the street's on fire in a real death waltz between what's flesh and what's
- "That Really Cool Movie 'Robocop'" by Bruce Springsteen
The circumstances under which one first views a film is of great importance and I couldn't have seen "Robocop" under better conditions. On the very first day of its release in 1987 I was in a Times Square theater full of wacky black kids after a long afternoon of drinking beer and smoking pot with my loser buddies. It was a good time to be in New York. Blissfully unaware of all the misfortunes ahead of us (Woody and Soon Yi, the World Trade Center attack, West Coast Rap) "Robocop" was the perfect film for a roomful of hardcases who knew the score and were ready for some no b.s. laughs and action. And, boy, did it deliver - "Robocop" couldn't've done more to make us happy if minor characters had come down from the screen to fetch you popcorn from the refreshment stand. By the end of the film we were so galvanized that if Charles Manson had popped up and yelled "Everybody go home and kill your parents!!" we would have gone home and . . . Well, we would have gone home. No one who has seen "Robocop" has ever killed their parents. I've done the research! Now, "American Beauty" . . .
One day in the future scholars will look at "Robocop" and say "This was what America was like in the late twentieth and early twenty first century." That's because eventually videos of all the other shitty movies from the eighties and nineties will have been erased to record home porn and the only movie available will be the copy of "Robocop" I've got beneath my bed with all my pre-net pornography. It's a completely different age down there. Sometimes I let Kevin Costner crawl under there so he can pretend "Waterworld" hasn't happened yet and people still like him.
I assume that you've already seen "Robocop" five or six times so it's not necessary for me to reprise the film's plot. And if you haven't seen "Robocop" by now it can only be as a result of some kind of a deliberate decision on your part, like "'Robocop'? Not for ME, thank you very much!" which, in a free land like the United States, is certainly understandable - Unless you said "'Robocop'? Not for ME, thank you very much!" in Spanish in which case I can only say "La dee da and fiddle dee dee! James Coburn's dead? Don't blame it on me!"
FIVE GOOD REASONS NOT TO HAVE EVER SEEN "ROBOCOP"
1. You auditioned for the role of Robocop and are jealous that Peter Weller got it and you didn't.
2. You are a girl.
3. You are gay.
4. You always let the girls and gay guys pick the movies. In other words, the critics.
5. You are such a real man that you have never seen a single movie in your entire life. Boy, have you saved yourself a shit load of trouble. Wait a minute. What did you just say? You only read? Oh, that makes you number 3. Now tell us what you think of our shoes and get the hell outta here.
In "Robocop" Murphy, a good cop played by Peter Weller, is killed and then brought back to life as Robocop, the high tech half man half machine law enforcement hero of de future. Of all the films in which the dead are brought back to life this is undoubtedly the most positive. Coming back from the grave is always a touchy thing in the movies, no wonder the Vatican, the CIA, and Oprah conspire to keep everything hush hush when it happens in reality. With Murphy, it's a big James Dean "Nobody understands me!" Pity Party at first but in time Murphy comes to embrace his Living Deaditude because, as Dr. Phil would put it, "That's what makes you special!". I think the big distinction here is that Murphy was brought back from the dead to provide a SPECIFIC SOCIAL FUNCTION. Like the restless adolescent, you've got to give the walking dead something positive to keep their hands full before they get bored and start ripping people's intestines out and eating them - midnight basketball, for example. Murphy, of course, is a law enforcement officer and putting him back on the beat rather than hanging out in a shack with a violin sawing old blind man like Boris Karloff in "Bride Of Frankenstein" provides a convincing argument for making the dead, if not the poor, get up off their asses and back to work. Oh, he still gets to kill people, but at least he kills criminals instead of little girls playing with flowers out by a pond - Unless they're little girls playing with other people's flowers out by other people's ponds. If there is one thing we can conclude from these films it is that the Living Dead just want to feel like they are making a contribution. Why draw the line at Robocops? Imagine what a pleasant, life affirming experience "Night Of The Living Dead" would have been if only there had been Robocarpenters, Robogrill-chefs, Roboauto-mechanics, Robo-occupations for each and every one of those zombies with nothing better to do but surround and attack the occupants of that farm house because society's narrow minded rejection of their unique skills left them so angry and alienated as to resort to gang violence and cannibalism? Hopefully, one day "Night Of The Living Dead" will be viewed, like "Birth Of A Nation", as a sad relic of an earlier, less enlightened time. What? "Birth Of A Nation"? Oh, that's a silent movie about how sad it was when the South lost the Civil War and how great the KKK was. Can you believe that? A SILENT movie! No talking! No sound effects! Boy, is that dumb!
