"Just Because They Serve You, It Doesn't Mean They Have To Like You". This is the tagline on the poster of "Clerks", Kevin Smith's famed indie success story that not only launched his career, but offered the world his brand of dialogue - a mixture of clever, very funny one-liners mixed with smartly, sarcastically crude humor. Anyone who's ever worked at someplace similar will likely find something to appreciate in Smith (who worked at the store in the film)'s film. As someone who worked at a video store for a few years, I'd be rich if I had a dime for every time someone asked me where a movie was when they were standing in front of an entire wall of copies, argued a late fee for half an hour until their kid ratted them out, asked me if "that new Steven Segal movie was good" or, those wonderful rare occasions when someone (potentially from Mars and taking human form) would ask me, with a straight face and all the sincerity contained on the planet Earth if, in fact, we rented movies there. "Do you have that one with that guy who was in that movie last year?" is a question presented to one of the characters in the film. I can't tell you how many times I got that exact question.
"Clerks" focuses on Dante (Brian O'Halloran), a guy in his early 20's who finds himself in a low-key, low-energy job in a Quick Stop store in New Jersey. Despite having a girlfriend (Marilyn Ghigliotti), his ex (Lisa Spoonauer) finds her way back into his life. Meanwhile, not helping any is Randal (Kevin Anderson), who has resigned himself to his position in the video store next door and has since flipped over into the side of resenting and messing with the rare customers who stop in. Positioned outside are Jay and Silent Bob, two drug dealers who talk a lot (and a little) about what business they think they actually have.
Despite little in the way of story, "Clerks" manages to still entertain thanks to some creative moments (the clerks close the store to play a game of hockey on the rooftop) and terrific dialogue. The performances are also terrific; those who've worked in retail for any prolonged period of time will recognize Dante and Randal as the two distinct personalities that the majority of retail employees eventually turn towards - those who remain frustrated and and complain and those who've moved past the frustration and complaining and find their day's entertainment in good-natured antangonism ("You'd feel a lot better if you just ripped into the occasional customer.")
Made for a little over $27,000, "Clerks" enjoyed some post-production work on the image and soundtrack after it was bought by Miramax, but even so, the film manages to look fairly good for a no-budget indie. While Smith's famous "no movement" visual style (as "Chasing Amy" star Ben Affleck joked in that film's DVD, "The camera moves more in three seconds (of "Armageddon") than it does in (Smith's) entire Jersey trilogy.") still remains today, his more comedic films do a fine job placing the camera to capture the joke well.
The performances are excellent and go a long way towards making the movie work really well. Anderson and O'Halloran are nicely matched and have terrific chemistry together. Smith and Jason Mewes are also another nicely matched buddy team, despite the classic "wild thin guy/reserved heavy-set guy" comedic pairing. Although maybe it's not quite as funny as it was when I originally saw it, "Clerks" still rings very real and holds up quite well.
This 10th Anniversary Edition provides both the 93-minute original cut and the first cut of the film, which ran 104 minutes.
VIDEO: "Clerks" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen for the theatrical cut of the film. The original cut of the film is full-frame and, noted on the disc, taken from an SVHS tape. The theatrical cut looks about as good as "Clerks" can look. While the supplements note that some audio/video restoration has been done, this is still a 27,000 dollar B & W feature shot largely with available light and equipment that was likely not top-of-the-line. The presentation appears largely the same as it ever has - it does look a tad sharper (the film does look soft overall, a result of the budget) and less rough here, but the differences are not major.
The ever-present grain on the film is once again visible here, although it didn't seem quite as strong, given the picture a smoother (if inconsistently so) appearance this time around. Edge enhancement and pixelation are not noticed, but the film does still show some wear on occasion, with specks and some marks present in the occasional scene. There also are processing problems in a couple of moments. Given the fact that the film is B & W, there's no color issues. Overall, the restored presentation seems to have helped somewhat, but "Clerks" is still "Clerks" and it looks fine - about as good as it's probably going to look unless they use something like Criterion does and go in to start removing specific wear, etc - once again here. The original cut looks quite a bit worse, with noticable softness.
SOUND: "Clerks" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, although as one might expect, there's really little use for the surrounds here. The original film's soundtrack was as basic as the look of the picture, but once it was bought by Miramax, the studio added additional foley sound effects and a soundtrack of rock tunes. Dialogue still sounds somewhat harsh at times, but the songs do fill out the front speakers nicely and sound full. Sound effects are brief and fairly low-key, not really calling attention to themselves. The soundtrack has been restored for this edition, but there's really no major differences. As with the images, the audio may be a little clearer and less rough around the edges, but "Clerks" is still "Clerks", nothing wrong with that. The original cut version offers the original soundtrack, without the additional foley touches and alt-rock soundtrack.
