Cinema and Media Studies Repo Man
by
D. Harlan Wilson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0295

Introduction

Repo Man (written and directed by Alex Cox, Edge City/Universal, 1984) is among the most renowned cult films of the 1980s, and it resonated with fans as well as critics. A low-budget work of soft, fringe science fiction informed by punk and pop culture of the era, it was the first feature film made by the veteran auteur Alex Cox, and it is the title most frequently associated with his oeuvre. Cox was born and raised in England. He went to film school in the late 1970s at UCLA, where he received a MFA degree and wrote the screenplay for Repo Man. To fund the film, he formed Edge City Productions with the support of ex-Monkees band member Michael Nesmith, who convinced Universal Studios to back it. This was no small feat, considering Repo Man’s eccentricity, decadence, and grittiness, which prompted befuddled Universal executives to yank the film from theaters (effectively repossessing it) only one week after its release. Featuring a mélange of punk rock bands, the soundtrack sold well and grew in popularity, so Universal decided to re-release it six months later, and the film generated a buzz on big screens and thereafter on the video market as a VHS tape. The bildungsroman plot about a young, disaffected, dazed-and-confused suburbanite, Otto, coming of age under the tutelage of a prodigal father figure, Bud, who shows his makeshift son how to be a (repo) man, is subsidiary to the bricolage of minor details (both imagistic and rhetorical) and subplots that catalyze the diegesis. The dominant subplot is self-aware shlock and involves a rogue nuclear physicist, Dr. J. Frank Parnell. Pursued by the CIA, Parnell absconds in a 1964 Chevy Malibu with a mysterious payload in the trunk that may or may not be extraterrestrials (we never see what’s inside), and that disintegrates anybody exposed to it. This axial, absurdist MacGuffin was appropriated by Cox from the briefcase in Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955), which was later reappropriated by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction (1994), and it is complemented by a host of other absurdities and semi-surreal diversions. Collectively, these characteristics render Repo Man a fluid postmodern pastiche that celebrates a variety of cinematic and genre tropes while making political and social commentary on the 1980s. Incorporating the cultural modes of punk, science fiction, Blaxploitation, teen comedy, the conspiracy thriller, the spaghetti western, and road and action movies, the film continues to pique fans and scholars of cult cinema, spawning numerous spinoffs and “nonsequels” by Cox and other filmmakers.

Reference Material

There are no monographs or book-length studies on Repo Man, and compared to some other cult films, scholarship is relatively limited beyond minor essays, reviews, and interviews with the director. In studies of cult cinema and best-of anthologies, Repo Man is often mentioned in the same breath as fellow science-fictional B-movies Liquid Sky (1982), The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and They Live (1988), the latter two because of its political and alien(ated) crosscurrents, and Liquid Sky because of its engagement with music and the punk scene. Repo Man is typically analyzed or invoked under the umbrella of cult cinema, science fiction, pop culture, or postmodernism. Since its release, it has been steadily applauded by reviewers and critics because of its quirkiness, periodization, and insight. For all of its acclaim, however, the film leaves much to be unpacked, especially as a source of narrative and cinematic innovation.

Articles and Chapters

This section accounts for the major stand-alone scholarship on Repo Man. Anderson 2015 and Ezell 2013 overview the origins and thematics of the film, reminding us why it lingers as a cult phenomenon thirty years after its release. Goshorn 1993 explicates its appropriation of punk culture. Knee 1986 and Traber 2007 consider it, respectively, vis-à-vis (post)modernity and genre. Ruland 2006 also asks questions about genre in an article that is part journalism and part critical analysis, with the author revisiting sites in Los Angeles where the film was shot. Aside from Wall 2013, which theorizes the film’s ecstatic capitulation to trash culture, there is very little theoretical or philosophical engagement—something that Repo Man cries out for but has been fundamentally denied.

  • Anderson, Kyle. “Schlock & Awe: Repo Man.” Nerdist, 8 July 2015.

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    Foregrounds the importance of understanding Repo Man in its historical and cultural milieu, without which it loses valence. At the same time, the film remains undated with respect to themes of identity construction and social unrest that continue to hold sway in the 21st century.

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  • Ezell, Brice. “Capitalism’s Self-Corrections: Repo Man.” PopMatters, 16 May 2013.

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    Punctuates the cult status of Repo Man, contextualizing it as a darkly satirical critique of Reagan-era capitalism and excess. It concludes with a description of bonus features on the DVD and auxiliary texts that accompany it.

