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April 21, 2013 3:36 PM   Subscribe

It is an apocalypse tale with no doomsday, a punk movie with no concert, a science fiction story with less than ten seconds of aliens - Repo Man: A Lattice of Coincidence, a look back at the 1984 classic film by cult director Alex Cox, whose current project is a crowdfunded adaptation of Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero.
posted by Artw (84 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Universal treated the completed Repo Man with puzzled indifference

That's cuz Universal wasn't 16 years old at the time.

Ordinary fuckin' people; God how I hate 'em.
posted by chavenet at 3:44 PM on April 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


What about our relationship?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.
posted by Catblack at 3:48 PM on April 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


*goes and does some crimes*
posted by jonmc at 3:57 PM on April 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember seeing the trailer for this and thinking "this is either going to be horrible or the greatest movie ever made". Then when I saw it produced by Mike Nesmith that cinched it. My friend and I saw it in an almost empty theater opening weekend and afterwards repeated as many lines as we could remember. We saw it again the next week in a slightly more full theater with various punks, weirdos, and ne'er–do–wells. When we left the theater we kept hearing various people spouting out lines that are now second nature to a whole generation. I bought several albums because of that soundtrack and made many friends because of a Repo Man bond.

We just got our Criterion Blu-Ray this week and will be breaking it open after dinner. Repo man's got all night, every night.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:57 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


This post is intense.

Repo Man posts are always intense.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


I really want sushi, but I haven't got any money. What to do, what to do, what to do...
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:07 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


*goes and does some crimes*


I blame society.
posted by scratch at 4:15 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


'Repo Man' and 'Sid and Nancy' are two films that I see something new in, every time I watch them.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:16 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love the article. I watched his with my dad when I was in high school and thought it was great - I was pretty disillusioned with pretty much everything. Obviously, high school was ridiculous and stupid, but none of the outlets for understanding just how ridiculous and stupid everything was were particularly honest. Consequently, my favorite lines are when Duke is dying:
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.
Otto: That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk just like me.
Duke: Yeah, but it still hurts.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I blame society.

Bullshit! You're a white suburban punk, just like me!
posted by slkinsey at 4:25 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Damn it, ChuraChura.
posted by slkinsey at 4:26 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article was written by Sam McPheeters, once the lead singer of the seminal hardcore band Born Against, later the brains behind the deeply weird Men's Recovery Project. He is kind of a genius in his own right.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:33 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd clap with joy, but I can't get my palms together.
posted by Gorgik at 4:35 PM on April 21, 2013


So one time when I was eight, my dad took us to see Repo Man at the old Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge...
posted by pxe2000 at 4:46 PM on April 21, 2013


Did you do a lot of acid Artw, back in the hippy days?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 4:47 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was in college, I did a paper on Repo Man for a film class in which I watched it six times in two days, the last time frame by frame to see if I could glean anymore visual tricks beyond the obvious smiley-face buttons, generic products and misplaced decimal points. In the scene where Miller is stoking the fire while pontificating on time machines, one of the items he throws in the burning oil drum is a paperback copy of "Diuretics" by A. Rum Bubble.
posted by AJaffe at 4:49 PM on April 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


Wonder if they'll do Bill's second left arm with prosthetics or CGI.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:00 PM on April 21, 2013


Whenever I think of that grand, cheesy, wonderful, messy, fantastic film my head kind of plays a version of Sam Elliot from The Big Lebowski.


Sometimes there's a movie... I won't say a bloackbuster, 'cause, what's a blockbuster? But sometimes, there's a movie. And I'm talkin' about Repo Man here. Sometimes, there's a movie, well, it's the movie for it's time and place. It fits right in there. And that's Repo Man, in America. And even if it's a sloppy movie - and Repo Man was most certainly that. Quite possibly the sloppiest in '84, which would place him high in the runnin' for sloppiest worldwide. But sometimes there's a movie, sometimes, there's a movie. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell.


Early 80's. Repo Man, Rock and Rule, Blade Runner and Brazil. That pretty much was the backdrop to the end of the cold war and what kicked my brain down whatever path it finally ended on.
posted by edgeways at 5:04 PM on April 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


My semi-recent thread about Repo Chick and Alex Cox's other almost-sequels to the film.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:11 PM on April 21, 2013


Repo man- a movie designed from the ground up to be a cult classic. Suffers from too much quirk.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 5:17 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


my dad took us to see Repo Man

The idea of my Dad (think Ed O'Neill in Dutch meets Wiily Loman meets Red from That 70's Show) taking me to see Repo Man boggles the mind. Although I can imagine him laughing his ass off at certain scenes.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rock and Rule

Oh man, me too. It was on HBO constantly when I was about fourteen, and to this day I blame Angel for my persistent and weirdly confusing mix of crushes on both cartoon girls and women who sound like (or are) Debbie Harry.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:23 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think my dad taped it off of late night telly for me.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on April 21, 2013


Repo man- a movie designed from the ground up to be a cult classic. Suffers from too much quirk.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 8:17 PM on April 21 [+] [!]



