg, and things seem to go swimmingly for a while until Anne recognises shades of her former partner in the cyborg's behaviour. After a nasty dream, and being approached by Anne, RoboCop sets off into the night, simply stating "somewhere, there is a crime happening". Through sheer coincidence, the next crime he happens upon is being committed by Emil (Paul McCrane), one of the hoodlums who killed Alex Murphy. As RoboCop sets off after the other gang members, and the police edge towards going on strike, the criminal element in Detroit seek to rid themselves of RoboCop for good.

    If you think I love this film, then you're understating things by a long, long way. It is the greatest film ever made, end of story. It is (almost) darker than a Black Sabbath record, funnier at times than a melting man being run over in a crappy car, and it is a bigger "&%!@ you" to the people who would reprogram us all to think like a Wiggle than any other Paul Verhoeven film, which is saying something. The fact that there is more blood in this film than both of the real Evil Dead films put together combined doesn't hurt, either, since anyone who has ever felt the insatiable desire to kill another specific human being will easily relate to such scenes. I mean let's face it, it doesn't get any more perfect than the moment when RoboCop (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) picks up Clarence and reads him his rights while throwing him through a few plate glass windows. If you have a sadistic or violent mind, then not only is RoboCop a film you should check out, but it is one that you may well wind up watching in a semi-religious manner like I do.

    I've been getting a few comments (in the real world, that is) about some points of confusion in this film, so I thought I would take the time to point out a few mistakes that have been printed in such sources as the June 2002 issue of Empire magazine. First of all, Paul Verhoeven's "cameo" (it's actually just the producer and writer turning the camera on him for a brief moment) is during the disco when Leon is arrested, not during the 6000 SUX mock commerical as a number of sources have erroneously stated. Secondly, the game Nukem is titled exactly that way, not "Nuke 'Em". Thirdly, the name of the Bixby Snyder show is not I'll Buy That For A Dollar (he says "I'd buy that for a dollar"), but It's Not My Problem.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Now that we have established that this is my ultimate favourite film on Earth, and that I would kill millions without batting an eyelid in order to preserve the freedom to make others like it, you might be wondering how the transfer holds up. I would have liked to report that RoboCop has finally received the reference quality transfer that it deserves, but this Special Edition is a bit of a mixed bag. The good outweighs the bad, however, and I suspect that this may be as good as the film is going to look until a progressive, high definition format becomes available.

    The transfer is presented in the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The proper aspect ratio for this film, at least as far as director Paul Verhoeven is concerned, is 1.66:1, but the film was presented theatrically at 1.85:1, so this is an acceptable way to present the film.

    The sharpness of this transfer is simply excellent, with brilliant, vivid detail leaping out of the screen at almost all moments without the harsh, artificial feel that was apparent on the Criterion version of this disc. The Media Break segments and mock commercials aren't so sharp, due to what looks like having lines removed in order to simulate the feel of American television in the late 1980s, and the shots from RoboCop's viewpoint also suffer due to having a similar effect applied. This, however, is an intentional effect, so I can let that go without complaints. However, the one area where this transfer disappoints is in the shadow detail, with the brief cameo by Paul Verhoeven at 56:02 having so little detail in it that his facial features are dissolved in a black mass. By comparison, the Criterion disc has a murky, sometimes hazy transfer with what looks like the best shadow detail that can be asked for under the circumstances. Thankfully, there is no low-level noise on this new Special Edition.

    The colours in this film are very realistic, with numerous shades of brown and grey used to simulate the brutal futuristic vision of Detroit. They are very well saturated on this DVD, without any bleeding or composite artefacts becoming apparent.

    MPEG artefacts were not noticed in this transfer in spite of the bitrate being surprisingly low throughout the feature. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing on Robert DoQui's name plate at 3:29, the Delta City model at 7:39, and on Paul McCrane's shotgun at 19:35, to name the most typical examples. All in all, this artefact was very well controlled, although it was quite pervasive during the Media Break sequences and the sequences from RoboCop's viewpoint. This can be partly blamed on the intentional showing of the picture's line structure and reduction in resolution, however (the mock commercials were filmed on video, according to the commentary). Film artefacts were found in slightly higher numbers than I would normally consider acceptable for a feature of this age, with the worst offender being a sizeable scratch on the middle left of the negative at 53:32.

