Release Date(s)1987 (November 26, 2019)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
A commentary on the 1980s, the future, corruption, and humanity, Paul Verhoeven’s satiric and violent action classic RoboCop delivers on every level. Highly imitated for the wrong reasons by other filmmakers (not to mention receiving the mediocre and quickly forgotten remake treatment), RoboCop still stands as an idea that seems silly on paper, but is executed in a brilliant way.
The Detroit of the future is a cesspool, one that the development company OCP wants to build on top of for a more stable society. The only way to do that is to combat the crime in the streets before investing money and manpower on the endeavor. Meanwhile, the police are understaffed and overworked, on the verge of a strike. On the job is Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a tough cop with a strong moral barometer, and his new partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen). Tragically gunned down by gang leader Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith), Murphy is saved by OCP scientists—headed by project leader Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer)—and reborn as RoboCop: an unstoppable cybernetic police officer. He takes to the streets and cleans them up, rediscovering his humanity along the way. Unfortunately, not all is well at OCP as competing rival Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) wants his robotic prototype to succeed, and will stop at nothing to make it happen.
Paul Verhoeven was considered a cutting edge filmmaker when RoboCop was originally released. With a line up that includes Flesh + Blood, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers, it’s difficult to argue with that. A terrific visualist with a penchant for over-the-top violence, he also nailed the action and science fiction genres over the head, while at the same time putting his own personal stamp on his work. It’s also difficult to overlook the satire running throughout RoboCop, particularly with the local newscasts, the commercials in between, and the generic TV show containing the famous catchphrase “I’d buy that for a dollar!”
Two sequels were made, but none could hold a candle to the simplicity and the quality of the original. Besides being endlessly quotable, it’s also one of the most engaging action movies of the era and holds up remarkably next to other action blockbusters like Die Hard and Predator, but with a little more going on underneath the surface.
Arrow Video brings RoboCop to Blu-ray once again in a Limited Edition release utilizing the same 4K master as before, which was sourced from a 4K restoration of the original camera negative in 2013 and approved by Paul Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison, and co-writer/co-producer Ed Neumeier. The Director’s Cut comes from the same master, but the lower generation materials used to complete it are still present as the original trims are now considered lost. Though the quality shifts noticeably during these sequences, the other elements surrounding it still hold up five years on. Grain is handled quite well, appearing even throughout with high levels of fine detail. The color palette doesn’t offer much variety due to the mostly monochromatic city landscapes, but occasional browns and bursts of red are quite striking. Blacks are deep as well with impressive shadow detail, especially on RoboCop’s armor, while contrast levels are ideal. Everything appears stable with no leftover damage. Compared to the 20th Century Fox Blu-ray released in 2014, this presentation is slightly brighter and features more naturally appearing flesh tones. It also carries a higher encode.
The audio is presented in English 2.0, 4.0, and 5.1 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The option of utilizing the original stereo and quad theatrical mixes here is a definite plus. The stereo track is more full bodied while the 4.0 and 5.1 tracks offer excellent surround experiences. There isn’t much in the way of panning, but certain sound effects are placed discretely in the rear speakers. Dialogue on all of the tracks is clean and clear with no issues whatsoever. Explosions and gunfire aren’t always impactful, but the film sounds the way it always has without any additional sweetening or altering of sound effects. All three tracks are also clean with no leftover instances of damage to speak of.
