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RoboCop 4K Steelbook
In 1987, during the height of eighties hysteria, the now defunct Orion Pictures unleashed a new hero of sorts emerged onto screens across the continent. Part man, part machine, but all cop, director Paul Verhoeven's Robocop met with huge success and spawned two theatrical sequels, a television series, a toy line, a video game, and a comic book series. In 2014 there was even a remake, but it's the original, the one that started it all, that remains the most beloved of the franchise… and rightly so, because it holds up incredibly well more than a few decades after it originally hit theaters.
Set in the Detroit of the not too distant future (which was actually Dallas… but don't tell anyone!), crime is rampant. The city is run by a huge corporation called OCP (which stands for Omni Consumer Products) and nothing gets done without its say so. To combat the rising crime statistics, OCP develops a completely automated super cop robot entitled the ED-209. They've pumped tons of money into this project and hope to sell it across the country to other large cities. Unfortunately, the test model has a serious malfunction and tends to open fire on innocent people.
When an honest cop named Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is brutally killed in the line of duty, OCP sees a great way provide a quick fix to their crime problem when they meld his body with that of a robot to create Robocop. The project works out great and Robocop does a fast and efficient job of cleaning up the streets. Unfortunately for Robocop and his partner, Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), they do such a good job of it that Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith in his finest performance ever), a local criminal, aims to take them down no matter the cost. While this is going on, Robocop struggles with the very real memories that still exist in Murphy's brain and enforcing the law he's been programmed to uphold.
The first and best of the three original Robocop films is also the most violent. Particularly in its uncut form (Arrow presents the uncut director's cut of the film on disc one and the theatrical cut on disc two of this set), the gore and bloodshed on display in this film is pretty intense. It's also very over the top and satirical, much like the script itself is. Part sci-fi b-movie and part social satire, Robocop totally hit in the right place at the right time. In the decade that gave us Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Invasion U.S.A., Robocop stands out because of its darkly humorous script and the terrific deadpan performance from Weller in the title role. A strong supporting cast also adds to the film's success, with both Nancy Allen and especially Kurtwood Smith really turning in great work here. Add to this some impressive special effects work and some production design work that still feels fresh even by today's standards, and it's easy to see how and why this became the hit that it was.
Director Paul Verhoeven (who can be seen dancing in the scene where Leon is arrested!), making his North American debut with this film, shows his bizarre sense of humor and penchant for bizarre violence (the body count hits at least thirty by the time the end credits role) can meld together seamlessly with this effort, and the movie still stands up as an immensely entertaining and over the top comic book come to life.
The director's cut and theatrical cut of Robocop both arrive on two separate UHDs from Arrow video, each using a 4k remastered 1.85.1 widescreen HVEC encoded 2160p transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Arrow's promotional material for this release notes that the transfers are taken from a "4K restoration of the film from the original negative by MGM, transferred in 2013 and approved by director Paul Verhoeven." The bits and pieces that were not included in the theatrical cut were scanned from ‘additional film elements' in 2021 and while they look pretty solid, they are a noticeable step down from the material sourced from the negative. The Clarence shot towards the end of the movie looks noticeably better than the Blu-ray transfer, the other inserts, which didn't look as bad as that one, also look better here, just not by as much of a margin. Overall, however, both transfers look really strong here. The grain structure has been left in take, both transfers look nice and natural, there's no obvious noise reduction on display here at all, nor is there any noticeable edge enhancement or compression issues. The picture quality definitely benefits from the higher resolution, you can make out quite a bit more detail here and the colors look fantastic (there's a much more noticeable iridescent sheen to Robocop's armor, for example). Black levels are nice and strong throughout, skin tones look good and overall, this is a really impressive looking picture. Yes, it's a shame that the inserts in the director's cut don't look perfect, but it's simply a matter of inferior elements having to be used here. The vast majority of the movie looks great.
New to this UHD release is a Dolby Atmos mix that was sourced from the original LCRS 4.0 mix, produced by Arrow Films in 2021. English SDH subtitles are also provided for both cuts of the movie. No problems to note here, this mix sounds rock solid. Gun shots and explosions pack a really nice punch and the film's epic score sounds lush and, at times, really impressive. Your subwoofer gets a nice work out during the action scenes, there's a really strong low end here, while dialogue always stays clear and concise, never buried in the mix at all.
Archival audio options carried over from the 2019 Blu-ray include the original lossless stereo and four-channel mixes in DTS-HD format plus a DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound option for both cuts. The surround sound tracks aren't quite as enveloping as you might expect but they do bring some of the action scenes to life with a bit more ‘oomph' than the 2.0 Stereo track offers. Regardless of which option you go for, the audio here is clean, clear and nicely balanced. Dialogue is always easy to follow and to understand, the low end has some nice kick to it (particularly when gun shots are involved) and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.
Extras, which are identical to the two-disc Blu-ray edition that Arrow released back in 2019, are spread out across the two discs in the set as follows:
Disc One: Director's Cut:
Carried over from various older releases is the archival commentary track featuring director Paul Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and co-writer Ed Neumeier (originally recorded for the Theatrical Cut and re-edited in 2014 for the Director's Cut). If you haven't heard this before, it's excellent, with Verhoeven and the others offering a lot of interesting stories about the production. New to this release from Arrow are two new commentary tracks, the first from film historian Paul M. Sammon. It covers the history of the film in a lot of detail, offering up all the facts and trivia you could hope for alongside some very intelligent analysis of the film. The second new commentary features fans Christopher Griffiths, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen and while it isn't as fact-heavy or scholarly in spots, it's definitely enthusiastic and akin to watching the film with a group of friends. They offer plenty of opinions on things as the movie plays out and seem to be having a really good time here.