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  • Goshorn, Keith. “Repo Man and the Punk Anti-Aesthetic: Postmodernity as a Permanent ‘Bad Area.’” In Crisis Cinema: The Apocalyptic Idea in Postmodern Narrative Film. Edited by Christopher Sharrett, 37–76. Washington, DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1993.

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    Repo Man might initially seem to be a low-budget arthouse film with a small fan base. Goshorn says it speaks to a much wider viewership, critiquing the cultural mythos instituted by the rhetoric and politics of Reaganism, and demonstrating how the nihilism of punk culture operates as an efficient, justifiable countercultural formation.

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  • Knee, Adam. “Liquid Sky, Repo Man, and Genre.” Wide Angle: A Film Quarterly of Theory, Criticism and Practice 8.3–4 (1986): 101–113.

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    Juxtaposes Repo Man with Liquid Sky (1982) and contends that they both exhibit elements of science fiction while subverting the aesthetics of the mainstream. As such, they explore the boundaries of genre. Like a lot of scholarship, there is an anxious preoccupation with categorizing the films in this essay, as if they might cease to exist in the absence of a label inside or outside of science fiction.

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  • Ruland, Jim. “Always Intense: Is Alex Cox’s Repo Man a Cult Flick, a Film Classic, or Both?” Believer 4.4 (May 2006): 23–30.

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    Questions the multigeneric fabric of Repo Man, which is comedic, science fictional, and action-packed all at once. Ruland intersperses his commentary with personal history, recounting a scavenger hunt he went on in Los Angeles that required an intimate knowledge both of the city and the film. His most compelling argument is that, given the vicissitudes of character desire, presence, and action, the protagonist may not be human (e.g., Otto or Bud), but rather the focal Chevy Malibu.

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  • Traber, Daniel S. “Repo Man, Ambivalence, and the Generic Mediation.” In Whiteness, Otherness, and the Individualism Paradox from Huck to Punk. 137–158. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

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    This chapter on Repo Man appears in an evocative study of racial and cultural identity in Euro-American literature and film. Other chapters concentrate on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (1884–1885), Stephen Crane’s Maggie (1893), and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926). Repo Man might seem out of bounds here, but there are meaningful connections, and it works as an instance of punk “sub-urbanism,” a transitory point between modernism and postmodernism.

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  • Wall, Brian. “Negative Dioretix: Repo Man.” In Theodor Adorno and Film Theory: The Fingerprint of Spirit. By Brian Wall, 75–115. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

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    The only theoretical investigation of Repo Man. Alleges that the film does not oppose “the illusory sheen of commodity-image,” but rather embraces it, uncannily surrendering (if not sacrificing) itself to the aesthetic trash bin of contemporary culture. In effect, Repo Man poses questions about the role and meaning of art and subjectivity in the late capitalist world.

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Production and Reception

Online review aggregators show high ratings for Repo Man, which has a critical score of 75 at Metacritic.com and an astronomical 98 percent at RottenTomatoes.com, where very few films reach 100 percent. Once investors and a cast had been secured, production took place in July and August of 1983. There were some setbacks (e.g., personality conflicts between Cox and Harry Dean Stanton, who plays Bud), but shooting went smoothly overall. Repo Man made just under $130,000 during its short box office run before Universal banished the film to video. It received several positive reviews, one from Roger Ebert, and in the end Universal both recouped Cox’s budget of $1.6 million and turned a profit. In the process, Universal released an edited, dubbed, sanitized, effectively absurdist version of the film for broadcast TV that has reified its cult appeal. Das 2014 is an informative online source that concisely recounts key aspects of production and reception. Even better are McPheeters 2013 and Cox 2013, both of which appear in a supplement to the Criterion edition. Cox 2013 in particular is an edifying resource, with some statistics unavailable elsewhere.