As for extras, this set is jam-packed with content, carrying over most of the previous material but adding a substantial amount of new material as well:
DISC ONE – DIRECTOR’S CUT
- Audio Commentary with Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, and Ed Neumeier
- Audio Commentary with Paul M. Sammon
- Audio Commentary with Gary Smart, Christopher Griffiths, and Eastwood Allen
- The Future of Law Enforcement: Creating RoboCop (HD – 16:51)
- RoboTalk (HD – 32:08)
- Truth of Character (HD – 18:26)
- Casting Old Detroit (HD – 8:20)
- Connecting the Shots (HD – 11:06)
- Analog (HD – 13:10)
- More Man Than Machine: Compositing RoboCop (HD – 12:04)
- RoboProps (HD – 12:50)
- 2012 Q&A with the Filmmakers (SD – 42:37)
- RoboCop: Creating a Legend (SD – 21:10)
- Villains of Old Detroit (SD – 17:00)
- Special Effects: Then & Now (SD – 18:21)
- Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg (SD – 0:39)
- 4 Deleted Scenes (SD – 2:50)
- The Boardroom: Storyboard with Phil Tippett Commentary (SD – 6:02)
- Director’s Cut Production Footage (SD – 11:34)
- Teaser Trailer (HD – 01:38)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 01:23)
- TV Spot #1 (HD – 0:31)
- TV Spot #2 (HD – 1:02)
- TV Spot #3 (HD – 0:31)
- Still Galleries (3 in All)
DISC TWO – THEATRICAL CUT
- Audio Commentary with Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, and Ed Neumeier
- Isolated Original Score
- Isolated Theatrical Score
- Edited-for-TV Version (HD – 1:35:16)
- Split-Screen Comparison: Theatrical vs Director’s Cut (HD – 4:02)
- Split-Screen Comparison: Theatrical vs TV Cut (HD – 20:16)
On Disc One, the audio commentary with Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, and Ed Neumeier for the Director’s Cut was re-edited from the original in 2014. The Future of Law Enforcement: Creating RoboCop is a new interview with co-writer Michael Miner. RoboTalk is a new roundtable discussion between co-writer Ed Neumier and filmmakers David Birke and Nicholas McCarthy. Truth of Character is a new interview with actress Nancy Allen. Casting Old Detroit is a new interview with casting director Julie Selzer. Connecting the Shots is a new interview with second unit director Mark Goldblatt. Analog is a new interview with visual effects artists Peter Kurant and Kevin Kutchaver. More Man Than Machine: Compositing RoboCop features new interviews with composer Basil Poledouris and film music experts Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, Daniel Schweigter, and Robert Townson. RoboProps features a tour of super-fan Julien Dumont’s collection of memorabilia (also giving us a peek at the dailies in his collection). The Q&A was shot at UCLA and features Paul Verhoeven, Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ed Neumier, Michael Miner, and Phil Tippett. RoboCop: Creating a Legend, Villains of Old Detroit, and Special Effects: Then & Now are featurettes from 2007 containing interviews with the cast and crew. In the Easter Egg, Paul Verhoeven discusses his cameo in the film. The deleted scenes include OCP News Conference, Nun in the Street Interview, Topless Pizza, and Final Media Break. The Boardroom includes storyboards with audio commentary by Phil Tippett. The production footage includes raw footage of the scenes from the Director’s Cut being filmed. The production stills and lobby cards gallery features 108 images, the storyboards and behind the scenes gallery features 83 images, and the posters, newspaper clippings, and home video art gallery features 55 images.
On Disc Two, the audio commentary with Verhoeven, Davison, and Neumeier is the original version recorded in 2001. Both the original and final theatrical score isolated scores are presented in 2.0 DTS-HD. The edited-for-TV version of the film has been assembled utilizing newly-restored 35mm elements in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. In addition, this package also includes 6 lobby card reproductions; a sticker that says “Warning: This Property is Protected by RoboCop”; and an 80-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, Tales of Blood and Steel by Omar Ahmed, the original production notes, cast and filmmaker details, RoboCop Rob by Eric Niderost, RoboCop and the Generation That Grew Up With It by Christopher Griffiths, RoboCop: Dismantled & Reassembled by Henry Blyth, transfer details, and production credits. All of it housed in sturdy cardboard packaging, and for Steelbook fans, one is also available.
Not carried over from MGM and 20th Century Fox DVDs and Blu-rays are the Flesh and Steel: The Making of Robocop documentary, the Shooting Robocop featurette, and the Making Robocop vintage featurette. Also not carried over from the Criterion DVD and Laserdisc are the various Storyboards materials. It’s worth noting that the long in development documentary RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop is absent as well, so watch for that to appear as well.
Arrow Video’s Limited Edition release of RoboCop gives the film plenty of added value with a bevy of bonus materials and a great transfer. Besides a couple of missing extras, the breadth of this release is worthy of an upgrade. Until an Ultra HD presentation is made available, this is about as definitive as RoboCop gets on home video. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons