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Clerks: 10th Anniversary Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A/A+

Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Produced by: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Marilyn Chigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

When you look at the production history of many films, you wonder "Wow, how did that get finished on time and under budget?" One of my favourite examples is Steven Spielberg's Jaws. The mechanical shark rarely worked and the young director had to think of ways of how to film its scenes. Despite it ending up a brilliant piece of work, Jaws finished over time and over budget. Now, what about a film made on a really small budget. Kevin Smith was only allowed to film most of his scenes in Clerks at night time. What makes it even more extraordinary was that the place in question was where he worked. A colleague of mine said and I quote: "He was probably swallowing bottles of aspirin throughout the shoot." In the end, Smith made a wonderfully original and entertaining picture.

Clerks takes place on one whole day in the life of Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran), a Quick Stop clerk who isn't even supposed to be working on the day this film takes place in. Then again, if he didn't go to work, there wouldn't be this very funny story, would there? Next door from the Quick Stop is a video rental place with terrible films and working there is Dante's best friend, Randal (Jeff Anderson). Throughout the day, the two have to deal with annoying costumers, hockey games on rooftops and two drug dealers who hang out outside the Quick Stop. One talks non-stop (Jason Mewes) and the other rarely speaks (Kevin Smith). However, when he does, it's something smart.

This being my completely first exposure to Kevin Smith, I was very open-minded while watching it. I don't think that really mattered, because I would have enjoyed Clerks either way. The dialogue is just as good as anything written by Robert Towne and Quentin Tarantino and for first-time actors, the performances are really good. I thought 1994 was a great year for supporting actors and it was already hard to choose between Samuel L. Jackson for Pulp Fiction, John Turturro for Quiz Show and Martin Landau for Ed Wood to be my choice for the best one of that year. You can add Jeff Anderson to my list of nominees, because he is absolutely brilliant as Randal. He gets the best lines and he says them brilliantly. I didn't particulary like the transfer on the old DVD in which I watched Clerks for the first time, but on this new three-disc edition the video and audio has greatly improved. They have managed to take out a lot of scratch and the great dialogue and soundtrack can be heard clearly. "A" grades for both of them.

I gave the extras on the original DVD a "C+" grade, but like the transfer, Miramax and View Askew have greatly improved in this department. Disc One starts off with an audio commentary with some of the cast and crew that worked on Clerks. Recorded on the set of Smith's second film Mallrats, this is a fun and lively commentary and it is obvious of the fun that they had working on the film. You can also watch the film with a subtitle track with trivia notes. However, they offer nothing new that Kevin Smith fans don't already know. The Lost Scene that is the next extra is an animated version of what happened between Dante and Randal entering the funeral home and leaving. It's nice that Smith has animated the scene for us and it works. There is also an option that allows you to view the film with the scene implanted in, however they don't mesh together, mainly due to it being colour, fullscreen and a cartoon.

The Flying Car is a live-action short which features Dante and Randal discussing the title invention. It's very funny and proves that the best part of Clerks are those involving their conversations. MTV spots featuring Jay and Silent Bob appear next and are very entertaining and funny to watch. It's also great to see a young, pre-Good Will Hunting Matt Damon. Two great marketing devices appear next: the film's theatrical trailer and a Soul Asylum music video. Both hold up well on repeat viewings. Videos on the incredible Clerks restoration, the original auditions and some previews for other Kevin Smith flicks finish off the first disc. Those are just the beginning, though.

On Disc Two, Smith has provided us with the original version of the film with all the deleted scenes intact. The appearance and sound quality isn't very good, but this is good because it allows fans to watch the film the way it was shown for the first time. Just shut the curtains and switch off all the lights and you feel like you were at the first ever screening at the IFFM. There is also a commentary with the cast, which is highly entertaining. They even eat at some point in the beginning. You can also view them recording it which is even more fun. This is all that is found here, but the real Clerks adventure starts on Disc Three.

The main attraction on the third DVD is a feature-length documentary called The Snowball Effect on the making of this cult classic. It looks at Smith's past, the filming of Clerks as well as how it was able to get bought by Miramax. This is one of the best making-of films you'll ever seen and it is a delight. Kevin Smith's first film, which he made at the Vancouver Film School is actually rather interesting. It is a documentary about how a documentary failed and it involves his teachers and crew completely tearing him apart for his bad directorial skills. All I can say is, well, he showed them. A 10th Anniversary Q&A as the cast and crew answering fan questions with amusing results. Highlights include people who continue to ask about the gum in the Quick Stop door locks and a story about NAMBLA. There are scenes deleted from The Showball Effect that also provide more material on Smith and friends.

Finally, the set ends with photos, Kevin Smith-written journals, articles and reviews. They are all great reads that are worth it. Included outside of the package is a booklet with essays by Kevin Smith (probably the best and funniest one I've ever read) and his long-time producer Scott Mosier. I recommend that you read them both, because they provide a lot of worthy information. So, if you're not easily offended, like independent films, great comedies and Kevin Smith, this three-disc edition of Clerks should be in your collection. I'm very happy that it's there and I will be watching it for many years.

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