Tag Archives: paul verhooven

Oh my god! They Killed Kinney! You Bastards!

7546129954_84c5f2ed6d_oI’ve written a bit about how the extreme violence in Robocop affected me as a kid, and if I had to pinpoint the specific scene that did the most damage I would have to say that it’s the boardroom scene and the unfortunate end to one Mr. Kinney.  If it’s true that exposure to violence can desensitize a person to its impact, then I’m pretty sure this sequence is what did me in as it’s the first time I saw a death scene portrayed quite so violently.  Desensitization aside, I’d argue that this sequence is integral to establishing the world, humor and hyper-stylized tone of Robocop, and is a prime example of when less is more as the four seconds that was edited out of the sequence ends up making the scene much more disturbing than intended.

So before I go on, let’s take a look at this sequence.  The scene opens with Morton and Johnson taking an elevator in the OCP building to head up to a conference about the future of Delta City.  Kinney (played by Kevin Page), a young, wet-behind-the-ears, junior executive, jumps on with them and for all intents and purposes plays the role of the audience, asking all the obvious questions so that we can get the gist of what’s going on at Omni Consumer Products…

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As the meeting starts Kinney is seated at the very back of the room, furthest away from “the Old Man”, but as Dick Jones gets up to lead his presentation introducing his sector’s prototype for the ED-209 (Enforcement Droid), we can see that Kinney has the best/worst seat in the house.

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Jones needs an assistant to illustrate how the Ed-209 works in a disarmament procedure, and of course Kinney is a prime choice, and is more than eager to help (in fact, in the novelization of the film he’s described by Ed Naha as “…a kinetic portrait of unchecked enthusiasm…”)

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Dick Jones then pulls out a shiny silver Desert Eagle and hand the small canon to Kinney…

 Sigh.  Kinney, you poor, poor bastard.

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This is the point in the film when we as the audience get the first hint that we’re in for some intense shit.  It was scary enough when the ED-209 unit first came into the boardroom, thrusting its legs forward and heaving the weight of its torso too and fro.  But as I mentioned above, Kinney is the stand in for the audience.  We’re right there with him as he points that gun at the enforcement droid, and when that booming deep voice commands us to drop our weapon, we have 20 seconds to comply, we know this isn’t going to end well for our stand-in.  Now we’re effectively trapped inside Kinney, second-guessing and future role-playing invitations, and we’re just as concerned as he his as he turns to Mr. Jones for some sage advice about how in the hell he’s supposed to get out of this situation.

Sure, drop the gun.  Seems reasonable enough.  I know staring at that brute of a droid in the…uh, face?  Grill?  Whatever, staring at that thing would have me forgetting all my common sense too.  Again, this is the genius of the scene as we’re right there with Kinney.  Ker-clunk.  Gun dropped.  But what’s that?  The droid didn’t hear it fall?  WTF?

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What’s this happy horseshit about me having 10 seconds to comply!?!  That’s right Dr. MacNamera, you better rip open that command console and pull the plug on this hulking monster!

It’s at this point when both Kinney and the audience are afforded their last hope of sanity in the film.  One last split second where we hear a faint whisper in the back of our heads saying “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…”  Though I may be a tad desensitized to onscreen violence in movies, I can honestly say that this serene split-second still gives me chills and equally fills me with dread for what I know is coming next.  Kinney, you have five seconds to comply.  Five seconds to live.

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So getting back to the violence and the potential this film had for an X-rating.  As originally filmed, the sequence where Kinney is torn apart in a hail of canon-fire from ED-209 is a sticky, burnt and bloody 9-12 seconds…

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The screen continuously cuts between Kinney getting pummeled from the front, from behind, and back to ED-209 blasting away.  Even after Kinney is knocked back onto the scale model of Delta City, the droid continues to fire on him, ripping up his legs and chest, more and more.  It actually lasts long enough that at a point, you can’t help but start to nervously laugh and ask can this possibly continue?  And that point IS the point of this scene.  It’s stepping over that line of decency into lunacy that lets the audience in on the joke of the whole film.  This isn’t reality anymore, it’s a cartoon.  The punch line of this cartoon joke is delivered by the dumbass that screams for a paramedic, as if there could possibly be any hope to salvage poor Kinney’s life.

