This is an LA of space aliens, government conspiracies, stoned parents, evangelists, lobotomies, repo men, debt, “Dioretix: Science of Matter of Mind,” rebellious youth, armed robbery, and most significantly some would argue, punk rock. Repo Man is the story of Otto Maddox (Emelio Estevez), an 18 year-old punk whose parents spend all day smoking weed and sending money they don’t have to a televangelist who preaches, “I want your money, because God wants it. So go out and mortgage that home, and sell that car, and send me your money. You don’t need that car.” Otto gets a job as a repo man, where Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) schools him (“Ordinary fucking people, I hate ’em.”) and the local crazy shaman bum Miller (Tracey Walter) philosophizes (“There’s like this lattice of coincidence laid on top of everything”). Meanwhile, Otto meets Leila who is being tailed by creepy blonde government agents because she knows too much about a lobotomized scientist and his trunk full of aliens. Ultimately, everyone in the movie is looking for the same thing. Love? Salvation? Nope. A ’64 Chevy Malibu.
And here’s how LA this movie is: According to IMDB, a couple of days into filming, the Chevy Malibu was stolen. They located a replacement, and then the police found the original stolen vehicle and returned it unharmed, which was lucky since one of the actors subsequently wrecked the replacement car. Now that’s LA, ladies and gentlemen.
But like I said, at least as significant as the Malibu or Miller’s plate-o-shrimp insights about the world is the sound track. Black Flag, Fear, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, the Plugz…. This is the consummate early 80s Los Angeles sound track. Both The Untouchables and the Circle Jerks appear in the movie (the former as a scooter gang, the latter as a lounge act, provoking Otto’s disdainful “I can’t believe I used to like these guys” remark), and Zander Schloss, who plays Otto’s nerdy coworker Kevin, joined the Circle Jerks as their bass player after production on the film ended.
In short, if you were a disaffected 18-year-old in 1984, you saw Repo Man a lot. So many times that you could recite half the dialog along with it:
Duke: The lights are growing dim Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.
Otto: That’s bullshit. You’re a white suburban punk just like me.
Duke: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Even watching it again for the upteenth time last night I was struck by how many great lines there are in the movie. Almost every day, at some point during my commute I think, “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”
For a listing of posts in this series, click here.