Miramax // 1994 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 16th, 2009
I'm not even supposed to be here today!
It's been 15 years since Kevin Smith's low-budget slacker comedy took the indie film world by storm, which means it's triple-dip time! Clerks arrives on Blu-ray, much to the surprise of Kevin himself, with a few tweaks beyond the Clerks X 10th Anniversary release. Since DVD Verdict didn't cover that title, I'll be a bit more robust in describing the extras, but defer to the reviews of my esteemed colleagues retired Judge Sean Fitzgibbons and retired Chief Justice Mike Jackson to dissect the film itself.
Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran, Clerks II) is a modern-day Charlie Brown, a schlub with a good heart and lack of life purpose makes him the doormat for the entire human race. What better place for someone like that to spend nearly every waking hour than a convenience store?! His best friend and quasi-life partner, Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson, Zack and Miri Make a Porno), works next door at RST Video and the two spend every ounce of energy they can muster just to make it through the day. And what a day it is! Dante learns his current girlfriend (Marilyn Ghigliotti) has sucked 37 dicks, his ex-girlfriend (Lisa Spoonauer) makes love to a corpse in a darkened restroom, a militant gum salesman incites an anti-smoking riot inside the store, and Randal defiles their friend Julie's funeral by knocking over the casket. Only the wisdom of Jay (Jason Mewes, Dogma) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith, Chasing Amy) can help put everything in perspective.
It's a film that launched careers and a franchise. Adored by fans for its characters and critics for Kevin's razor sharp dialogue, this under-the-radar comedy defied all odds, garnered industry champions, stormed Sundance, and overwhelmed Cannes all in the span of one year, becoming the darling of the indie circuit and making Bob and Harvey Weinstein look like geniuses. No one involved believes Clerks is anything other than a labor of love that caught lightning in a bottle. Static sets, rudimentary framing, ill-advised jump cuts, wonky eye lines, bad ADR, questionable performances, and continuity errors galore make it a case study for how not to shoot a film. And yet it's a picture that hangs its unfiltered philosophy on every frame of its 91 minutes, capturing the hearts and minds of a disenfranchised generation of American twenty-somethings who had never seen themselves portrayed on the big screen like this before.
Kevin is the Woody Allen of Gen X-ers, bringing his experiences, beliefs, and passions to bear in every film he undertakes. Alongside producing partner and spiritual brother-from-another-mother, Scott Mosier, they've built a family of filmmakers and a body of work that can't help but be respected. Some will claim its a house of cards built on nothing more than dick and fart jokes, but I challenge those who do think that way to sit through Clerks, Chasing Amy, and Dogma and not walk away with some appreciation for the stories being told. These topics and ideas resonate with people, regardless of how many f-bombs and sexual references they're peppered with. What we all look for in film, as critics and movie-goers alike, are unique voices and Kevin's is a true original.
15 years later, Clerks still holds up. Obstensibly, it's become an early '90s period piece, but the pop culture riffs and dialogue exchanges are like Twinkies, withstanding the test of time. Did we need a Blu-ray version of the film? No, but all of Kevin's movies have been upgraded to high def (the only one we're still waiting on is Universal's Mallrats), so Miramax gives it new menu designs, an a/v upgrade, and one significantly new bonus feature.
THE FILM ITSELF
Clerks (1994 Theatrical Cut, 91 min)
Reframed as 1.85 from the original 1.37 negative, there's not much of a visual bump from the 10th Anniversary DVD release. Then again, there's not much anyone can do to improve an independently shot, 16mm black and white film. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio isn't a whole lot better. Still wildly inconsistent, we do get a deeper soundscape (hampered by a heavy vocal buzz on Dante's rants) and a more robust musical track, working hard to bring it in line with more modern indies. As BD upgrades go, this one sits at the bottom of the heap, but Askewniverse fans will be proud to have it in their collection.
