Study Guide for Repo Man

1. Filmographic Citation


Repo Man. Alex Cox, dir. and script. USA: Edge City (Production) / Universal (Release), 1984. 90 min. Score by The Mugz.

2. Cast

Otto: Emilio Estevez
Bud: Harry Dean Stanton
Miller: Tracey Walter

Black Repo Man: Lite; Repo Rent-a-Cop: Otto Fletcher; Otto's nerd friend: Kevin; '64 Chevy Malibu driver: J. Frank Parnell; TV Preacher: Reverend Larry

3. Main Location

Los Angeles, CA; Otto's home suburb: Edge City. Time: "Twenty minutes into the future" (as the line went in Max Headroom). Note well the funkiness of the film's world.

4. Cinematic Parodies and (Other) Allusions:

White, jeweled, metal left hand of chief government agent: Rotwang, the villainous scientist in Fritz Lang's classic silent dystopia, Metropolis, has a prosthetic black hand. This hand is repeated in Dr. Strangelove and Dr. No (on the evil doctors), the Star Wars trilogy (in the new hand Luke Skywalker receives at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and possibly in Android and other films.

Otto's being tortured: A set-piece scene in dystopian fiction and film, from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We in the early 1920s to at least Brazil in the 1980s. Having Otto not tied down and setting the shot over the shoulder of technician-torturers parallels the torture of the title character in George Lucas' THX 1138. Having Otto's girlfriend flip the switch (and the associated dialog) partially parallels some of the real-world obedience experiments of Stanley Milgram (fully reported in Milgram's Obedience to Authority but part of intellectual folklore plus a TV play starring William Shatner).

Death of Otto's punk "friend" in convenience store: parallels innumerable sentimental death scenes, with a major shift in tone.

Otto with Bud and Lite (?), learning the car repossession trade: wicked parody of instruction by experienced mentors in the "novel of the artist"-plus all sorts of teaching sequences from legendary heroes learning from mentors (sometimes all or part animal) to young Arthur learning from Merlin to Luke Skywalker's being instructed by Yoda. In gritty, naturalistic films, the mentor is often hard-drinking; in the culture of this very near-future LA, the booze is supplemented with more exotic drugs.

5. Key Lines

"White, suburban punk" in death scene in convenience store and ". . . this is intense" in flying car final sequence.