On July 17th, 1987 two very monumental things happened to me that would alter my perspective and change the rest of my life. First, I turned 10 years-old, and proving myself to be a pretty patient and responsible kid, my parents lifted the ban on hard R-rated films, including entire libraries of horror films available at the local video stores. Second, Robocop opened in theaters across the United States. Taking full advantage of my newfound cinematic freedom I practically drug my mother to the earliest, most convenient screening that weekend (I still needed a parent present to see R-rated flicks), and proceeded to gorge myself on almost two full hours of sarcastic black comedy and ultra-violence the likes of which I’d only seen glimpses of in the pages of Fangoria magazine. Though my mom laughed off most of the really intense moments during the screening, I know that somewhere in the back of her mind she was reeling and seriously questioning the decision to give me such free reign when it came to my viewing choices.
Twenty five years later I can’t help but look back with astonishment at the freedom my parents gave me that summer, but at the same time it reminds me of all the time I spent with my mom watching movies late at night on the weekends. We must have talked about the violence and adult themes, though for the life of me I don’t remember any specific conversations. It was common knowledge in the Robare household that my sister wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated films until she turned sixteen, and 1987 was the year she turned eighteen and had her eyes on college and moving out. Maybe lifting my movie ban was my parent’s way of bracing me for this first of many transitions I’d be facing while growing up. Or maybe, they were tired of always fighting with my sister on movie suitability, and I had the benefit of some lazy, second-kid parenting. Either way, this opportunity was not squandered, and I spent the better part of the next two years devouring the horror and sci-fi sections of my local Home Video store, alphabetically renting my way through hundreds of films. Believe it or not, barely any of them had the effect of my first theatrical screening of Robocop, and even to this day it’s pretty rare that I stumble across a film that can make me squirm as much as I do when re-watching that seminal film.
About two weeks ago it occurred to me that my birthday this year would not only be a big one for myself (I’m turning 35, which was the age my father was when he had me), but it would also mark the first really nostalgic anniversary of the theatrical release of Robocop. Since this film had such a drastic impact on my life, I thought it fitting to dedicate the next week and a half of Branded with a mini Robocop-themed blog-a-thon. So from now until July 17th you can expect articles that will Serve the Public Trust, Uphold the Law, Protect the Innocent, and most importantly articles that will highlight the badassery of all those involved with making this film and franchise a reality.
To kick things off, here’s the 10-page article from the December 1987 issue of Cinefantastique (volume 16, number 1) written by Dan Bates (with an insert pieces by C.V. Drake and Brooks Landon.) This one is loaded with behind-the-scenes photos and trivia!
Some of the interesting tidbits gleemed from this article include the pedigree of talent working on the film. Not only did the writers, Neumeier and Miner, both work with Alex Cox (Repo Man), but the producer, Jon Davison, came up in the Roger Corman New World camp, and would also produce features like Airplane! and the Joe Dante Segment in Twilight Zone the Movie. This independent and cost conscious background led to a film with a relatively tiny budget of $12 million. It’s amazing what they were able to achieve with this small amount of funds.
Also, Rob Bottin did some amazing work on the Robocop armor and make-up. Never in a million years would I have guessed that the gloves were made out of foam latex…
There’s also a lot of kudos given to the boom in adult comics as a huge inspiration to both the tone and scope of the film. Director Verhoeven took the interesting and varied angles and perspectives of comics, and with a nod to the work of John Houston, he shot many of the scenes with between 6 to 8 cameras so that he could capture all the action in one take and then have all sorts of fun angles to play with in the editing room…