Reviews and Interviews

Of the reviews gathered below, three were published at the time of Repo Man’s 1984 release, and one came out after the release of the Criterion edition. Canby 1984a and Canby 1984b praise the film for being distinctive and cunningly deviant, as does Ebert 1984, whose author may have been America’s most recognizable popular film critic in the mid-1980s, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975; sometimes what he had to say about a film could make or break it. Semley 2013 revisits the film almost thirty years later, extolling Criterion’s restoration of such a work of cult Americana. Repo Man earned high scores with audiences, although not quite as high as it did with critics. Viewers who have left negative comments at IMDB.com, for instance, predictably pan (and misunderstand) it for being “confusing,” “cheesy,” “boring,” or “profane.” The bulk of this section is devoted to eight interviews with Cox. Abrams 2011, Terlino 2012, Fitch 2012, Koenig 2017, and Mendik 2003 are concerned with Repo Man directly or peripherally, while speaking to different facets of the director’s experience, methodology, and oeuvre. Mendik 2005 appears in a collection devoted to punk cinema and highlights Cox’s punk sensibilities, whereas Sword 2015 casts him as a punk himself, blacklisted by the Hollywood elite. Finally, Lewis 2013 is a reprint of a fascinating 1988 interview with Cox, actor Dick Rude, and the actual repo man who inspired the film.

Alex Cox

In addition to being a filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter, Alex Cox has written a memoir, two filmmaking guides, and a study of John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald. His prose is as skillful, engaging, and readable as the subject matter he treats. Cox majored in film studies at the University of Bristol before attending film school at UCLA on a Fulbright grant. Thrust into the vortex of Hollywood culture, a stark contrast to the filmmaking industry in London, he formed a network that would lead to his first feature film, which continues to outshine all of his features in popularity. This has been the case with critics as well as audiences who primarily discover Repo Man as a result of its cult status. The film brought the fledgling director acclaim and attention. His next project, Sid and Nancy (1986), starring a young Gary Oldman, caused more of a buzz and bolstered his Hollywood appeal, but the commercial failure of the overtly political and violent Walker (1987) saw him turn almost exclusively to the indie scene, where he could retain more creative control.

Books by Alex Cox

An autobiographical memoir, Cox 2008 addresses the transition from studio to independent filmmaker, although his diehard pursuit of innovation is visible in all of his books and films. Equally important is Cox 2016, a primer that covers the basics of filmmaking and is enriched by critical commentary on select films and Cox’s wealth of experience. Cox 1988 is the published screenplay of Repo Man; it includes supplementary material reprinted in the Criterion DVD booklet. Cox 2009 shows how profoundly the spaghetti western influenced him and factors into his approach to cinema, and even though Cox 2013 is not overtly related to film or filmmaking, the book is a testament to his depth of intellect and his fastidious attention to detail.

  • Cox, Alex. Repo Man: Not Just a Job—It’s an Adventure. London: Faber & Faber, 1988.

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    Published screenplay with scenes cut from the final take. Introduction by Dick Rude, who plays Duke. Supplementary material includes Cox and Rude’s interview with a real repo man, and a cartoon illustrated by Cox to convey the satirical tone of the film.

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  • Cox, Alex. X Films: Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, 2008.

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    Memoir about ten films made by Cox. Essential reading for research on his cinema and the director himself. While Walker (1987) gets the most attention—Cox calls it “the film in which I became a director” (p. 4)—the chapter devoted to Repo Man is extensive and covers everything from conception to postproduction.

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  • Cox, Alex. 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western. Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books, 2009.

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    Most of the chapters in this encyclopedic survey deal with a specific year in the 1960s and representative Italian westerns that were released that year. Piqued by how these films echo the Jacobean Revenge Tragedy, Cox examines a number of directors, especially Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, from his own unique directorial point-of-view.

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  • Cox, Alex. The President and the Provocateur: The Parallel Lives of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2013.

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    Cox spins his own conspiracy theory in this thoroughly researched double-biography, intersecting the lives of the president and his alleged assassin against the background of global anxiety and the early stages of the Cold War. He pays special attention to photographic evidence and “the manipulation of images to help create the lone-assassin legend.” Highly revered by reviewers and critics both for the skillfulness of Cox’s storytelling and the acuity of his deductions.

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  • Cox, Alex. Alex Cox’s Introduction to Film: A Director’s Perspective. Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books, 2016.

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    Based on an introductory film studies course that Cox taught at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Drawing on his deep knowledge and experience, there are sixteen chapters—one for each week of a semester, give or take—that treat the major aspects of cinema, beginning with mise en scène and auteur theory, and culminating in Cox’s thoughts about the future of film. A lucid, vital resource to learn about both filmmaking and Cox’s specific craft.

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Articles about Alex Cox

Short articles on Cox and his canon are widely available online. There are no formal monographs or substantive works beyond what the director has written himself. Beliveau and Lewis 2008 and Lines 2016 provide concise schematics of his life and works, portraying him as a subcultural auteur, and Lowe, et al. 2017 considers his filmography with regard to the science fiction genre.

