Release Date(s)1987 (April 12, 2022)
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 both underneath and on the surface.
RoboCop was shot by director of photography Jost Vocano on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 BL cameras and Zeiss Super Speed lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video brings RoboCop to Ultra HD in a Limited Edition Steelbook release utilizing the same 4K master as before, which itself was sourced from a 4K restoration of the original camera negative performed by MGM in 2013 with the approval of 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 negative trims are now considered lost. However, Arrow Video was able to a new 4K scan of these trims for this release.
In either case, RoboCop in Ultra HD is a knockout. The various opticals used to present the TV broadcasts within the film, as well as the stop motion effects sequences, are obviously less refined. The background plates utilizing actors and objects in motion are still considerably weaker. However, the new HDR grades allow both the opticals and brief additions in the Director’s Cut to blend a little more seamlessly. Medium levels of grain are tighter with additional depth, rarely if ever spiking, with only minor bits of speckling which are difficult to spot at times. The film isn’t particularly known for its color palette, but the few instances of reds and blues are richer, as are flesh tones and textures. Blacks are deeper with excellent contrast as well. Everything appears stable and crisp, making this release the definitive presentations of both versions of the film.
The audio is presented in English Dolby Atmos and English 2.0, 4.0, and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The audio menu states that “To enjoy multidimensional audio with the Dolby Atmos track, set the audio output of your player to Bitstream mode, and disable BD Secondary Audio in its setup menus. This track is also compatible with traditional 7.1 and 5.1 speaker configurations.” In any case, the Atmos track further opens up the soundtrack and envelopes the listener more fully, giving the height channels some business, but also boosting score and sound effects. The stereo track is more full bodied while the 4.0 and 5.1 tracks offer decent 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 alterations. There’s no clear winner between the four, but the Atmos track certainly has more of an edge.
As for the extras, this release is packed, carrying over nearly everything from the film’s various LaserDisc, DVD, and Blu-ray releases. Each 4K Ultra HD disc features the following:
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 with Nancy Allen (HD – 18:26)
- Casting Old Detroit with Julie Selzer (HD – 8:20)
- Connecting the Shots with Mark Goldblatt (HD – 11:06)
- Analog with Peter Kuran and Kevin Kutchaver (HD – 13:10)
- More Man Than Machine: Composing RoboCop (HD – 12:04)
- RoboProps (HD – 12:50)
- 2012 Q&A with the Filmmakers (Upscaled SD – 42:37)
- RoboCop: Creating a Legend (SD – 21:12)
- Villains of Old Detroit (SD – 17:01)
- Special Effects: Then & Now (SD – 18:23)
- Paul Verhoeven Easter Egg (Upscaled SD – :39)
- Deleted Scene: OCP News Conference (SD – 1:19)
- Deleted Scene: Nun in the Street Interview (SD – :17)
- Deleted Scene: Topless Pizza (SD – :28)
- Deleted Scene: Final News Break (SD – :53)
- The Boardroom: Storyboard with Phil Tippett Commentary (Upscaled SD – 6:04)
- Director’s Cut Production Footage (HD – 11:38)
- Theatrical Trailer #1 (HD – 1:38)
- Theatrical Trailer #2 (HD – 1:23)
- TV Spot #1 (SD – :33)
- TV Spot #2 (SD – 1:03)
- TV Spot #3 (SD – :33)
- Image Gallery: Production Stills (108 in all)
- Image Gallery: Behind the Scenes (83 in all)
- Image Gallery: Poster & Video Art (55 in all)
DISC TWO – THEATRICAL CUT
- Audio Commentary with Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, and Ed Neumeier
- Isolated Composer’s Original Score
- Isolated Final Theatrical Mix
- Edited-for-TV Version (HD – 95:16)
- RoboCop: Edited for Television (HD – 18:35)
- 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 MGM DVD commentary for the MGM Blu-ray in 2014. The Future of Law Enforcement: Creating RoboCop is an interview with co-writer Michael Miner; RoboTalk is a roundtable discussion between co-writer Ed Neumier and filmmakers David Birke and Nicholas McCarthy; Truth of Character is an interview with actress Nancy Allen; Casting Old Detroit is an interview with casting director Julie Selzer; Connecting the Shots is an interview with second unit director Mark Goldblatt; and Analog is an interview with visual effects artists Peter Kurant and Kevin Kutchaver. More Man Than Machine: Compositing RoboCop features 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 that contain interviews with the cast and crew. In the Easter Egg (which is listed on the main menu and not hidden), Paul Verhoeven discusses his brief cameo in the film. There are also roughly three minutes of Deleted Scenes while The Boardroom includes storyboards with audio commentary by Phil Tippett. The Director’s Cut Production Footage features raw takes of scenes being filmed. Next are two theatrical trailers, three TV spots, and three Image Galleries containing a total of 246 production stills, lobby cards, storyboards, behind the scenes stills, posters, newspaper clippings, and home video artwork stills.
On Disc Two, the audio commentary with Verhoeven, Davison, and Neumeier is the original version recorded in 2004 for the MGM DVD release. Both the original and final theatrical isolated scores are presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The Edited-for-TV Version of the film has been assembled utilizing newly-restored 35mm elements in English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. RoboCop: Edited for Television examines takes from two TV versions of the film, as well as outtakes. The Split-Screen Comparisons take a look at the differences between all three versions.
Both discs sit inside steelbook packaging featuring the original theatrical poster artwork, as well as a 44-page insert booklet containing cast and crew information, Tales of Blood and Steel by Omar Ahmed, the original production notes, cast and filmmaker details, RoboCop and the Generation That Grew Up With It by Christopher Griffiths, RoboCop: Dismantled & Reassembled by Henry Blyth, restoration details, and production credits. Also available is a Limited Edition release in sturdy cardboard packaging featuring new artwork and an 80-page insert booklet containing the same text and information, as well as the essay RoboCop Rob by Eric Niderost. That release also contains six lobby card reproductions, a sticker that says “Warning: This Property is Protected by RoboCop”, and a double-sided poster featuring exclusive artwork on the front and the original theatrical poster artwork on the reverse. The disc-based content is the same.
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 LaserDisc (and later DVD) is the original 1995 audio commentary track featuring Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison, and Ed Neumeier and the various Storyboards materials. It’s worth noting that the documentary RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop is absent as well.
Arrow Video’s Steelbook and Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD releases of RoboCop give the film plenty of added value with a bevy of bonus materials and a great transfer. Besides a couple of missing extras, the breadth and quality of this release is worthy of an upgrade. It’s about as definitive as RoboCop gets on home video. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons