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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/29/99

Miramax Collector's Series - 1993 (1999) - Miramax (Buena Vista)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Clerks: Collector's Edition Film Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/A

Specs and Features

92 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no apparent layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary track featuring Kevin Smith (director/writer/co-producer/co-editor/Silent Bob), Walt Flanagan (actor), Scott Mosier (co-producer/co-editor/actor), Brian O'Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jason Mewes (Jay), Vincent Pereira (View Askew historian/actor) and Malcolm Ingram (writer for Film Threat magazine), theatrical trailer, alternate ending and other deleted scenes with introduction by Kevin Smith, Soul Asylum music video directed by Kevin Smith, film-themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English (DD 3.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

How many times has this happened to you? You're sitting at home on your day off... and the phone rings. You hesitate for a moment, thinking it MIGHT be work calling you in, but shrug and decide that that would be stupid. As you reach for the phone, you think it must be one of your buddies asking you to hang out, or some such. You begin your salutations, and to your horror, you find that it actually IS work calling you in. It's early, and you can't think properly, so what happens next affects your life for the next 12 hours -- you say that you'll come in, but only for a little while, until someone else can make it.

For countless people, that's the way things go down every once in a while. But for Kevin Smith, this is how his character Dante Hicks began his life as a pop culture icon. It was how Kevin Smith, and everyone who fell in love with Smith's View Askewniverse, began what looks to be a long cinematic, television, and comic book relationship. This is the set-up for Kevin Smith's Clerks.

Clerks follows Dante, a hapless convenience store clerk, through what could easily be called a day from hell. He engages in trivial conversations with his video store clerk best friend (and seemingly worse enemy) Randall. He tries keeping drug pushers (Jay and Silent Bob) away from the front of the store. And he struggles with the age-old dilemma: "which girl is good for me?" All this is played out in one day, with a heaping shovel-full of dialogue straight from that acid-tongued bastard himself, Kevin Smith.

I have to say, I like Clerks. I liked it the minute I saw it. I see some flaws in it, sure -- some bigger than others. I see some bad acting choices, and I see a young filmmaker trying to make it... and sometimes failing. But I also see a magic that is really hard to fake. Smith has found great success, and based solely on Clerks, he deserves every bit he has grabbed for himself. Like Jim Jarmusch, Robert Altman, and Spike Lee, Smith makes movies about people. The people he creates deal with problems all of us face. Sometimes he tackles problems that some will see as total fantasy, but fantasy on his part or not, I've experienced some of them myself. I've been called in on a day off, and had a horrid day. I have lost my girlfriend, and fought to get her back. And believe it or not, I have fallen for a lesbian, and had to learn the hard cold fact that love doesn't always work out the way we plan. You can say what you want about Kevin, but he creates real people, doing real things. Okay, so maybe this whole argument will go out the window when Dogma comes out in October. All that says is, it's easy to identify with Smith and the world he creates.

The best illustration of this, is to note how, when his characters speak about something as fantastic as Star Wars for example, the whole thing is brought down to a human level. Who ever thought about the construction contractors killed when the Death Star exploded in Return Of The Jedi, or the racial implications of Darth Vader in the trilogy. Not many. But Smith bases everything in the real. Even his comics are about reality in a surreal world: Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob... hell, even Daredevil is steeped in the real. That's the most appealing thing about Smith. I can't wait to see Dogma just for that -- how will he make a story about angels, demons, and a monster made of fecal matter real? Most likely by having Jay and Silent Bob there to keep it anchored into our world.

With all of that said, do I like the Clerks DVD? I mean, who cares what I think about Smith -- anyone reading this wants to know about the disc. Well, go pick it up if you haven't already done so. It's a pretty stellar disc. The print is black and white 16mm, and on DVD you can see every bit of grain that ever existed on the print. It's a good transfer nonetheless. Sometimes it's hard to discern what is noise and what is grain, and it's even harder when you're looking at B&W 16mm, but believe me, there isn't too much noise on this. It's most likely analog artifacts from the laserdisc transfer, but I didn't see too much junk -- it's a fairly solid print and transfer. The sound quality is fine, a nice surround track that serves the film well.

Anyone buying this disc shouldn't be buying it for the print or sound quality though -- it's all about the DVD content. Clerks is a pretty packed special edition. There's about 15 minutes (maybe less) of excised footage -- mostly talk -- that slowed the film down. The best piece of actual cut footage is the original ending, that was quite a shock. If you know what it is, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, go get the disc. Aside from that, there is the original trailer (a very sweet piece of film in its own right), the video Smith directed for Soul Asylum's end credit song, and a commentary track. I wasn't as thrilled with this commentary track as compared to the ones done for Mallrats and the Chasing Amy laserdisc. I think the Ben Affleck factor makes Smith come alive on his commentary tracks. The two of them bust on each other, and really make the whole thing a nice experience. On this one, Smith seems grumpy, dropping facts and nuggets. Jay is laying on the floor, apparently drunk, shouting stuff at the microphone, and everyone else seems scared to say anything. That's not to say that it's bad -- it's filled with interesting knowledge, and some bits of comedy. But overall, I'm sticking with Mallrats as my favorite Smith track, although Chasing Amy is a close second.

Speaking of commentary tracks, and Chasing Amy, I have to ask: Kevin -- knowing what you said in the opening seconds of the track for the Criterion Chasing Amy laserdisc, I hope you don't still feel that way, given that two of the best DVDs released this year are of your films. Can we DVD fans get a retraction of those sentiments, please? Maybe on the currently-in-the-works Chasing Amy: Collector's Series DVD? FYI, for those of you not in the know, Kevin opens with his Amy laser commentary with, "F**k DVD!" -- NOT a very cool thing to say in these here parts.

All said and done, I'm proud to own this disc. I know that a great many out there are buying their first DVD players because of this disc, and Mallrats. Good for you. Go for it -- you won't be disappointed. Clerks makes a nice addition to any collection, and it's got enough on it to keep you busy for hours on your days off (if you get any). Now if only Miramax would hurry and get that Chasing Amy disc done....

That's it for now, film-fans. Until next time -- keep it real.

Todd Doogan
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