From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
< Repo Man
"I shall not cause harm to any vehicle nor the personal contents thereof. Nor through inaction let that vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm." - The Repo Code
In 1984, Director/Artist Alex Cox brought his indie comic strip Repo Man to life on the silver screen. One of the great elements in Repo Man was that as well as being a hilarious punk rock-sci-fi-comedy cult classic, it was also a social commentary on many pop culture crazes of the day.
A scientist named J Frank Parnell (Fox Harris) is driving a stolen 64 Chevy Malibu near Roswell New Mexico (this was where there were many supposed sightings of UFO's in the mid 20th Century). Parnell is carrying dead alien remains in his trunk. He sweats, loses his hair and gets sick because of the alien bodies which are nuclear components that radiate the car. When anyone opens the car trunk (which emits a bright green glow), they are instantly burnt and turned to dust. This is actually a reference to the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly (1955) in which there is a mysterious box that when opened, kills its victims with a deadly nuclear fury.
In Los Angeles, Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez) is a punker/grocery store stockboy. When his nerdy co-worker/friend Kevin (Zander Schloss) annoys him by singing the cheery 7-Up Soda jingle ("Feelin 7, Feelin 7 Up!..") Otto loses his cool and pushes Kevin into some cans they were stacking. The uppity store owner and the security guard tell Otto to get out. He rips off his tie and apron, gives em the finger and splits.
In the next scene, we see Otto in his favorite habitat: a punk slamdancin' party. Otto and the other punks run around like loons and listen to the LA Punk band The Circle Jerks' anti-government anthem "Coup De'Tat". Otto's friend Duke (the hilarious Dick Rude) has just got out of jail and when he shows up at the party Otto shows his affection by slamdancing with him. Otto goes to the after party at his ex co worker Kevin's house and is on the make with a girl named Debbie (Jennifer Balgobin). Debbie tells Otto she wants a beer, but when he returns he finds Debbie making out with Duke. Otto gets pissed and leaves. Disallusioned, Otto sits on the sidewalk by himself, drinking beer and then he breaks into a solo rendition of Black Flag's classic punk anthem "TV Party" as he drifts through the night.
The next day, Otto is walking somewhere in a bad part of town. As he's aimlessly strolling along, a car slowly pulls up along side him. The guy inside asks Otto if he wants to make a few dollars, Otto replies with a "Fuck Off Queer". The man tells him he's not asking him for that kind of thing. Bud Wiser (Harry Dean Stanton) is a repo man. He tells Otto all he has to do is steal a car and follow him back to the Repo office. Otto finally agrees and he hops in the car and starts it up. Before he can get outta there, the irate owner runs out and grabs Otto through the window, but Otto presses on the gas and the old guy falls down as he speeds off. Otto excitedly laughs and you can tell he's having fun at his first experience as a repo man.
When Otto and Bud arrive back at the Repo office, Otto sees just what repo men look like and he isn't impressed. Bud then asks Otto if he wants a job, but Otto replies with opening a can of beer and pouring it on the floor in trademark punk defiance. He doesn't like Repo men. After persuading Otto to take the job, Bud tells him he has to dress like a cop for special reasons. A Repo man has to look like an important, respectable person. Bud also tells him the famous Repo code. While working at his new job, Otto meets the Repo office's janitor and strange yard worker Miller (Tracy Walter). Miller tells him all kinds of strange theories he has. The other workers at the Repo Shop include: Lite (Sy Richardson), the tough secretary Marlene (Vonetta McGee), and the knitting Rent A Cop: Otto Plettshner (Richard Foronjy).
Otto's parents are hippies and they sit in their house like zombies and watch evangelical TV programs. They are seemingly hypnotized and barely pay attention to him. After Otto explains that he'd like to take his college money and do some traveling instead, they robotically explain they gave his money away to the evangelist on TV. Meanwhile, Otto's punk pals Debbie (now sporting a mohawk), the dimwitted moron Archie (Michael Sandoval) and the snarling punk Duke have started a life of crime. They steal cars and rob people throughout the film adding a screwball comedy subplot aspect to the story. Debbie's famous line in these scenes is to yell: "GET THE LEAD OUT!!" at her partners as they run away from their latest crime scene.
While cruising down the street one day, Otto randomly picks up a girl named Leila (Olivia Barash) and she's heard about the Alien bodies in the man's trunk from a National Enquirer type newspaper (another reference to the fanatical Alien spotting craze of the mid 80s) and tells Otto about it. Otto thinks the whole thing is a big joke. He drops her off where she works. The place is called "The United Fruitcake Outlet". Otto reads the name and laughs hysterically.
In one hilarious sequence, Otto goes to an old black woman's house to repo her car. While he's talking with her, her sons come home (they are HUGE dudes). Otto is nervous as hell as he politely tells the lady he has to go. He fumbles with his briefcase and quickly leaves. When he gets outside he hops in the ladie's car and tries to start it, but he doesn't realize her sons have put the car up on jacks so noone could take it. They hear him start the car outside and they run out and beat him up.
Throughout the rest of the film Bud Wiser and Otto are competing with another Repo business run by The Rodriguez Brothers (Del Zamora and Eddie Velez) to find the stolen Chevy driven by J Frank Parnell. A special Federal Agent Squad are looking for the stolen Chevy which the strange man is driving as well.
When it was released, Repo Man was not a big hit. But over the past 30 years, due to its uniquely offbeat, independent style as well as being shown on TV (in a peculiarly comical edited version), it has garnered a devoted cult-like following. Speaking personally, I grew up watching the movie on VHS and on TV and its been a favorite of mine ever since.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.