You shut your mouth, sir. You just shut your goddamned mouth. /hurls half full can of generic "beer".
posted by erskelyne at 5:25 PM on April 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


You're still on the job, white boy. Get in the car!
posted by Aznable at 5:28 PM on April 21, 2013


Seriously though. One of the things that made me who I am. As a self-proclaimed "White Suburban Punk" I fashioned several Repo Man buttons with paint, stick on letters, and clip art. One of my proudest moments in my shitty suburban high school life was having a jockish BMOC come up to me and tell me "I saw this fucked up movie that reminded me of you".
posted by erskelyne at 5:28 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Suffers from too much quirk.
Yes, far too memorable, and quotable. I'm mortified that the 1980's did not produce a cult movie that could stand on its merits without that damnable quirk or weirdness.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:31 PM on April 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wasn't singing guy.

K_A_R_L's Disco Wiener Haven....
posted by humboldt32 at 5:55 PM on April 21, 2013


That's it, Archie! You're out of the gang!
posted by AJaffe at 5:58 PM on April 21, 2013


I was 40 when I saw it (67 now) and one day older the second time I saw it. Anyone who doesn't get it doesn't get it. Unreal soundtrack. Emilio never had another role this good.
posted by Repack Rider at 6:23 PM on April 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


LOOK AT THAT VENT IN SPLEEN!!!
posted by bert2368 at 6:35 PM on April 21, 2013


AJaffe: For another note on Repo Man's visual delights: It helps to know that Alex Cox did his thesis on spagetti westerns, and they're a tremendous influence on his style. Notice how many conversations in Repo Man play out in ultra-wide shot (esp. the conversations with Miller), and how that gives the chatter a sense of space and timelessness.

One of the movie's big cinematic achievements is making all the lattice of coincidence stuff seem weirdly plausible; like very few American movies, Repo Man knows how to make the world seem uncanny.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:41 PM on April 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


I walk into someone's place of work. They shit scared. They know I'm not a cop. They think I've come to kill 'em and I would. I'd kill anybody who crosses me. You know what I mean?
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:57 PM on April 21, 2013


John Wayne was a fag.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:19 PM on April 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


The hell he was.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:38 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iggy
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:02 PM on April 21, 2013


Has anyone actually seen Cox's pseudo-sequel, Repo Chick? It looks... terrible.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:09 PM on April 21, 2013


All he has to do is swap his Suicidal Tendencies shirt for a suit and tie. He even gets to keep his haircut.

This idea that your tribal identity was transferable seemed radical then. And funny.

*goes and does some crimes*

I always mention the classic 90's cable TV edit: "Let's get Sushi!..." - then cut to advert. Also funny this way.
posted by ovvl at 8:09 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Put it on a plate, son, you'll enjoy it more.
posted by donnagirl at 8:16 PM on April 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't want no commies in my car. No Christians either.
posted by chbrooks at 8:21 PM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was bored, late one Saturday night in 1984, when I flipped on the TV. I put a blank tape in the VCR, taking on faith that I'd find something worth saving that night. At exactly midnight, I turned to my one cable channel (that was all we got then, one movie channel that went from HBO to Showtime to whatever other movie channel the cable company deigned to provide that month) and punched record.

The movie started with a cold open, as I recall, as an old Chevy Malibu drunkenly weaved and swerved down an empty desert road, with a sinister guitar line playing on the soundtrack. The driver was a sort of oily weirdo, singing My Darling Clementine, tunelessly to himself. In due course, a motorcycle cop pulled the car over, then had a brief, distinctly odd conversation with the definitely-not-right driver.

'What's in the trunk?' The cop asked. 'Oh, you don't want to look in there,' the driver replied.
'Give me the keys,' the cop said.

The cop went to the back of the car, unlocked, then opened the trunk. Bright light poured out of it. The cop only had time to scream before the light vaporized him, leaving behind nothing but a smoking pair of boots. The Malibu sped away, as the driver started to sing again.

Holy Shit, my sixteen year old self thought, I MUST watch this.

I watched it all right. Then, when it was over, I pressed stop on my VCR, rewound the tape, then watched it all over again.