    There are English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles available on this disc, but they unfortunately contain some unforgivable variations on the spoken dialogue that lose a lot of the punch.

    There are two versions of the film on this disc, with the Director's Cut accessible by seamless branching. Unfortunately, the branching in this case is anything but seamless, with noticeable pauses occurring at 10:47, 25:28, 83:37, and 89:56, which coincides with where previously removed footage has been reinstated. The only one of these pauses that remains when the theatrical cut is selected is at 25:28, or 25:00 in the theatrical cut. This is just after Peter Weller's character dies on the operating table, and while it is not the ideal place for a layer change, it is inconspicuous enough to make the grade.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Unfortunately, the audio transfer is also something of a mixed bag, and less forgivably so in my humble opinion.

    There are two soundtracks on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second, and an English Audio Commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I seriously wish that the original dialogue had been encoded with a higher bitrate, although this might not entirely fix the main problem with this transfer.

    In a nutshell, there were moments when the dialogue was difficult, if not impossible, to make out over the rest of the soundtrack. Two shining examples of this are when Kurtwood Smith says "Bobby, get the door" at 15:06, and when one of the anonymous scientists says "lock it down" at 25:57. This is a major disappointment, as the matrixed surround mix on the Criterion DVD has no such problems with dialogue intelligibility, save from the problems both discs have with some of the effects used on ED-209's voice. Thankfully, there are no discernable audio sync problems.

    The score music in this film is credited to Basil Poledouris, and it is quite simply magnificent enough to be comparable to the works of such composers as the great John Williams. It even contains a couple of what I like to call "I am Iron Man" moments, in that one can hear Ozzy Osbourne's voice speaking those four words through a distortion pedal in the back of their mind if they concentrate on the music hard enough, such as when RoboCop enters the station at 28:48. During the scene in which RoboCop arrests Leon Nash at 55:19, a song called Show Me Your Spine by a band called P.T.P., featuring Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy, can be heard. This is, in fact, the only place where this song can be heard - it is not even available on the RoboCop soundtrack released by Varèse Sarabande Records, unfortunately.

    The surround channels are used throughout the film to support such sounds as passing vehicles, music, and the occasional gunfire. The sound stage is heavily biased towards the front, but this is acceptable in light of the fact that the film was presented theatrically with Dolby Stereo sound. There are some moments, such as the flying hubcap, when the surround channels are used in a quick, clever manner to make the film more immersive, but fundamentally, this is a stereo mix with the occasional surround element.

    The subwoofer was used in an uneven fashion to support gunfire, footsteps, explosions, and a host of other effects that make RoboCop as powerful as it is. During such moments as when ED-209 walks towards the executives at 9:48, or when Peter Weller punches Mark Carlton through a window at 38:43, or even when he kicks in the door to the cocaine plaint at 61:10, the subwoofer is more active than I have heard from any other Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack to date. It will seriously make you jump out of your seat if you haven't already seen the film several hundred times. However, there are times, such as when Peter Weller's arm is shot off at 21:40, when it is barely audible, which is a disappointment compared to the aggression of the 2.0 surround-encoded mix found on the Criterion DVD. All in all, however, this is a very good audio transfer that is denied excellence by some very occasional slip-ups.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Criterion's refusal to license extras at a reasonable rate appears to have backfired on them in a big way in this case, as the collection of extras on this new Special Edition is truly astounding.

Menu

    The menu is heavily animated, features a well-rendered introduction based on a scene from the feature, is 16x9 Enhanced, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. The scene selection menus also feature excellent animations to give the viewer a preview of the scene they are about to jump to. The only complaint I have is the use of icons for navigation.

Audio Commentary - Paul Verhoeven (Director), Ed Neumeier (Writer), Jon Davison (Producer)

    Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, this is actually a new audio commentary, not a recycling of the one that appears on the Criterion DVD and Laserdisc. Unlike that previous commentary, this one features all three participants in the same session, not spliced together from separate ones. Paul and Ed speak almost non-stop, talking about all the tricks they used, and problems they encountered, in getting the film made, while Jon occasionally chimes in with his own little contributions. This is the single best commentary track that is going to be available in Region 4 for some time, and a shining example of what happens when the right participants are assembled. I can't wait to hear the commentary they do next time for the twenty-fifth anniversary.