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What makes this scene even funnier is that it’s a dry run for the sequence where Boddicker and his gang maim and kill Murphy.  It’s funny because they do salvage Murphy, and in a way they save his life.  But not Kinney.  Poor, poor Kinney.  “Don’t Touch Him!  DON’T TOUCH HIM!!!”

Anyway, back to that pesky X-rating.  In order to avoid this, Verhoeven and company ended up slicing up the sequence, cutting our a mere 4 seconds of footage and earning that coveted R.  But as I said above, less is more, and the shortened theatrical sequence is way more disturbing in its abrupt dispatching of Kinney.  It plays so much more callous and cold, and when Morton utters the famed final word on Kinney’s life, “Hey, that’s life in the big city…”, it’s all the more unnerving.

I find it interesting that Kinney’s death makes its way into two pieces of merchandising.  The first isn’t all that surprising, as it’s included in a full page sequence in the first Marvel adaptation of the film into a comic book…

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Though it’s not surprising, it is a little more violent than I’m used to Marvel adaptations being, though it was printed under the Epic comics imprint I believe.

The other instance is a two-card sequence in the Robocop 2 Topps trading card set…

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At the end of the day Kevin Page may have played a minor role in Robocop as Kinney, but his five or so minutes on film have haunted me for years.  I’m not sure if there’s much more that an actor can ask as a legacy than having that kind of impact.

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The only thing better than one glow in the dark Nightfighter Robocop, is two GITD Nightfighter Robocops!

7530728002_35445e5f7a_oFor today’s installment of Robo-madness I thought it would be fun to take a look at a couple of toys based on the Robocop film (and cartoon series.)  Back in 1988 we were treated to slew of RC merchandising and spinoffs including lunchboxes, school supplies, a Marvel Productions cartoon and a toyline, Robocop and the Ultra Police, from Kenner.  Though the cartoon and toyline were connected, for kids like me that never saw the cartoon when it originally aired, these figures and vehicles were just an extension of the film.  I only had a couple of the toys, the main Robocop figure and his Police Cruiser, but they stayed in my toybox for years afterwards.  At some point during a move, around the time when I was in high school, my parents got a bit sneaky and trashed all of my toys.  Because we ended up shifting from a two-story house to a cramped apartment, this unfortunate off-loading of my childhood went unnoticed until I ended up moving out on my own a couple years later.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I spotted a picture of a new NECA action figure release of a glow-in-the-dark Robocop.  Seeing that new figure brought back a lot of my old memories of having RC face off against my Transformers and G.I. Joe figures, and that’s when I did some research and realized that the 25th anniversary of the film was right around the corner.  That cinched it, and I knew I both had to spend some time on the site in honor of the film, and track down this new gitd Robocop figure!

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It didn’t take long to acquire the NECA Robocop, and after hitting the net in research mode again I realized that new toy was actually an homage to one of the original 1988 Ultra Police figures, Nightfighter Robocop.  So I made a quick detour to eBay and found an original Nightfighter that had been sitting in the collection of a former Kenner employee for 24 years.  I bought the figure and couldn’t wait to get him so that I could see the two glow-y figures side by side…

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Like most toylines in the 80s, The Ultra Police line was filled with all sorts of random variant versions of the main character, sort of like how Batman had six million different costumes in the Animated Series toyline, one for battling lava, one for flying, etc.  If there’s one gimmick that always wins me over, it’s a figure made out of glow-in-the-dark plastic.  It’s purely for aesthetic reasons, but I love both the way the figures look when glowing and the slightly pale green mixed with milky white of the plastic in normal light.  It surely doesn’t hurt that this Robocop variant also features a Gatling Gun arm and cap-firing abilities.