EXTRAS: This is a 3-DVD edition and supplements are included on all three discs. Kevin Smith and others do introductions for many of the extras. The first supplement is one that many are already familiar with (it was on the laserdisc and previous DVD): a commentary from director Kevin Smith, actor Jason Mewes, actor Brian O'Halloran, actor Walt Flanagan, actor Vincent Pereira and Film Threat Magazine's Malcolm Ingram are heard. Although not quite as funny or irreverant as some of the later commentaries with Smith, the track is quite amusing at times and one gets a very good insight into the filmmaking techniques used to pull off such a low-budget feature. There's also the fact that Mewes becomes completely wasted and passes out.
Next up is the music video for "Can't Even Tell", by Soul Asylum. Shot on a a fairly minor budget for music videos, Smith manages to make a hilarious take-off on the movie itself, featuring the band and members of the cast mixing it up in and around the Quik Stop, with the main piece being a hockey game on the roof.
We get a "lost" scene from the film, which was done in animated form, similar to the "Clerks" animated series. It's essentially the scene inside the funeral home, where Dante and Randal cause a pretty serious disturbance. It's pretty funny - viewers can watch it either inserted into the film (although it is full frame) or on its own.
"Flying Car" is a short film that Smith shot for the tonight show, which reunites Anderson and O'Halloran in a car on the freeway, discussing what they would do to be one of the first to get their hands on a flying car. It's sort of funny, but it never really, well, takes off. Next are a brief explanation of the image restoration by DP Dave Klein, as well as a lengthier explanation of restoring the audio by producer Scott Mosier. Lastly, there's a very, very hilarious introduction to the theatrical cut/restoration by Smith and Mosier.
Yet, there's more: we get audition tapes for Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, and Ernest O'Donnell. We also get the film's theatrical trailer (taken from the chapter of the laserdisc, with Smith's audio intro), the series of Jay/Silent Bob MTV spots and promos for other Smith films.
On the second disc, we find the original cut of the film (with the darker ending), along with a new audio/video commentary by director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, actor Jason Mewes, actor Brian O'Halloran and actor Jeff Anderson. Once again, there's quite a few good laughs throughout this commentary as the group jokes about the film, the popularity it achieved and each other - as for the latter, some of the first several minutes of the commentary are focused on how Mosier saw Smith's mother nude when he was staying over one night. The group also eats take-out food early on while they talk. There's some interesting tidbits here and a lot of insights as the group looks back on the experiences of shooting the film and how things have changed for each since. One can listen to the audio commentary or watch the group in the studio talking.
The third disc focuses on "The Snowball Effect", a 90-minute documentary that focuses on the origins of "Clerks", as well as how the group of friends that are centered around Smith got together. We learn how Smith began to become attracted to independent films by friend Vincent Perira, resulting in Smith's viewing of Richard Linklater's "Slacker", which opened up the idea for Smith of doing a film of his own. Vancouver Film School followed and although Smith never finished his stay there, he'd met future long-time producer Mosier and took the money he'd spent to put towards the budget. Casting (we learn that early ideas for casting varied quite a bit from the final film) and pre-planning discussions follow. Through interviews with the cast and crew, we also learn more about trying to plan out the film's production on a very low budget. Despite the inexperience, we hear about how the crew worked out some issues that happened and overcame problems. It's an extremely well-done piece that offers a great look at the overall making of the picture.
A 42-minute Q & A session filmed for this DVD edition is offered. Aside from Smith, we also hear from Anderson, Mosier, O'Halloran, Mewes and Marilyn Ghigliotti. The questions are kind of goofy at times, but the session is very entertaining and occasionally, pretty informative.
We also get another 41 minutes of outtakes from "The Snowball Effect". While some of these aren't too fascinating, they all do offer some at least moderately important things about the making of the film (more interviews with the cast, critic Janet Maslin's thoughts about "Clerks" and her thoughts on Kevin and the introduction to the final Sundance Film Festival screening/Sundance acceptance speech), among other things.)
Finally, the last disc also includes Smith and Mosier's film school piece, "Mae Day"; a still photo gallery, Smith's journals from Sundance and "Clerks" pre-production and an articles/reviews gallery.
Double finally, we also get a booklet with introductions, articles and other tidbits, DVD-ROM features and an enhanced playback subtitle track that provides information about the film on a subtitle track.
Final Thoughts: "Clerks" remains a terrific low-budget feature - an example of crude, clever dialogue and great, amateur acting making for a hilarious film. Miramax's "Clerks X" is a superb 3-DVD set - viewers get a slightly/somewhat improved audio/video transfer and a ton of new supplements, including the outstanding "Snowball Effect". Highly recommended.