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CLERKS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson
Available separately or as part of the Kevin Smith 3-Movie Collection box set

Stars:  Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes
Director:  Kevin Smith
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  See Review
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date:  November 17, 2009

"This job would be great if it wasn't for the customers."

Film ****

Clerks is pretty much Biblical truth to anyone who’s ever worked as one, and I would guess that includes most of us.  Kevin Smith, in his first feature film, created one of the funniest and most biting films ever made. It came out at just the perfect time in my life...I was working as an assistant manager in a video store, and for me and my comrades-in-arms, this movie became an instant quotable classic, and insured that each and every one of us would be lifelong fans of Kevin Smith.

The plot is simple…it follows Dante (O’Halloran) and Randal (Anderson), a convenient store and video rental clerk respectively, over the course of a singe day.  They both offer scathing commentaries of love, life, sex, and even the Star Wars films.  They also make nice opposites.  Dante is the one who attempts to maintain a semblance of managerial responsibility, while Randal comes and goes as he pleases, even closing the store in the middle of the day to rent a video from another store.

Dante's main issue for the day is his love life.  He's caught between his current squeeze Veronica (Ghigliotti) who wants him to better himself and take charge of his own future, and his ex Caitlin (Spoonauer), a girl who cheated on him eight and a half times in school.  "That's what high school is all about," Dante rationalizes.  "Algebra, bad lunch, and infidelity."

Adding to the mirth and mayhem is the first appearance of two inept drug dealers Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith himself), who would become instant icons and staples of many future projects from Smith.  And if you don't see how there can be anything funny about a pair of pushers, you REALLY need to see this film.

The script is crass and crude…in fact, it came close to garnering an NC 17 rating just for the dialogue (there’s no actual sex or nudity in the film).  As such, this movie will offend a few of the more delicate sensibilities out there.  But for those who don’t offend easily, there is much to appreciate in the brutally honest and scathingly funny script.

There are very few sets in the film, and not a lot in the way of camera movement.  Many of the shots rely on the strength of the cast, as they simply go on and on without cuts as they speak their dialogue.  It’s also a 16 mm black and white film.  In other words, very low budget; in fact, Kevin Smith paid for the movie by selling his comic book collection and responding to every credit card mail offering he could find.  But it’s an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamed of making their own film.  You don’t need a lot of money, if you have a good script, a clear vision, and a dedicated cast.

This movie became a word-of-mouth hit at the Sundance film festival and was picked up by Miramax.  It didn't produce huge numbers at the box office, but given the meager $25,000 or so budget, it didn't need to.  And thanks to video clerks everywhere, possibly myself included, this title really garnered the cult following it deserved when it started flying off of shelves.  I wonder if our customers watched this movie and thought this is the way we all saw them as patrons of our establishments?  (The answer, if you really want to know:  sometimes.)

Clerks is as promising a debut as I've ever come across.  Though his budget was meager, his vision was refined to an unapologetic edge, and this remains one of the very funniest films I've ever seen.

Video ***

I didn't expect much from this Blu-ray issue given that the movie was shot on high contrast, inexpensive 16 mm film stock, but I was still pleasantly surprised at how much more detail shone through this presentation.  I've seen the movie dozens of times, and this is the first time I noticed what all the little background signs actually said, or could see all the porn magazine titles behind the counter, or the fact that cigarettes back in 1994 were only a buck-ninety-five (feeling nostalgic, smokers?).  Yes, there is grain and film texture in every shot, but that's all source material and will never go away.  All in all, a nice effort.

Audio ***

The DTS HD soundtrack is a case of this disc going above and beyond the call of duty.  This is a spoken word oriented film with very little real action, but the song score gives the track dynamic range and punch, thanks to songs from Alice in Chains, Bad Religion, Soul Asylum and more.  Apart from that, all dialogue is cleanly delivered, which is the most important part.

Features ****

This single Blu-ray disc shows really shows off the storage capacity capabilities with an extraordinary collection of extras.  New to this high definition offering is  a look at the making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  The box also claims a new introduction from Kevin Smith, but I wasn't able to find it.

The disc also includes both the theatrical version that we've all come to know and love, and the original first cut version as shown at Sundance.  It looks rougher, lacks the good song score, and has a really horrific ending that would have killed Kevin Smith's career before it started had he not taken the advice of the good folks at Miramax.  It's fun to watch just for comparison.  The theatrical cut also includes the classic and hilarious group commentary track from 1995 as well as an enhanced playback track that brings up extra trivia, counts references to f-bombs, homemade signs and other fun stuff, and more.  The first cut includes Smith's 10th anniversary introduction and its own cast and crew commentary.

There is an animated version of a 'lost scene' that was deleted from the movie, Kevin Smith's "Flying Car" short made for TV, the hysterical mid-90s MTV interstitials with Jay and Silent Bob (the Marilyn Manson one is my favorite), the Smith-directed video for Soul Asylum's "Can't Even Tell", original cast audtions, the documentary look "Snowball Effect", Kevin Smith's film school project "Mae Day" with an intro by Smith and Scott Mosier, the 10th anniversary screening Q&A session, and the theatrical trailer. 

The disc also boasts some very nice and clever menu screens, but one complaint:  you can't access the menu while watching the movie without stopping the film, and then if you go back, it doesn't take you back to where you left off.  So look through the generous features either before or after you watch the movie; not during.

Summary:

Clerks is not a film for everyone, but most audiences will appreciate it as a fresh, honest, and completely hysterical comic look at the people who serve us, though they may not like us.  It's a bona fide cult comedy classic that's more fun than ever before on Blu-ray.

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