I thank the fates that was able to see it for the first time under such optimum conditions. Never before or since have I enjoyed a movie with such a thrill of discovery and delight.
posted by KHAAAN! at 9:22 PM on April 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


The film had the wonderful serendipity to enter the VHS market during the golden age of video stores. In the mideighties, “cult film” was both an aesthetic and a status facilitated by scarcity.

Spot on, and this was still the case in the early nineties when I got it from the cult movies section of the one decent video rental store in town for yet another semi-confused night of movie watching.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I adored Repo Man when it came out (class of '85, in the whitest white-bread suburban landscape you've ever encountered) and it was incredible. The soundtrack still gets played regularly, though I can't turn it up loud enough without irritating spouse or neighbors.
posted by maxwelton at 10:45 PM on April 21, 2013


Ten pounds blocks of CHEESE!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:07 PM on April 21, 2013


my dad took us to see Repo Man

The idea of my Dad (think Ed O'Neill in Dutch meets Willy Loman meets Red from That 70's Show) taking me to see Repo Man boggles the mind. Although I can imagine him laughing his ass off at certain scenes.


Hell, my Dad took my brother and me (aged roughly twelve and sixteen, respectively) to see this.
posted by dr. zoom at 11:21 PM on April 21, 2013


It was 5 pound blocks of cheese, of course. Damned inflation.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:22 AM on April 22, 2013


Suffers from too much quirk.

Nah. Quirk's the kind of easy "weird" that makes a movie like Garden State so annoying. Repo Man's "weird" is more difficult, like shards of rusty metal. Liable to cut you, and then you need a tetanus shot.
posted by philip-random at 12:58 AM on April 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


One of the things about Repo Man's weird, out of place vision was its being out of place. In many ways it's a 70s movie made in the 80s. The hell of it was making the then-normal seem alien.
posted by dhartung at 1:26 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The theory that whatever was in the car trunk is the same as whatever was in Marsellus Wallace's briefcase must have been developed, right?
posted by thelonius at 2:24 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Vended food contains all the necessary nutrients for survival. Tastes damn good too, by golly. And plus, on any given evening, the machine that last night gave you Cheetos might dispense instead... Doritos, Yohos, Oreos, Tosquitos... or Lorna Doones."
posted by ZipRibbons at 2:45 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quirky is Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Weird is Repo Man.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:46 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Goddamn gypsy dildo Rodriguez brothers!

(Really, it took this long?)
posted by rock swoon has no past at 7:04 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a film buff friend who, at the age of 20, first learned that Britain was an island. Sounds crazy, I know, but he was in some accelerated track arts program in school that apparently never included a geography course. I still tease him about that, but we all have inexplicable gaps in our knowledge, don't we?

For instance, I have just now realized that I've never actually seen Repo Man, having confused it for decades now with the (complete shit) Estevez movie Men At Work.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:21 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Has anyone actually seen Cox's pseudo-sequel, Repo Chick? It looks... terrible.

Ignore Repo Man and it's a movie that tries to do stuff.
And it's a movie with stuff.
So, it works.
posted by Mezentian at 7:49 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will always hang on to my copy of the 'A&E dubbed for safe cable viewing' version of Repo Man, in which the Rodriguez Brothers "Fuck you motherfucker" was dubbed over as "Flip you melon farmer".
posted by thirtyeightdown at 8:53 AM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Repo Man listicles are always intense.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on April 22, 2013


I still can't quite believe that I actually first saw Repo Man in a cinema... it played in my local arts cinema when I was at uni. Me and a friend went - I not sure why now, may be the description as a 'punk sf film' or something drew us in...(I was welling getting into punk/new wave at the time) and there was nothing else happening. I do remember the description in the cinema's listing brochure was mainly just a list of the bands in the film... we we kinda gapped out 'The Juicy Bananas! WTF!'

Of course we were blown away and it was cool to be into something when literally everyone else was into the 'The Blue Brothers' (not that that's a bad thing). Bought the sound track album soon afterwards and for years had to explain why there was a Magic Tree Air Freshener hanging in my window.... 'find one in every car'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:45 AM on April 22, 2013


Thanks for posting this, it's a fun read. Love this bit about Otto: "He’s not an antihero, just a beautiful jerk." It's funny, with all the focus on the music, though, that the author doesn't mention the ska band The Untouchables, the scooter gang that chased Otto.
posted by feste at 10:16 AM on April 22, 2013


Mario Speedwagon: "Repo man- a movie designed from the ground up to be a cult classic. Suffers from too much quirk."

It _might_ look "quirky" from the vantage point of 29 years later but if you were 16 at the time and even if you had seen a lot of movies you _knew_ this was something different. Something awesome.

Leila: I'd torture someone in a second if it was up to me.

posted by chavenet at 10:47 AM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Relationship status: Fuck that!

