Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nostalgia Theater: RoboCop Edition

As I mention every so often on this blog, the '80s really was a magical time unlike any other, when crass commercialism briefly ignited the trend of taking insanely-violent, hard "R" action movies and turning them into syndicated kiddie fodder. In a previous installment of "Nostalgia Theater" I posted what is perhaps the best exemplar of this curious phenomenon, but here's another one that's as much of a head-scratcher.

Upon its theatrical release, 1987's RoboCop was as acclaimed for its visionary dystopia as it was controversial for its over-the-top violence, with both ladled out by director Paul Verhoeven. Nowhere is the latter more pronounced than the film's opening act, with police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) gunned down in a bullet-riddled bloodbath that remains as wrenching today as it was when my eight-year old self was inexplicably allowed to watch it for my birthday.

Anyway, given the zeitgeist of the time, it's no great shock that the film was a significant success, and I suppose it's only slightly less of a shock that the folks at Marvel Productions saw this (absolutely NOT safe for work)...

RoboCop (1987) - Clip "Officer Murphy Dies" [VO... by conscience-tranquille

...and turned it into this:

RoboCop, along with the toy-based Dino Riders and reruns of 1982's Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, was the centerpiece for the syndicated "Marvel Action Universe" series that aired in '88/'89, but clearly they didn't think through what would happen when kids who enjoyed the show gravitated to the film and subsequently lost their innocence in a hail of gore and bullets. Of course, as with most animation of the time, there was also the requisite toyline from Kenner, complete with cap-firing action features.

While the RoboCop 'toon was gone after a mere twelve episodes, it was only the first of many subsequent attempts to capitalize on the impact of that first flick -- all without much traction. The first sequel hit theaters a year later in 1990, and the second came and went in '93, followed by two live action series and a truly wretched second animated show. All are pretty much forgotten today, but the visceral power of Verhoeven's original has kept people going back to the well again and again, and will no doubt continue to do so.


Brian said...

Great post! I had a Rambo action figure as a kid, which struck me as really weird once I finally saw First Blood as an adult. What was I supposed to do with it, call it a baby killer and have my ninja turtles force him out of town?

And as for that second Robocop cartoon clip...yikes.

Zaki said...

It really was a strange time. I definitely don't think you could get away with toons like that today.

Brian H said...

I remember as a kid having a Rambo "action kit" that included a plastic knife, headband and that stone he wears around his neck.

I bet in the 80's they would have had a Vincent and Jules Pulp Fiction "action kit" as well with plastic neckties, massive handguns and a plastic wallet that says...well, you know.