As to the featurettes, we start with The Future Of Law Enforcement: Creating Robocop, which is a seventeen-minute interview with co-writer Michael Miner where he speaks about writing the picture, his thoughts on how it turned out and more. RoboTalk is a thirty-two-minute conversation between co-writer Ed Neumeier and filmmakers David Birke (writer of Elle) and Nick McCarthy (director of The Prodigy) about the evolution of the film and what makes it unique and so effective. Truth Of Character is an eighteen-minute interview with star Nancy Allen on her role as Lewis that covers landing the part, working with Weller and Verhoeven and her thoughts on the film overall. Casting Old Detroit gets casting director Julie Selzer in front of the camera to talk for eight-minutes about putting the cast together for the film and why some of the specific cast members were chosen for their respective roles. Connecting the Shots is an eleven-minute interview with second unit director Mark Goldblatt about his work not just on Robocop but a few other Verhoeven projects as well, covering not just their work together but their relationship as well. Analogue is a thirteen-minute segment with Peter Kuran and Kevin Kutchaver, who do a great job of breaking down the film's ambitious special effects, all of which were done in camera with practical methods. Composing Robocop is a twelve-minute tribute to composer Basil Poledouris, who passed away in 2006, that features input from film music experts Jeff Bond, Lukas Kendall, Daniel Schweiger and Robert Townson. It's a nice look back at his career and the importance of his contributions to the film. RoboProps is an interesting tour of Robocop super-fan Julien Dumont's collection of original props and memorabilia. Over the span of thirteen-minutes we get a nice look at Dumont's insanely comprehensive and equally impressive collection.
Carried over from past releases is a whole lot more material. 2012 Q&A With The Filmmakers is a forty-two-minute panel discussion conducted at UCLA featuring Verhoeven, Davison, Neumeier, Miner, Allen, Peter Weller and animator Phil Tippett. We also get three archival featurettes from 2007 included here: the twenty-one-minute Robocop: Creating A Legend (which focuses heavily on the construction of the Robocop suit), the seventeen-minute Villains Of Old Detroit (featuring interviews with Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ronny Cox and Ray Wise) and the eighteen-minute Special Effects: Then & Now (which covers how the effects industry has changed over the years and how Robocop's effects work still holds up).
Want more? Look out for four deleted scenes (just under three-minutes' worth of material in total), a six-minute storyboard version of The Boardroom scene with commentary by Phil Tippett, a twelve-minute collection of Director's Cut Production Footage (these are raw dailies from the filming of the unrated gore scenes and quite awesome to see), a pair of theatrical trailers, three TV spots, and still galleries dedicated to Behind The Scenes action, Production Stills and Poster And Video Art.
DISC TWO: Theatrical Cut:
Disc two contains that same archival commentary with Verhoeven, Davison and Neumeier that is included on the first disc. Additionally we get two Isolated Score Tracks in the form of The Composer's Original Mix and The Final Theatrical Mix both offered up in lossless stereo format.
Arrow has also included the Edited-For-TV version of the film, which features alternate dubs, takes and edits of several scenes. This runs ninety-five-minutes and is presented in 1080i from a pretty analogue looking source in 1.33.1 open matte, but for those of us who remember seeing this on network TV back in the nineties, it's a pretty great (and frequently rather amusing) nostalgia rush. Complimenting this is Robocop: Edited For Television, a nineteen-minute compilation of alternate scenes taken from two different edited-for-television versions. This material is newly transferred in high definition from ‘recently-unearthed 35mm elements' and it looks quite nice. Those who are fascinating by alternate versions and TV edits will definitely enjoy this.
Disc two also holds a Split Screen Comparison Of The Theatrical And Director's Cuts of the film, which runs four-minutes, and another Split Screen Comparison Of The Theatrical And TV Cuts which runs just over twenty-minutes. Again, it's amazing to see how much was changed between the different versions of the film and this is a nice way to do just that.
As much material as there is here, however, it's worth noting that Arrow did not port over the following featurettes from the MGM Blu-ray release: Flesh And Steel, The Making Of RoboCop and Shooting RoboCop.
As to the packaging, this steelbook release looks very nice. The front features the iconic image of Robocop getting out of his cruiser, the back a great shot from the movie with him standing in front of the ‘Delta City The Future Has A Silver Lining' billboard. The art on the inside of the case is a still from the finale of the film. Also included inside the steelbook alongside the two discs is a full color booklet that contains notes on the cast and crew, notes on the transfer, production credits for the disc, and a few essays on the film (Tales Of Blood And Steel by Omar Ahemd, Robocop And The Generation That Grew Up With It by Christopher Griffiths and Robocop: Dismantled And Reassembled by Henry Blyth), all carried over from the booklet from the 2019 Blu-ray.
Robocop was, is and ever shall be a masterpiece of fantastic cinema, simultaneously a brilliant satire and an amazingly entertaining sci-fi/action hybrid. It's smart, it's funny and it's intense, highlighted by some great performances and excellent special effects work. Arrow has done an excellent job bringing this to UHD with a really impressive transfer and a killer Atmos mix. Some might lament the absence of any new extras but the last SE, which this duplicates, already had an insane amount of material. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.