[Which was the genesis of one of the most epic G+ threads I've ever started.]
posted by Eideteker at 11:29 AM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relationship status: People just explode. Natural causes.

Relationship status: Out to fuckin' lunch.

(and so on...)
posted by Eideteker at 11:33 AM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's in the trunk? Same thing that is in this box.
posted by Artw at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2013


I guess I wasn't sure what "quirky" meant, so I looked it up: Characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.

This is actually a neutral descriptor. And so, as often it does, it comes down to a matter of tastes. The 80s were a pretty quirky time in popular culture, and I think those quirks weren't just affectations, but a specific era trying to find its voice. I have a lot of affection for it, because it was my era, but, whatever the era, I suppose I like quirk, purposeful or otherwise.

If you were frustrated and lived in the suburbs in the 80s, there was a good chance that you felt like Repo Man was one of the first movies telling your story; better still, unlike, say, River's Edge or Suburbia, it didn't represent us exclusively as a blank generation headed toward tragedy, but instead suggested that if we just peeked out of our world a little bit, there was an adventure to be had, and we could be the stars of our own stories, instead of passive characters who life happens to.

It was culty, yes, but we were the first generation of kids who grew up with video tapes, and so cult films suddenly became a shared element of our generation -- even a poorly stocked video store typically had films that would never play at second-run or revival theaters, and so there was a whole new world of film entertainment that many of us spent endless hours consuming. The fact that the film was deliberately culty felt like it was a nod to a developing shared taste for underground and exploitation films. It didn't feel quirky in an overbearing way, at least not to me. It felt like it was speaking, and helping to form, our language. Sid and Nancy did that as well. I have like a lot of Alex Cox's films since those -- I am one of Straight to Hell's few fans -- but he really caught something with those first two. They're imperfect and sometimes mean and deliberately messy and oftentimes showy, but that's what we felt we were, and wanted to be.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I am one of Straight to Hell's few fans "

Well, there are at least *two* of us then!
posted by chavenet at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2013


Artw: "What's in the trunk? Same thing that is in this box ."

It's also in the Ark of the Covenant
A-and the briefcase in Pulp Fiction
posted by chavenet at 2:10 PM on April 22, 2013


FWIW, Straight to Hell is online here.
posted by chavenet at 2:15 PM on April 22, 2013


...not in my country.
posted by dhartung at 4:53 PM on April 22, 2013


Suffers from too much quirk.

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.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:58 PM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Of all the times for Repo Man to not be on Netflix.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:04 PM on April 22, 2013


There's room to move in this thread! In two years, I could be manager of this thread. King. God.
posted by Brak at 10:37 PM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Take South America for example.
posted by Brak at 10:38 PM on April 22, 2013


No one is innocent.No one is innocent.Inspired by this thread I may have just talked the local indie theater to run it next year on Repo Man's 30th anniversary.

You ever feel as if your mind had started to errode?
posted by edgeways at 11:51 PM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod: "I am one of Straight to Hell's few fans "

Well, there are at least *two* of us then!


Three! Though I have never felt so validated as when, after years of me telling people that Cox's Walker was one of the most cinematically interesting leftist films ever made and being ignored (or asked if it had anything to do with the Chuck Norris show), Criterion finally issued it. Three Businessmen, Highway Patrolman, and Revenger's Tragedy are also well worth seeing, if you can find 'em.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I rate WALKER far higher than STRAIGHT TO HELL, which is nonetheless a perfect Friday night dope and beer movie.
posted by philip-random at 11:47 AM on April 23, 2013


You repo men - you're all out to fuckin' lunch!
posted by porn in the woods at 3:18 PM on April 23, 2013


You repo men - you're all out to fuckin' lunch!

Lunch? A repo man's got all day, every day!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread's feelin' 7-Up, and it sure feels right,
Lucky Seven, Lucky Seven


Stop fuckin' singing, Kevin
posted by porn in the woods at 6:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only one comment about Bill, The Galactic Hero. Sad, it's not a bad book, and takes the piss out of Starship Troopers pretty well.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:38 AM on April 24, 2013


Only one comment about Bill, The Galactic Hero. Sad, it's not a bad book, and takes the piss out of Starship Troopers pretty well.

As does the movie!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:49 AM on April 24, 2013


Iggy Pop on Meeting Alex Cox and Repo Man
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:46 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm actually super excited for the Bill movie, despite being pretty cool on Cox's later works.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on April 25, 2013


That can't be Iggy.


He is (mostly) clothed
posted by edgeways at 12:30 PM on April 26, 2013


Never mind that - right now we've got to get my thread out of this bad area.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:10 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


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