Websites

Four websites that contain information on Repo Man and Alex Cox will be constructive for general research. Alex Cox on IMDb and Repo Man (1984) on IMDb are fundamental reference points with data on all basic aspects of the film and director. There are two websites devoted to Cox himself. AlexCox has data on most of his cinematic, literary, and artistic output up to 2013. AlexCoxFilms is more recent and focuses on his current production activities.

Offshoots and Sequels

In the 1990s Cox wrote the screenplay for a sequel to Repo Man called Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday. He shot test footage, but no studios picked it up. In 2005 a small indie cohort tried to make it. Production was scrapped despite the best efforts of the director, Stuart Kinkaid, and his cast and crew; the miscarriage is documented by yet another director in A Texas Tale of Treason (2006). This sequel was eventually published in the form of a graphic novel titled Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday (2008). Cox attempted to get another sequel off the ground that same year, Repo Chick, which came to fruition in 2009 and is less a sequel than a loose remake. Two other films bear the repo imprint: the horror-musical Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) and the big-budget Repo Men (2010). Neither is a proper sequel commensurate with Repo Man in spite of buzz and marketing ploys to the contrary. Stranahan 2011 mediates the brawl in fandom between Repo! and Repo Men. McPheeters 2009 is an interview with Cox with additional information on Repo Men and Repo Chick. As a genre science fiction film, not to mention an allusive pop cultural playground (like it’s not-namesake), Repo Men has not received the attention it deserves from fans or critics; Woerner 2010 is an interview with the director, Miguel Sapochnik, who itemizes prominent cinematic influences.

  • Bousman, Darren Lynn, dir. Repo! The Genetic Opera. Los Angeles: Twisted Pictures, 2008.

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    Riffing on the titular aspects of Repo Man, Repo! derived from a stage piece that played Off-Broadway in 2005. It is more akin to Repo Men insofar as it thematizes organ financing and repossession, but it is unique in terms of genre—a horror/musical rock opera reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). In fact, Repo! engendered a similar cult following to Rocky, complete with costumed fans (aka the Repo! Army) shadowing performances in theaters.

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  • Cox, Alex, dir. Repo Chick. New York: Paper Street Films, 2009.

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    Like Repo Man, this film centers on vehicular repossession, takes place in and around Los Angeles, was made with a low budget, critiques capitalist society and culture, and demonstrates a metafilmic awareness of itself. It also features some of the same actors in different roles. The style and narrative of Repo Chick, however, is a different animal than Repo Man, and despite being ripe for cult status, it has not spawned a sufficiently enthusiastic viewership, underground or otherwise.

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  • Cox, Alex, Chris Bones, and Justin Randall. Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday. Perth, Australia: Gestalt Publishing, 2008.

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    Graphic novel based on a screenplay for the aborted sequel to Repo Man. Cox posted the screenplay on his website and it caught the attention of the artist Chris Bones. Together with Cox and Justin Randall, they put together the 176-page comic. It depicts the return of Otto (now Waldo Parks), who has been living on Mars for ten years, to earth in the mid-1990s, where the American Dream has (d)evolved into a telemarketing nightmare.

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  • Knight, Jacob. “Of Punk and Petulance: Repo Chick and Alex Cox’s Sad Career Causality.” Birth.Movies.Death., 28 April 2015.

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    Argues that Repo Chick is a spiteful “thematic reversal” of Repo Man, which is about “rejecting the system” and manifesting an identity of one’s own nonconstructed choice, whereas the pseudo-sequel posits that there is no agency from the culture machine. A thought-provoking review with valuable commentary on both films.

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  • McPheeters, Sam. “Interview: Director Alex Cox on His Long-Awaited Non-Sequel Repo Chick.” Village Voice, 4 August 2009.

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    Cox affirms that Repo Chick is not a sequel but a stand-alone film. Referencing the director’s blog, McPheeters notes that Universal Studios, which owns the rights to Repo Man, may have unshelved a film initially titled The Repossession Mambo, retitled it Repo Men, and hurried it into post-production to pass it off as a true sequel and siphon returns from the buzz of Repo Chick’s release. At the time, Cox still had a contract with Universal, but nobody consulted him.

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  • Sapochnik, Miguel, dir. Repo Men. Universal City, CA: Universal Pictures, 2010.