Clerks (1993 First Cut, 104 min)
There's nothing Blu-ray can do to improve this one. Shot and presented in 1.37, this was transferred over from Super VHS and looks like ass -- extremely dark, extremely dirty, and incredibly muddy audio. You'll see the vocals go out of synch, sparse music cues, drawn out sequences, and one hell of a downer ending in which Dante meets his maker. This is the version taken to the 1993 Independent Feature Film Market (IFFM) and Sundance (minus the original ending). It's an unpolished look at the beginning of many careers and a nice comparison piece.
Commentary for the Theatrical Cut (1995)
Kevin, Scott, Jason, Brian, the one and only Walt Flanagan (actor and Kev's lifelong friend), Vinnie Pereira (actor/crew), Dave Klein (director of photography), Jim Jacks (Mallrats producer), and Malcolm Ingram (then a writer for Film Threat, now a member of the View Askew family) sit down to gas about the picture from the set of Mallrats, in a track created for the laser disc release. Kevin is way too close to the mic and Mewes is completely wasted (it was a dark period in his life), but even then Kev was the master of ceremonies, handling the discussion with effortless ease, insight, and his patented unfiltered humor.
Trivia Track for the Theatrical Cut (2004)
Upgraded BD version of the 2004 trivia track in which a wealth of production info, cast and crew trivia, Askewniverse facts, press clippings, and more show up in the lower right-hand corner as taped-up signs. There's also a running counter in the lower left for movie references, cigarettes purchased, f-bombs, and more. This one is for the die-hard Kev-heads. The uninitiated can skip it.
Intro for the First Cut (2004, 9 min)
We drop in on the middle of a conversation with Kevin and Scott talking about Jeff Healy's performance in Road House. About 3 min in, they remember they're supposed to be talking about Clerks 10th anniversary release. Note: At this point, Kev was still involved with the Green Hornet film, as evidenced by the maquettes on his desk. So much for that idea.
Commentary for the First Cut (2004, Picture-in-Picture or Audio
Kevin, Scott, Jason, Brian, and Jeff wax nostalgic about the pic 10 years after the fact. Kev-heads are well-versed in the lore: the flood, livin' and workin' out of the video store, Scott seeing Kevin's mom naked, Mews spankin' it behind the RST counter, audition stories, cameo appearances by friends and family, early '90s fashion, gay or not gay, the overwhelming buzz machine, legend of "The Sweat Box," origin of "The Randal," and more. Oh, if you're distracted by people talking while they're eating, you'll want to skip about 20 min starting at the 22 min mark, when lunch is delivered. Note: Jeff talks about his wife Lisa Spoonauer who played Dante's love Caitlin. She makes no appearance in any of the bonus materials, save the Sundance footage. They divorced in 2005.
Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party: The Making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike
Back (New!, 93 min)
The much discussed, long-awaited debut of Schwalbach (Kev's wife) and Malcolm's 2004 behind-the-scenes documentary on the fifth Askewniverse film. Kevin intros the doc (4 min) and excuses the Clerks triple-dip from his backyard, using this bonus feature as a peace offering. This 89 min cut -- slimmed down from its original three-hour extravaganza that played at Vulgarthon 2005 and 2006 -- journeys from first day of filming through the day after their wildly successful test screening, and features a wealth of Hollywood names and faces talking smack about Kevin and his most mainstream, suck-up picture to date. It's an interesting peek behind the curtain, but not a compelling doc by any stretch. Why is this not on the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Blu-ray)? Because that disc was released three years ago and more people are likely to buy this disc than a re-release of a title they already own. Just an aside: Why does Shannon Doherty come across as one of the most insincere interviews ever?
Snowball Effect (2004, 91 min)
Phil Benson's full-length documentary detailing Kevin's youth, his love of writing, his introduction to the world of indie films, meeting Scott Mosier, making Clerks, the miraculous intervention of Bob Hawk, the persistence of Miramax's Tusk, and the impact this film ultimately had on the lives of everyone involved. It's the definitive story of Clerks, the birth of View Askew, and the single most valuable bonus feature on any Clerks release.
