As years go, 1984 turned out a lot better than George Orwell's vision had it. In American film, it was a lull between the stylistic breakouts of the '60s and early '70s and the commercial mushrooming of indie films in the late '80s. It also marked the release of three comedies that would never have been made in Hollywood, except they were. "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai," steeped in hip deadpan irony, was released by Fox; "This Is Spinal Tap" was distributed by Embassy, divisions of which were soon to be batted around from owner to owner; and Alex Cox's "Repo Man" was courtesy of Universal.
Like "Buckaroo Banzai," Cox's feature debut took place in an off-kilter version of the real world but was more timely and satirical. Both films contributed catch phrases to the culture, though not a tenth as many as "Spinal Tap."
Criterion's release comes from a new, digital restoration, approved by Cox. The Blu-ray has deeper colors and more detail than the previous DVDs. Criterion rounds up all the extras from Anchor Bay's 2000 DVD, most notably a commentary track by Cox, exec producer Mike Nesmith, and a half dozen other cast and crew folk. It's a good-natured reminiscence of dozens of incidents from the production, many of them surprising to some of the participants, including Cox.
It also picks up all the supplements from the 2006 Universal DVD, including 25 minutes of deleted scenes and a 25-minute roundtable look back with Cox and his two producers. To those, Criterion adds new stuff: "Plate o' Shrimp," a new interview with several cast members (19 min.); a 12-minute interview with Iggy Pop 2012; and the hilariously sanitized version prepared for TV. There is a wonderful booklet, which has, among other things, Cox's original pitch letter and his accompanying comic book rendition of a key chase scene. It's a whole buffet of shrimp.
"Repo Man" (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, two discs, $29.95)
--ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).