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Clerks is the first film from writer/director Kevin Smith. Produced on an extremely low budget (it was financed mostly with credit cards and hand outs from friends), the movie became a cult classic. It also introduced the world to Jay and Silent Bob...

Clerks: Collector's Series

Feature


Clerks tells the tale of a day in the life of a number of weird and wonderful characters who either work in, or hang out at the Quick Stop convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey. Chief among these characters is Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) who is called into the Quick Stop on his day off to cover for the absent manager.

Dante’s partner in crime and clerk at the local video store, is Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson). Randall has little or no respect for anything, and usually has an acerbic comment or ten for the customers. Together the pair get into all kinds of trouble and break just about every rule in the retail book. Be it closing the store to play hockey on the roof, or leaving to ‘crash’ a funeral, Dante and Randall will usually find a way to mess things up.

To make matters worse, Dante is dating Veronica, but secretly harbours desires for his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin Bree. When he finds out that Caitlin is engaged to an Asian design major, he doesn’t think life can get any worse...

While the acting in Clerks is patchy at best, the film has a real charm to it. This is mostly because of Smith’s brilliantly observed and incisive writing. Although most of the cast are amateurs (many of them are actually crew members), this actually suits the low-budget feel of the film perfectly. There are a couple of standout performances however, with Brian O’Halloran in excellent form as the whiny, self-absorbed Dante, and Jeff Anderson doing a great job as wise-cracking foul-mouth Randall. The interaction between the two is fantastic; a good thing as these two are the central characters in the movie.

Marilyn Ghigliotti puts in a nice performance as the long-suffering Veronica, with most of the other roles being played by friends of Kevin Smith. In fact, Smith himself shows up here and there as one half of Jay and Silent Bob (the other half being the incomprehensible Jason Mewes). Although they have fairly inconsequential roles in this film, the pair have gone on to feature predominantly in Smith’s other films, even getting their own movie towards the end of this year, the litigiously titled Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back...

Clerks: Collector's Series

Video


Probably the most disappointing aspect of the disc, the video quality leaves a lot to be desired. This isn’t wholly the fault of the transfer, as Clerks was shot on such a low budget that the video quality wasn’t great to start off with. What we get here does faithfully reproduce the source material, and it looks sharper than ever, but this unfortunately shows up the flaws in the image. The black and white picture is full of grain, and this can be quite distracting at times. The video is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1, which is another black mark as I really can’t get on with non-anamorphic transfers. For those of you interested in such things, the video has an average bitrate of 6.24Mb/sec.

Audio


The sleeve claims that the audio is presented in Dolby Surround, but my amp only detected Dolby Stereo. The track is Dolby Surround however, so either the disc doesn’t have the surround flag encoded, or my amp doesn’t get on with it.

Audio is pretty good for what it is. There is a fair bit of hiss on the track, but again this stems from the low budget origins of the film. Dialogue is nearly always audible (unless Jason Mewes is delivering the lines), with most of the action limited to the front of the soundstage, although there are a few moments when the surrounds come to life.

Extras


Probably the best aspect of this disc (apart from the film), the extras are surprisingly plentiful for such a release. Included are the theatrical trailer, deleted scenes with an audio introduction by Kevin Smith, an alternate ending (which would’ve ended the movie on a very different note), a Soul Asylum music video featuring Jay and Silent Bob and an audio commentary from Kevin Smith and members of the cast and crew.

The commentary track is very insightful and also very amusing, not least because Jason Mewes spends most of the proceedings unconscious on the floor after getting very drunk! He does occasionally wake up long enough to mutter something unintelligible into the microphone, before passing out again. The interaction between the rest of the cast and crew is great, although it can be difficult to hear exactly what’s being said at times (it sounds like they’re all huddled around a single microphone in someone’s bedroom).

Clerks: Collector's Series

Overall


While not everyone’s cup of tea, Clerks is a very funny movie. Littered with references to other films, Clerks is also a spotter’s wet dream. The dialogue is sharp and witty, although the quality of the delivery is somewhat variable, and there are several very quotable moments. It’s definitely not high brow comedy, but neither is it a Dude, Where’s My Car?. Basically, if you’re a fan of movies, comics, Star Wars, vocal obscenities, razor-sharp wit and can overlook the low budget look and feel of the film, Clerks is for you.

The film has also inspired me to go out and get the rest of Kevin Smith’s films, so watch out for reviews of Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in the future.


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