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    Big-budget spinoff that revolves around consumer-capitalist exploitation and the repossession not of cars but of human organs. Called The Repossession Mambo during filming, Repo Men has been said to have virtually nothing in common with its near-namesake, being more in synch with Blade Runner (1981), Robocop (1987), and Brazil (1985). This is largely true, but there are similarities in characterization and the respective capitalist contexts that interpellates the protagonists; elements of surrealism creep into both diegeses, too.

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  • Stranahan, Lee. “Repo Men vs. Repo! The Genetic Opera: Behind the Controversy.” Huffington Post, 25 May 2011.

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    Despite being altogether unrelated projects, Repo Men (2010) and Repo! (2008) share common premises, and they employed similar marketing schemes that irked and confused audiences, namely the so-called Repo! Army, who accused Repo Men of chiseling from their sacred stone.

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  • Walker Matthew C., dir. A Texas Tale of Treason. Dallas: Antstuie Productions, 2006.

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    Documentary about the rise and fall of the sequel to Repo Man, which was never completed, by an ambitious group of Texas punks.

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  • Woerner, Meredith. “Breaking Down Repo Men’s Influences: Monty Python, Robocop, Brazil and QVC.” io9, 18 March 2010.

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    Contrary to what the studio wanted, Repo Men was not a great success. This may have had something to do with its title, which inevitably connects it to the low-budget Repo Man and fails to distinguish it in and of itself. In this interview, the director, Miguel Sapochnik, itemizes cinema that influenced his “smorgasbord of absurdist futurism references.” Unsurprisingly, Repo Man is not mentioned.

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Genre and Cult Cinema

There are far more best-of books and popular encyclopedias on cult movies than intensive works of academic scholarship, although scholarship has been on the rise in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down. Cult cinema is almost as old as cinema itself. It is distinguished by multiple factors, most notably films that transgress normative formulae and breed enthusiastic followings outside of the mainstream; such films also tend to be made within the parameters of genre, often playing with and blurring together generic conventions, while manifesting a certain aesthetic and/or ethical “badness.” Part sci-fi/neo-western baloney and punk manifesto, part road movie and sociocultural satire—all with a marked air of playfulness and an underlying pop schizosophy—Repo Man certainly meets all of these criteria and has been referred to as a cult movie par excellence. The books listed here include some of the best contributions to scholarship on cult cinema that account for Repo Man or some aspect of Cox’s canon, most of which is cult-savvy in terms of content and execution, even if none of his films have achieved the cult stardom of his first. Mathijs and Mendik 2008, Harper and Mendik 2000, and Telotte 1991 are crucial scholarly collections on cult studies that investigate ample terrain. Grand 2012 is a noteworthy encyclopedic survey of film genre, and Mathijs and Sexton 2011 is perhaps the best comprehensive introduction to cult cinema in print.

  • Grand, Barry Keith. Film Genre Reader IV. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

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    Originally published in 1986, this fourth edition covers a broad range of theories and topics on the distinctions and vicissitudes of genre. Repo Man is invoked in a discussion of the alien “other” in science fiction.

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  • Harper, Graeme, and Xavier Mendik, eds. Unruly Pleasures: The Cult Film and Its Critics. Guilford, UK: FAB Press, 2000.

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    In the first UK collection of articles dedicated to cult cinema, Repo Man is cited as an instance of a prefabricated (heterosexual) cult film (i.e., a meta-film that was made with cult sensibilities built into its diegetic fabric and demonstrates an awareness of itself as such).

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  • Mathijs, Ernest, and Xavier Mendik, eds. The Cult Film Reader. New York: Open University Press, 2008.

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    Reassessing cult cinema, this primer collects theoretical and scholarly articles on or related to the subject. Dominant areas of inquiry include the concepts of cult, cult case studies, national and international cults, and cult consumption. Repo Man is named as an example of “fast food” cult, a movie intentionally prepackaged for cult status.

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  • Mathijs, Ernest, and Jamie Sexton. Cult Cinema: An Introduction. Chichester, UK, and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

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    Touchstone overview of a variety of topics that are key to cult cinema. Divided into two parts, “Reception and Debates” and “Themes and Genres,” with each chapter outlining a concept, explaining the historical and/or theoretical forces that inform it, and using relevant films as reference points. Repo Man is mentioned on several occasions and appraised for its cult elements, such as how it incites “cosmic meaning” (i.e., a collective feeling of belonging in audiences).

