As a UK script consultant, UK Script editor and script writer for hire for a change, I’m finding myself struggling for words when it comes to RoboCop (1987), I pretty much don’t know what else I can add to the praise of one of the best sci-fi films of all time.
Instead, I can tell a quick anecdote about the release of RoboCop in 87.
I live in East Leeds, and grew up here. Back in the 1980s, like most areas of the UK, East Leeds had a lot of video rental shops. I think Project Video on Roundhay Road in Leeds was the first video shop I’d ever been into – this would have been 82/83 or 84 at my best estimate. I remember the owner smoked cigars, and a film of smoke hung in the air all the time.
By 1987 the year RoboCop was released, near the school I went to (Temple High School) there was a large-ish video store near Cross Gates Shopping Centre called ‘Barkers’ or ‘Barkers Video’. I still live fairly close to the building which at various times since Barkers closed has been a Comet Store and a Marks and Spencer mini supermarket.
At the moment I think the building is empty (?) Barkers closed long ago, as did Comet, and Marks and Sparks have moved to a new shopping destination nearer to my house.
In 87 I would have been around 13. And one day while looking at the new releases in Barker’s video shop I spotted a sign which exclaimed that RoboCop would be visiting the store, to coincide with the release of the film on video.
I made note of the day and the time, and told my friends at school. When the day came, we skipped history class (or at least the first half hour of it) and walked to Barkers video store. I think I was with a mate called Glossy and a lad called Ackroyd, as well as a few others. None of which I’ve seen in years…
We arrived at the empty video store, to be confronted by a guy in the full (and very impressive) RoboCop outfit. The guy seemed to perk up when we arrived, and began acting out sequences in the film with us (he told Ackroyd to ‘be good’ in pretty good Peter Weller style delivery).
I think we got some freebies from the guy, and then the next thing we knew, the RoboCop guy was out in the street (a busy dual carriageway) stopping traffic – I think we’d woke him from his slumber and inspired him in his role, either that, or he was on drugs, just kicking in when we arrived.
He was stopping cars left right and centre and causing a bit of a scene. I think a local reporter may have been there from one of the free papers like the now defunct Skyrack (Later, I would accept a job as a paper boy at one point for the Skyrack– and as tradition dictates, I would dump all the papers in the local beck). I also once won a film quiz in the Skyrack, the questions were so impossible (and prior to the internet) would need a film library to find the answers to (I had a LOT of film books and had to research). When I turned up to collect the prize they were clearly stunned I’d got every question right.
With this chaotic scene in the street occurring and RoboCop threatening drivers and pulling out a mock gun ( ‘Dead or alive – you’re coming with me’ he told a bread delivery van driver), we headed back to school before the cops arrived. I went back to the history class and told the teacher (who was a bit of a film buff or film snob, maybe was more accurate) and he listened as me and the other lads told him about our experience with RoboCop, he didn’t bollock us, and instead looked at the freebies we’d got vaguely amused.
The same teacher had once taken a copy of the magazine GoreZone I was reading, and ripped it up and put it in his bin (I’m still seething about this more than 30 years later…) this was still around the time people were just getting over the video nasty’s nonsense.
This odd, funny memory has stayed with me for many years and sometimes takes on Fellini/Amacord or Truffaut/400 Blows type sweep in my clearly addled mind.
Anyway, RoboCop is a great film. I don’t think Verhoven has ever been better. It’s stunning, clever and retains some elements of shock. It’s also a very good comedy.
The promotion of it was pretty good too!
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.