Blu-ray Review: RoboCop [Limited Edition] | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 19th, 2020  

RoboCop [Limited Edition]

Studio: Arrow Video

Dec 13, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Paul Verhoeven’s absurdly violent, comic book retelling of Frankenstein still holds up stupendously 32 years after its release. Arrow Video’s limited edition set includes two cuts of the film in a 4K restoration, a staggering amount of on-disc extra features, a 79-page booklet of essays, a poster, and plenty of collector-centric printed ephemera. Simply put, it’s a set that any ‘80s genre movie fan will want to get their hands on before it’s completely unavailable. 

Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is the newest transfer to the police precinct tasked with patrolling one of Detroit’s most crime-ridden districts. The city’s law enforcement is funded by an imposing mega-corporation known as OCP, with plans to bulldoze Detroit’s most blighted neighborhoods and build their prototype Utopia. Before that can be done, they’ll need to rid the city of its criminal element—which the police are underequipped to do on their own. After their ED-209 military robot proves not ready for prime time, they fast-track an experimental RoboCop program that combines man with machine to create a brutally efficient, near-indestructible crime fighter.

Unluckily, Murphy is gunned down by a psychopathic drug lord on the first day of his new assignment. Declared dead, his body is given over to the RoboCop program, where he’s resurrected as an unstoppable law-enforcing machine. His memory is supposed to have been wiped, but it turns out that a bit of Murphy is still alive within RoboCop’s programming—bad news for a company that believes it’s created a totally subservient machine. It’s even worse news for the corrupt OCP executive who’s working with the drug lord to ensure that his lucrative and dangerous ED-209 project launches onto the streets of Detroit.

Similar to later Verhoeven films such as Total Recall and Starship Troopers, RoboCop is a wildly stylish sci-fi ride. Punctuated with satirical television programming (like Troopers), the movie’s world is packed with glowing CRT screens in a way that must have looked futuristic in the 1980s, but instills the movie with a nostalgia-tickling, retro-futuristic feel when viewed today. Rob Bottin’s costume design—combined with Weller’s dancer-like body control—help the movie’s hero convince audiences that he’s a one-ton, hydraulic-powered robot in a way that can’t be faked with CGI. Then, of course, there’s the unforgettable and occasionally cute ED-209, animated in a Harryhausen-esque fashion by legendary effects man Phil Tippett. Yes, you can see more of the movie’s seams in high definition, but the world is so well-realized that you’ll accept every element of it.

The Detroit hellscape portrayed in the film is just the sort of neighborhood you’d expect to find Charles Bronson stalking in a Death Wish movie. The villainous cast is led by That ‘70s Show’s Kurtwood Smith, cleverly cast against type, and his main goons are played by Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise and ER’s Paul McCrane. (Nancy Allen is tough as nails as Murphy’s partner, and the late Miguel Ferrer plays RoboCop’s opportunistic creator.) The movie is famously gratuitous with its violence, especially in the director’s cut, which probably a full minutes’ worth of characters getting graphically blown apart by machine gun fire if you edited it all together. That’s why it’s particularly funny that the character—like Rambo before him—was so heavily marketed to children. For comparison’s sake, the still-pretty-violent television cut of the movie is included on the set’s second disc.

Like they did with Waterworld, Arrow has gone above and beyond to assemble special materials for their limited edition release of the film. (A slimmed-down, steelbook version will be more widely available, and is still pretty darn robust with its extra features.) On the limited edition discs you’ll find multiple new and archival audio commentaries to choose from, newly-recorded conversations with the writers, Nancy Allen, the casting director, second unit director, effects team, composer, and others. There are also plenty of archival features from the cast and crew, including Verhoeven, and a selection of dailies from the set. Most interestingly, the second disc contains featurettes comparing all the differences between the various versions of the film, and newly-restored outtakes that were recorded for the movie’s tamer TV cuts. And that’s only what’s on the disc… you’ll also find a thick booklet of essays and production notes, a double-sided poster with the newly-commissioned and original, iconic promotional artwork, reproduction lobby cards, and a “This Property Protected by RoboCop” sticker. It’s enough stuff that it will take any RoboCop fan multiple evenings to get through – and earns it a late entry as one of our home video releases of the year.  



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