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The updated NECA version, released as a Toys R Us exclusive, excludes the chain-gun limb, but it does a masterful job of providing a more realistic take on the Robocop body armor sculpt.  The packaging designers also had their tongue planted firmly in their cheeks when transferring the bulk of the original figure’s descriptive copy which reads: “Robocop(‘s) special night gear makes him completely invisible to the evil Vandels gang.  Nightfighter armor can be seen only by the Ultra Police troops.”  Right, so the eerie illuminated and glowing green armor is actually invisible?  Sigh.  It made more sense in the 80s…

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Another action option that didn’t made the cut when updating the Nightfighter figure was the cap-firing action.  The original figures, all of the Robocop figures I believe, had the ability to load and fire strips of caps.  I can see this being troublesome in the modern market.  Actually, do any companies even make cap-firing toys anymore?  Regardless, though this option is sorely missed, this is another instance when the updated sculpt makes up for it in spades.  Like most 80s era toys, Robocop’s grip on his gun was somewhat fugly looking not to mention quite tenuous.  The new version not only has a nice grip on things, the gun is now almost perfectly screen accurate as well.  It might not handily clip to the figure’s hip like with the old toy, but I can let that slide…

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One last comparison I’d like to make in terms of sculpting can be seen in the Achilles tendon/pistons on Robocop’s feet.  The original toyline tried its best to recreate the idea of this design flourish, but in the updated toy they’re magnificent!  Not only are they accurate in terms of sculpting, but they’re articulated and actually work.  Granted, I have a fear that with too much moving and repositioning these will be the first parts to break on the figure, but they sure are pretty…

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Here’s a nice quality scan of the cardback from the original toy featuring the entire line of Ultra Police figures and vehicles.  Though it would be pretty cool to track down a nice version of the basic Robocop figure again, I’d really like to find an affordable version of the ED-260 (the cartoon update to the ED-209.)  Not only does it fire caps, but it looks really neat too!

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I promised my wife that we wouldn’t go in debt during this Robocop week, so I limited myself to these two figures pictured above.  So for these next four images, I had to resort to swiping pictures off of eBay.  I just wanted to post the original basic figure, as well as some of the zanier variants that would pop up by the time the live action Robocop series came along…

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I guess by the 90s a simple glow in the dark figure wasn’t enough, so they had to upgrade to a series of light-up figures like the one pictured below.

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Tying for the most ridiculous variants have to be Sky Patrol and Toxic Emergency Robocops.  Though he did attain flight capabilities by the third film, I’ve tried my best to erase the memory of that movie from my brain…

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Taking a closer look at Robocop, literally…

7539715584_cb52a4a1a0_oDay three of the Robomadness is here, and along with it are a series of blueprint/schematic illustrations for both Robocop and ED-209…

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Ever wonder where Murphy’s Digestion Organ Pot or Main Energy Battery are located?  Wonder no longer.  I used to love finding imagery like this when I was a kid.  Not that any of this is useful in a practical manner, but the idea that the creators of these kinds of characters were thinking about them this deeply.  My favorites used to be when there would be a weapon or gadget breakdown in the Marvel Universe Handbook issues.  You know, illustrating how Spider-Man’s web-shooters or Wolverine’s claws worked.

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If nothing else, I feel comfortable knowing that Robocop has a black box separate from his computer backup system.  Can’t be too careful when it comes to a healthy disaster recovery plan.

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Here are some fun illustrations of ED-209 as well…

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All of the above came from an out-of-print Japanese magazine I believe, as well as the two ED-209 illustrations below…

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Last up today is something a bit more modern in the form of a recent Robocop screening poster.  Artist Tim Doyle did this wonderful explosive schematic titled “Murphy, It’s You”…

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You can find Tim’s website here, as well as some fairly decently priced screen prints of the above poster at the Spoke Art store!

I’ll trade you a hand-less Murphy for your Boddicker’s Bros card!