No cannibalism in this High Class Big Studio Production, Mister Zanuck! Robocop's nutritional needs are so basic all he eats is baby food. Now, if I was a dumb ass I would try to write jokes about that, but I am such a Joke Master I can see that a big strong super hero like Robocop living on tiny little jars of Gerber's creamed peas is already a joke and save my precious wisenheimer energies for the serious part of the movie when Robocop becomes aware of his previous life as a husband and a father. Yeah, he used to have a beautiful family but then he got killed and he can never see them again. Yeah, I'll write jokes about that. That'll be really funny. So . . . uh . . . hmmm . . . Okay . . . Is there any coffee? Maybe if I drink a few cups of that I can . . . Ohh . . . So, what is the deal with Robocop and the baby food? Couldn't they at least find a Robomom to breast feed the poor bastard? Hey! I don't see him wearing any Robodiapers! Why doesn't . . . Oh, God! He had a wife and kids and he can never see them again! HE CAN NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN!! How can you make baby food jokes when he can never see them again?! HE CAN NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN!!
Savvy action movie fans all know that losing everything that you love the most is a prerequisite for becoming a real kick ass motion picture bad ass. That and working out at the gym twenty-three hours a day. There may have been a few scrawny little skinny dudes who lost their wife and kids but that's only because their wife ran off to California with a lesbian martial arts instructor. Which sounds like one hell of a good idea for a really violent action movie to me but I'm a straight white man from the Deep South so I'll stop now before I really get in trouble.
The cast of "Robocop" is uniformly excellent, even the one's who don't wear uniforms. My nephew wrote that joke for me. A few years before "Robocop" Peter Weller starred in another science fiction classic "The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai In The Umpteenth Dimension With Ellen Barkin's Fine Ass" or whatever that silly movie was called, I couldn't sit through it long enough to find out what the fuss was all about. I hate that movie. But a lot of people really like it so I won't put it down too much. Oh hell, they're probably all reading The Onion right now, so screw "Buckaroo Banzai". Weller also starred in an interesting movie called "First Born" in which he starts going out with a single mom and her teenage son kills him. That's why I don't go out with single moms. At least not without killing their teenage sons first.
Miguel Ferrer is in "Robocop" which only makes sense because Miguel Ferrer was in every TV show or movie I've seen for the past twenty-five years. This guy gets around so much even Jack Black thinks he's overexposed. He is currently on the NBC series "Crossing Jordan" with Jill Hennessey as the cute girl who examines dead bodies I'd like to have sex with. I mean, I'd like to have sex with the cute girl, not the dead bodies. Unless if you think that would be funny. Cause then I've got some videotapes you might like. A few years ago Miguel Ferrer was in "The Stand" as a slave of the Devil, something that might be in store for me after that "videotapes" joke. Can I blame it on my nephew?
And, hey, everybody - RONNIE COX is in "Robocop"! Yeah! RONNIE COX!! Why all these blank looks? How come nobody gives a shit about Ronnie Cox? He's the guy who plays "Dueling Banjos" with the mutant hillbilly kid in "Deliverance" for God's sake! Ya think that Patrician snob prick Alec Baldwin would deign to play banjo with a poor lonesome hillbilly kid? No way, man! But Ronnie Cox? He'd jam with Jean Claude Van Damme (But not Wham!).