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  • Telotte, J. P., ed. The Cult Film Experience: Beyond All Reason. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

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    This collection of essays is one of the first concerted scholarly mappings of cult cinema. Repo Man is referenced on numerous occasions, most pointedly in “Gnosticism and the Cult Film,” where David Lavery couches the film alongside The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Liquid Sky (1982), and Man Facing Southeast (1986), tracing the intellectual origins of cult narratives back to early Christian ideology.

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Science Fiction

Whereas the nonsequel Repo Men is set in a highly technological, mediatized future and falls rather squarely into the science fiction genre, Repo Man is a work of soft science fiction that is set in the real-world present of the mid-1980s. With the exception of the doomsday story-arc and perhaps the contextualization of that present as inherently dystopian, the only real science fictional novum involves the alleged aliens (or alien artifacts) in the trunk of the Chevy Malibu that, in the end, prompt the irradiated vehicle to lift off and dart across the sky like a flying saucer in an old B-movie. Nonetheless the genre has claimed Repo Man as one of its own, with a good deal of science fiction scholarship referencing its signature and station, especially with respect to the Cold War, postmodern media, and the machinery of late capitalism. The film is thoroughly science fictional in terms of its capacity for cognitive estrangement (a definitive genre quality) and its treatment of alienation, which is multilayered and extends beyond the prospect of little green men to its affiliations with cult and punk (aliens of the mainstream) as well as its director, an American alien from the planet England who brings with him the cultural perspective of an outsider. Lowe and Nicholls 2017 enumerates the basic genre components of Repo Man, and Schneider 2009, a popular encyclopedia of science fiction cinema that might be best suited for airport reading, has a surprisingly cogent entry on it. Fischer 2000 compiles eminent science fiction film directors, among them Alex Cox. The rest of the selections below—Cornea 2007, King and Krzywinska 2000, Redmond 2004, and Sobchack 1997—are superlative scholarly books on science fiction cinema that imbricate Repo Man to varying degrees.

  • Cornea, Christine. Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

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    Studies a broad range of motifs and texts in the genre. Cornea aligns Repo Man with The Brother from Another Planet (1984), saying that they inhabit “that shady world of art house/cult/low-budget/auteur filmmaking” (p. 185). Additionally, they are more like 1970s than 1980s films in light of how they thematize alienation and urbanity.

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  • Fischer, Dennis. Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895–1998. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2000.

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    Referred to as “one of the last great eccentrics,” Alex Cox is among the directors overviewed in this reference book. Each entry consists of a biography, filmography (to 1998), and critical commentary. Repo Man is unpacked in some depth and noted for its Jungian synchronicity.

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  • King, Geoff, and Tanya Krzywinska. Science Fiction Cinema: From Outer Space to Cyberspace. London: Wallflower Press, 2000.

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    Capitalizing on the increasing popularity of science fiction films, this study explores how the genre represents the metaphysical and ontological impact of technology, with attention to definitions, the Hollywood culture industry, and a case study on Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace (1999). Repo Man is included in the filmography of important titles and cited as an example of independent films that are situated in science fiction diegeses or employ tropes from the genre.

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  • Lowe, Nick, and Peter Nicholls. “Repo Man.” In The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 10 February 2017.

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    General information on the film, which exhibits science fiction tropes, such as Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics along with themes of aliens, UFOs, and time machines.

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  • Redmond, Sean, ed. Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader. London: Wallflower Press, 2004.

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    Extensive collection of previously published articles on science fiction film and television. Repo Man figures into an article on post-futurism with other films that are transcendent, transformative, and celebrate “all existence as wondrously e-stranged and alien-ated.”

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  • Schneider, Steven Jay, ed. 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die. London: Cassell Illustrated, 2009.

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    A decidedly pop yet often discerning compilation of précis on both domestic and international science fiction films for cineastes as much as idle browsers. The entry on Repo Man identifies it as metanarrational, a “cinematic discourse,” and “not a sci-fi movie but a film about sci-fi movies” that captures the essence of 1980s punk culture.

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  • Sobchack, Vivian. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

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    Originally published as The Limits of Infinity, this expanded, updated version of Sobchack’s classic theoretical study brings Repo Man into the conversation in an added chapter called “Postfuturism.” Sobchack hypothesizes that electronic culture has altered the ways in which we experience time and space in reality and, by extension, in cinema. Repo Man is defined less by plot and “traditional narrative/temporal logic” than by “material signifiers,” meaning the arrangement of minor details that bind the film to the logic of space more than time.

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