by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & Repo Man & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ow many times have you hit the "bonus materials" button on a DVD and found an hour of yawns? Repo Man, the quirky, punk-rock fueled 1984 film about life in a world teetering on the madness of nuclear war, is a cherished exception, featuring amiable chit-chat between director Alex Cox and Sam Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb, as they watch the movie together.
It's a weird touch that is precisely in character with this dark comedy featuring Emilio Estevez as Otto, an aimless young punker, and the sepulchral Harry Dean Stanton as Bud, who tricks Otto into life as a repo man.
The central gimmick has repo men all over Los Angeles chasing a 1964 Chevy Malibu that has a $20,000 bounty. UFO nuts are also looking for the car, as are an army of nearly identical blond FBI agents -- all men in black. The delirious man at the wheel is the late Fox Harris, playing an eye-patched madman J. Frank Parnell, who invented the neutron bomb.
At one point, as he weaves down gritty industrial streets, Parnell rhapsodizes about the effects of the neutron bomb to Otto: "Eyes melt, skin explodes, everybody dead!" he says in a nostalgic singsong. He adds, "So immoral, working on the thing can drive you mad. That's what happened to this friend of mine. So he had a lobotomy. Now he's well again."
In the Reagan 1980s, it was as if the nation had a lobotomy and dreamed it was well again. Without any heavy hammering, Repo Man depicts the insanity of the times with plenty of humor and well-sketched seedy characters.
The DVD extras also include a weird Zen interview with Stanton and a wonderful breakfast-table dialogue between writer/director Cox and "two old chums from UCLA," producers Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy. The three describe the tensions that nearly destroyed their friendship, the movie's 19 (yes, 19) endings and clueless studio execs. They also reveal that the generic consumer items in the film -- cans labeled FOOD or DRINK -- were not a stinging rebuke of Hollywood but something else entirely.
And then there is Zander Schloss, a dead ringer for Napoleon Dynamite -- only 20 years early. The movie tells how this can happen.