Outtakes from Snowball Effect (2004, 38 min)
Deleted and extended versions of interviews shot for the documentary, including Scott's famous "I Will Leave" story.
10th Anniversary Q&A (2004, 42 min)
Melissa and I have had the pleasure of attending several of Kevin's crowd-pleasing Q&A sessions...and this isn't one of them. Recorded at the Arclight in Hollywood, the discussion -- with guests Dave Klein, Scott, Jason, Marilyn, Jeff, and Brian -- is hampered by lame audience questions and a panel seemingly uninterested in fielding them. Oh well. I highly recommend checking out any of the An Evening with Kevin Smith DVDs to cleanse the palate.
Clerks: The Lost Scene (Animated) (2004, 10 min)
Viewable as a stand-alone or integrated into the film itself, Kev and Scott intro a scene in which Dante and Randal accidentally defile Julie Dwyer's funeral. Featuring the voices of Brian, Jeff, and Joey Lauren Adams as Alyssa, the short ties together events and characters from Mallrats and Chasing Amy, as done by Powerhouse Animation, the team responsbile for Clerks: The Animated Series. Check out background cameos by Walt, Steve-Dave, and Willam Black.
The Flying Car (2002, 8 min)
Kevin intros a 6-minute short film created for Jay Leno's Tonight Show. The mini-adventure reunites Dante and Randal, stuck in Jersey traffic, debating alternative forms of transportation and the cost of such innovation. If nothing else, it shows the viability of these characters carrying a movie, ultimately giving birth to Clerks II.
MTV Spots with Jay and Silent Bob (1998, 16 min)
Kevin and Scott intro a series of eight bumpers created for MTV, prior to the filming of Dogma. Due to licensing issues, much of the original music has been swapped out for cheaper tunes. For the rare few who haven't already seen Mewes junk, you'll catch a brief glimpse of it here. Cameos by Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Matt Damon, Alanis Morisette, and even Scott makes a rare acting appearance.
Audition Tapes (2004, 14 min)
Kevin and Scott intro video captured during the audition process for Clerks -- Brian O'Halloran (a very affected straight theatre scene done with no regard for the camera's frame), Jeff Anderson (nervously reading Jason Mewes' lines), Marilyn Ghigliotti (a well-rehearsed piece; easily the best of the three), and Ernie O'Donnell (a childhood friend originally pegged to play Dante, Kevin was disappointed with Ernie's audition and cast Brian instead).
Clerks Restoration (2004, 13 min)
Scott talks about the various audio mixes the film went through in post, cleaning up the original quarter inch masters, and reintroducing unused ambient audio from the Quickstop and RST for the 10th anniversary release. Dave quickly discusses the new high def master created from the original 16mm negative. Kevin demands you throw away your VHS and make room for Clerks X, the 10th anniversary DVD.
Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary (1992, 12 min)
Kevin and Scott intro their first semester Vancouver Film School short film about a trans woman who bailed before the shoot even began, and the scandalous fallout that followed.
Music Video: Can't Even Tell (1994, 6 min)
Kevin and The Green Hornet intro this video for Soul Asylum's soundtrack contribution which ran over the closing credits, featuring Dante, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob, the band stealing food from the Quick Stop, and another rooftop hockey game.
Theatrical Trailer (1994, 2 min)
Matthew Cohen's trailer for the film's original (limited) theatrical release.
All you high-def snobs can put away your pitchforks and torches. You have no power here. If you're a Kev-head looking to upgrade all his films to Blu-ray, this purchase is a no-brainer. Everyone else can stick with the 10th Anniversary DVD. Clerks is a classic piece of '90s cinema that encapsulates a generation and proves that a passion for your art is well worth pursuing.
Not guilty. Now get outta here, and try not to suck any dick on the way to the parking lot. Nooch!
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
* Portuguese (Brazilian)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Trivia Track
* Deleted Scene
* Audience Q&A
* Audition Tapes
* Short Films
* Music Video
* Askewniverse Wiki