Theatrical Trailer

    Listed as Trailer 1 in the trailers submenu, this piece is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. This ninety-eight second trailer does what few other theatrical trailers these days do - sells the film without giving away all of its good points.

Teaser Trailer

    Listed as Trailer 2 in the trailers submenu, this trailer  is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. Running for eighty-three seconds, it features some rather odd-sounding overdubs that were obviously designed to pique the interest of unsuspecting audiences.

Trailer - RoboCop 2

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, this trailer runs for eighty-three seconds. My honest opinion of the film is that it tries way too hard to get the sarcastic teeth into the Nanny mentality that was sweeping America at the time (and still is), and as a result is often seen to be trying too hard to live up to the original. Compare the Sunblock 5000 mock commercial with the 6000 SUX mock commercial and you will see what I mean.

Trailer - RoboCop 3

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, this trailer runs for two minutes and two seconds. There isn't a word in English for how I feel about this utter piece of the proverbial (the film itself, I mean). It is a politically correct insult to everything that the first film stood for, and while RoboCop 2 was disappointing, at least it wasn't a complete sell-out like this sequel. If it isn't rated R for Very Frequent Violence, it is not a genuine RoboCop sequel.

TV Spot

    The one TV spot on this disc is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. It is thirty-two seconds of footage that has already been seen in the other trailers.

Deleted Scenes

    This submenu contains five sequences, four of which are scenes that did not make it into the final cut of the film for reasons other than the MPAA having a fit. The last option in this submenu is actually a featurette of B-roll footage, showing the making of the sequences that had to be toned down at the behest of the MPAA. All of them are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, except the Nun In The Street scene, which is presented at 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. None of them are 16x9 Enhanced. In order, we have OCP Press Conference (1:16), Nun In The Street (0:16), Topless Pizza (0:26), Final Media Break (0:52), and Director's Cut Footage (11:05).

Featurette - Flesh And Steel: The Making Of RoboCop

    This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with film footage in 1.85:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. It features what appear to be very recent interviews with all of the men and women who worked upon this film, with some interesting footage that shows Verhoeven directing the actors in that rather manic style he's made all his own. It is definitely worth watching more than once.

Featurette - Shooting RoboCop

    Essentially an extended theatrical trailer, this seven minute and fifty-eight second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. There are some interesting snippets of the actors in interviews, or of Peter Weller partially in costume, but this is mostly filler.

Featurette - Making RoboCop

    This is also essentially an extended theatrical trailer, running for eight minutes, and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. It is only interesting for the footage of Miguel Ferrer and Peter Weller, in character, during a mock press conference.

Storyboard Comparisons with commentary by Phil Tippett (Animation supervisor)

    This six minute featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Stop-motion animation supervisor Phil Tippett shares how he and his crew accomplished the shots of ED-209, as well as how they would accomplish them today.

Photo Galleries

    A total of six photo galleries are presented under this submenu. All of them are presented as featurettes in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Criterion Collection disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 Special Edition disc misses out on;

    This is a tough call. Serious fans like myself will undoubtedly want to own both DVDs, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack on the Criterion disc is so much better it is not funny - the bass presence is much more consistent and the dialogue is perfectly audible or as close thereto as the original production allows. However, the video transfer on the Criterion DVD has so much aliasing it can give viewers a headache, and the only extras on it other than the Grand Doyen of all Audio Commentaries are some production notes, still galleries, and two trailers. The Criterion DVD is also out of print, so fans who own a copy can demand big bucks from collectors (and no, mine is not for sale). In the end, I have to give this one to the Region 4 disc, as the Special Editions available in both Regions would appear to be identically specified, save for the usual PAL/NTSC issues.

Summary

    Let me check my plot synopsis for a second. Did I forget something? Oh yeah, as S.D. Nemeth says: "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

    I would buy this DVD-Video for a dollar. Hell, I'd buy a DVD-Video of this film for a hundred times that price. I'd kill my best friend to get a copy of this film on a format that I can watch at least once a day (as I do now) without fear of the storage medium being destroyed by such constant use.

    The video transfer is slightly disappointing, but the best version of the film I have seen to date.

    The audio transfer is disappointing, with inconsistent subwoofer usage and occasionally inaudible dialogue being the main problems.

    The extras are comprehensive, and include a Commentary from the best commentators the format has ever seen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, April 04, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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