But the Really Big Name in the "Robocop" cast is my main man, Kurtwood Smith, who is so brilliant as Red on "That 70's Show" that if Tommy Chong wasn't on it, he'd be the funniest guy on the whole show. You can keep your Pacinos, your DeNiros, your Pianos, your Cheerios - when it comes to putting on costumes, reciting dialogue, and making faces Kurtwood Smith is The Best, Jerry - The BEST! I'm working on a script for him right now called "The Guy With The Really Little Head". He is so cool. He could sit right in front at all the stupid Lakers games but he's so cool he just doesn't give a shit. "Shaq? That's not a name. That's a place where you keep all your lawn tools!" - That's what Red would say if he was here instead of back in the seventies. (Editor's note: Okay, John, you're really pushing it with that one.) Red, Clarence Boddicker in "Robocop", the serial killer he played on that crappy old David Kelley series "Picket Fences" - These are the kind of guys you want to see when you're flicking through the channels trying to get away from all those Big Headed Alec Baldwin Loudmouths. Oh come on - Kurtwood Smith! You know who I'm talking about - The guy with the really little head who's with Richard Crenna when they come to Rambo and ask him to stop working on the roof of that foo foo Buddhist temple and come to Afghanistan with 'em in "Rambo 3" - He's the best thing in the whole movie! That and Frank Stallone singing "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)" at the end. Can Kurtwood Smith sing? Can his brother sing? Anyway, he does a lot of great stuff in "Robocop", including splashing around in the water bleeding to death from a puncture wound in the neck, which is more than Tom Hank's Big Head ever did for you. Too bad they didn't think of that back in his "Bosom Buddies" days when his work had more spiritual generosity.
There aren't any real Women's Roles in "Robocop" (You know, the kind of roles women are always complaining about there never being in movies because who goes to the movies to listen to a lot of complaining?) Nancy Allen, the Hot Chick from "Carrie" about three hundred years ago, is in it as Murphy's partner before he gets killed and then sidekick once he attains Robocopdom but you just know she only got the gig after they spent a couple of weeks bickering over if the role should be a black guy or not. And she got married to Brian De Palma for that career? I'm ashamed to admit to thinking about her while masturbating as a kid. Oh, I didn't have to admit that? Oh well, cut that out, okay? Thanks. Amy Irving was in "Carrie" too and she got half of Steven Spielberg's money! Half of Steven Spielberg's money is one hell of a lot more money than half of Brian De Palma's ol' money. Half of "The Phantom Of The Paradise" won't get a gal an Eagles Greatest Hits CD and this week's copy of People. P.J. Soles was in "Carrie" - Why the hell didn't she snap up half of George Lucas' money? I loved her in "Rock And Roll Hugh School" and where is she now? Where are you P.J. Soles - Movie Queen Of My Adolescent Dreams? Where are you today? (My email address is at the bottom of the article ). Me, I woulda hired Rae Dawn Chong because... Why the hell do ya think I woulda hired her? My mama never raised no stupid babies! But Nancy Allen? "Judge Dredd" was a piece if crap but at least it had Diane Lane as a female cop. Diane Lane could play a male cop and I'd get into it. Diane Lane could play a mailbox and it would be sexy. You think if I email the producers of that "Blind Date" show they could set me up with her?
"Robocop" obviously grew out of the collaboration of a group rather than the vision of an individual artist. I mean, it was directed by a fuckin' DUTCHMAN, for chrissakes! I imagine while all the actors and special effects geeks were running around going nuts over all the props and guns and cars and American action movie shit this Dutch fruit was sipping his espresso and waving his hands around going "First of all ze Robocop is over zere and zen ze Robocop is over zere and zen - Ze Runny Cocks!" "Uh, that's 'Ronnie Cox', Mister Verhoeven." "Zat is vat I said!" "Oh."
Even though "Robocop" is The Ultimate Guy Movie a lot of old dudes don't know about it. So if your Dad's never seen "Robocop" before go visit him one weekend when they're showing it on cable and you two can have a really cool Guy Bonding Thing. Just make sure they aren't showing "Hoosiers" anytime that weekend. But you've probably already caught on to that. You know what the black guys say about that movie? They're right. Don't ever give them the satisfaction of telling them that, but they're absolutely right. They're right about "Hoosiers" and "8 1/2". Man, that Marcello Mastrianni is slammin'!
John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org