Blue Collar

Blue Collar (1978)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto
Extras: Audio Commentary, Theatrical Trailer, Talent Files

Anchor Bay Entertainment and Universal continue to show their support of DVD by releasing obscure films from the past. Their latest offering is Paul Schrader’s 1978 drama “Blue Collar”, starring Richard Pryor, Harvey Ketiel, and Yaphet Kotto. The trio play auto workers in Detroit. They feel that they are underpaid and that their union doesn’t support them. Each is having financial difficulties. So, they decide to rob the union office. Instead of the cash that they’d hoped for, they stumble across a dark secret within the union. Possessing this secret not only creates a rift in their friendship, but it also puts them in mortal danger.

As with Schrader’s other works (“Taxi Driver”, “Hardcore”) “Blue Collar pulls no punches in its look at these urban laborers. We shouldn’t condone their crime, but we understand why they feel pushed to do it. After the robbery, the tension in the film mounts as we anxiously wait to see if one of the friends will sell out the others. All of the actors in the film do an excellent job, but the most surprising is Pryor. Best known for his comedic work, Pryor comes across as deadly serious in ”Blue Collar“ and shows a complete different part of his personality. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some funny lines.

The Anchor Bay DVD of ”Blue Collar“ presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The picture is clear and the source print is remarkably free of any major defects. However, the picture is dark and has that underlit look of a low-budget mid-70’s movie, which can be unavoidable when doing a digital transfer. This dark looks actually adds to the serious tone of the film. The audio is a Dolby Digital Mono, which is adequate, but a surround sound mix would’ve been nice for the assembly line scenes.

The DVD features an audio commentary with writer/director Schrader and journalist Maitland McDonagh (author of ”Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Films of Dario Argento’). Schrader has a great memory for the details of the production and tells some great stories about how the three principle actors didn’t get along. Be warned though, Schrader’s language on the commentary is just as raw as Pryor’s words in the film! There is also a theatrical trailer, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and extensive talent files on Pryor, Keitel, Kotto, and Schrader.