7532537214_4ebdcd1cb6_oIt’s day two of the Branded in the 80s Robocop-a-thon, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to look at the Topps movie trading cards from 1990.  Though this set was primarily produced for the Robocop sequel, the designers at Topps were thoughtful enough to include about 20 cards at the beginning of the set that recap the events of the first film.  If I had to guess I’d say that in 1986-87, when the first feature was being merchandised, Topps took a pass on licensing the property as they weren’t sure if their product was probably good fit for the adult content of the movie.  Though they had previous produced licensed card sets for films like Alien, Rambo: First Blood, Part 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Fright Night, Pumpkinhead, and Predator (the latter four form the Fright Flicks set), I had to believe that the over the top uber violence and adult themes in Robocop would be a concern in a line of cards meant largely for kids.  Well, after the successful marketing push of the first film throughout 1987 and into 1988 with the cartoon spin-off and toy-line, I’m sure Topps were kicking themselves and when the opportunity arose for licensing on the sequel, they were right there at the front of the line…

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Though I kind of wish that these 1st movie cards featured a different border and color scheme than the standard Robocop 2 card design, I am glad Topps saw fit to include them.  Most of the cards feature Murphy as Robocop punching, shooting, and hair-dragging the villains from the film, but there are also some cool shots like the one with Peter Weller and Nancy Allen below that I think is from a promotional still.  I also love the card featuring the scene from later in the film when Murphy is trying to work on his aim.  Love the subtle inappropriateness of blasting away at something so pure and tiny as baby food bottles.

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There are also a couple of fun cards that feature some behind the scenes shots, like this group photo of Clarence Boddicker and his “associates”, as well as the still where we can see the hands of the off-screen “puppeteer” about to spear Boddiker with Robocop’s F-U-Usb interface spike…

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The picture of the Boddicker crew really unnerves me for some reason.  When I first saw this flick in the theater as a kid I was genuinely afraid of these characters, and because there was so many adult themed scenes with them (snorting coke, having their junk out in front of nice lady cops, or taking hazardous baths in toxic waste) I have since had a very hard time not associating the characters with the actors ever since.  In some cases this did nothing but enhance their performances in later projects (Kurtwood Smith as Red Foreman in That 70s Show for instance), but in others it made it nearly impossible to watch them in other parts (like Paul “Emil the Melting Man” McCrane as Dr. Robert Romano in ER.)  So seeing them in this behind the scenes group photo ass giggling an huggy just feels extra sleazy to me.  I know it’s irrational, but it’s just disturbing.  Granted, not nearly as disturbing as this next set of cards…

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I’ll be honest, I’m a horrible judge at what is and isn’t appropriate for kids.  Sure, I can easily say porn is not for kids (or honestly for me, but whatever), but when it comes to things like violence and horror movies I have a harder time finding the line.  As I’ve mentioned, I saw Robocop in the theater when I was 10 and even though a lot of the stuff make me squirm in my chair, I still loved ever single minute of it and unless there’s some stuff I’ve done during a blackout where I don’t remember, I’ve never hurt anyone and am a pretty nice, compassionate and grounded individual.  But even I would say that some of these bubblegum cards are pretty rough and probably not the kind of thing you want your kids taking to school and trading for stickers and Hot Wheels.  Did they really need to single out the attempted rape scene for a card?  Hell, I’m surprised there isn’t a card featuring Bob Morton snorting blow off of that one hooker’s boobs.  The Murphy execution cards are the worst (though I do have a couple others that are right up there that I’ll be sharing on another day.)

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For the record, if you are going to feature a card with Murphy in mid hand-ectomy, please title the card “Give the Man a Hand”…  Oh, and I shared the sticker card subset from this series a while back in the Peel Here column…

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Celebrating 25 years of Robocop, Part Man, Part Machine, All Badass!

7530727408_5f0da04c8e_oOn 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.

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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 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.

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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!

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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…