Actor Peter Weller in his ‘RoboCop’ costume getting a quick adjustment on the set, 1987.
I use the word “masterpiece” to describe director Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film RoboCop and I’m not at all sorry, nor am I wrong. Verhoeven’s light-years ahead-of-its-time dystopian tale, based in a future version of Detroit in which crime has reached an epidemic level, turned 29 years-old in July. And it is still very much a film that I find impossible to shut off when I happen across it on cable TV. Especially if I’m lucky enough to catch it in its gloriously gory unrated form.
Peter Weller as ‘RoboCop’ shooting a scene on the grounds of Dallas City Hall. Though the film was based in a fictional version of Detroit, all but an aerial sequence in the beginning of the movie was filmed in Texas.
I’ve been binging on a lot of celluloid from the 80s lately and ended up watching the unrated version of RoboCop over the weekend and was once again highly entertained by it as well in a bit of awe when it comes special effects that were utilized in order to achieve some of the more grotesque shots and scenes in the film that the MPAA called “excessively violent.” So violent was the movie that Verhoeven had to cut nearly a dozen images and scenes from the film in order to achieve an “R” rating. An unrated director’s cut of RoboCop was released on Blu-Ray in 2014, the entire undertaking was put together by Verhoeven who directly managed the process of restoring and remastering the film in 4K resolution along with RoboCop‘s original cinematographer Sol Negrin. If you’re not familiar with the film I won’t spoil the story for you, though be forewarned some of the images and the fascinating “fun fact” folklore associated with the unapologetically violent film in this post will.
When Paul Verhoeven first finished reading the script written by Edward Neumeier (who also penned for another of my favorite sci-fi flicks directed by Verhoeven 1997’s Starship Troopers) and Michael Miner (who also contributed to the second and third RoboCop movies) the Dutch director allegedly “threw it in the trash” in utter disgust. Verhoeven would retrieve the script at the urging of the movie studio and his wife Martine Tours and eventually ended up digging the script and the rest of that story is history.
When it comes to my favorite character in the film, that would have to be the unforgettable trigger-happy cocaine snorting crime boss Clarence Boddicker. Portrayed by Kurtwood Smith, it’s said that the actor improvised many of Boddicker’s most memorable lines, such as “Can you fly, Bobby?” (spoken as he’s throwing one of his own men out of a speeding van into highway traffic), as well as spitting a bloody pile of phlegm on a cop’s desk while sneering the line “Give me my fucking phone call!” (which led to the authentic looks of shock on the faces of the various other actors in the scene as only Verhoeven and Smith were in on the plan.)
And as if Smith’s portrayal of Boddicker wasn’t already sinister enough, the grim glasses he wore in RoboCop were fashioned after specs worn by none other than Heinrich Himmler.
If you didn’t know any better I think it can be remarkably easy to write off most of what happened in the 1980s as neon-coated garbage when it comes to music and films but you’d be sadly mistaken. RoboCop is an undeniable example of the fact that a dizzying array of films from that decade continue to hold their own without the aid of advanced CGI or other modern forms of movie magic and technology. If you still don’t believe me all you need to do is simply fucking GOOGLE the words “movies from the 1980s” and the results will prove my point. It wasn’t all Weekend at Bernie’s II. In the meantime I hope you will enjoy the following somewhat NSFW images that come straight from the heart of 1987, and that once again should be considered “spoilers” if you’ve never seen the film.
Weller and ‘Sergeant Warren Reed’ played by veteran actor Robert DoQuiro.
Director Paul Verhoeven and one of RoboCop’s giant mechanical arms.
Actor Paul McCrane in the makeup chair for his role as a bad guy ‘Emil M. Antonowsky.’
‘Clarence Boddricker’s’ gang from ‘RoboCop’ left to right; Paul McCrane, Ray Wise (‘Leon C. Nash’), Felton Perry as ‘Johnson’ and the great Kurtwood Smith.
Weller propped up by a roll of toilet paper as the now one-handed cop ‘Alex J. Murphy’
Verhoeven and Weller as ‘RoboCop.’
Paul McCrane and Verhoeven contemplating ‘Emil’s’ unfortunate accidental makeover.
Verhoeven and RoboCop’s sworn enemy ‘ED 209.’
Peter Weller as ‘RoboCop.’
Weller during some downtime on the set of ‘RoboCop.’
Kurtwood Smith—you may know him as ‘Red’ from ‘That 70’s Show’—getting all dolled up.
Paul McCrane preparing for one of ‘RoboCop’s’ most memorable and gory scenes.
A picture of the original ‘RoboCop’ screenplay that spent some time in Paul Verhoeven’s trash can.
A vintage trailer for 1987’s ‘RoboCop.’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Concept art for David Cronenberg’s ‘Total Recall’ that never was