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Blue Collar

4.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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(Feb 08, 2000)
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Editorial Reviews

Paul Schrader had established his reputation as a screenwriter (The Yakuza and Taxi Driver, among others) before embarking on his directorial debut. Blue Collar is the story of three working-class guys at the Checker auto plant who run their local union office. Richard Pryor delivers a funny, passionate, seething performance in one of his rare dramatic roles as a rabble-rousing union man. Trapped by family worries and crippling back taxes, he dreams up the robbery after scoping out the joint and enlists his coworker and buddies, family man Harvey Keitel and high-living bachelor Yaphet Kotto, who are in similar financial straits. This is a strictly amateur-hour heist, and their successful getaway is the last bit of good luck in store for the trio. The robbery turns up no cash, only incriminating files, and the inept thieves are soon blackmailing the powerful union, which fights back with force, seduction, and murder. Schrader's first film has little of the polish or style he developed by American Gigolo, but his portrait of lower middle class families in 1970s Detroit, interracial relations, and male camaraderie is sharp and insightful. His attention to detail shows in every frame and adds to the edgy material, which balances the thriller plot with social commentary about corruption, labor relations, and the lure of power. Schrader's later films show more subtlety and cinematic confidence, but time hasn't dimmed the power he unleashes in this angry working class drama.

The DVD features commentary by Paul Schrader, his first such audio track, guided and prodded by critic Maitland McDonagh, who does her best to draw the director out of his long silences and launch him into his fascinating production stories. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto, Ed Begley Jr., Harry Bellaver
  • Directors: Paul Schrader
  • Writers: Paul Schrader, Leonard Schrader, Sydney A. Glass
  • Producers: David Nichols, Don Guest, Robin French
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: February 8, 2000
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00003ETHD
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,051 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Blue Collar" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This review is for the product - the film is an under-rated gem that deserves a full restoration and proper DVD release, but instead Universal has relegated it to this garbage "Vault Series" line. What you get when ordering any film in this series is a DVD-R, not a commercially made DVD - with a basic case/cover that anyone could make at home. It's despicable and following on the heals of Warner Bros. similar attempts, a rather frightening portent of what's to come. The only recourse we have is to send a message that this is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Don't pay $20 for a 25 cent PC pressed copy! Universal should be ashamed of themselves!

To be perfectly clear, what you get is essentially a home-pressed DVD COPY, not a commercial DVD. There are no menus - you put it in and the film starts, that's it. No extras, no subtitles, and non-anamorphic middling transfers. Lost is the excellent Paul Schrader commentary from the long out of print Anchor Bay disc. Putting excellent films like this, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, A Bronx Tale, and others - many of which were previously already available on DVD! - is absolutely insulting! They aren't worth the cost of shipping them, but they have the audacity to charge $20 a pop? Absolutely appalling greed that depends on uninformed consumers ordering blindly. Boycott these and they will go away!
8 Comments 66 of 71 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: VHS Tape
This 1978 underrated classic is about three autoworkers. There's an honest and gritty realism to this story and the four-letter words and curses have a ring of authenticity to them, especially those of Richard Pryor whose foul language has been compared to raw sewage mixed with social insight. He's cast in the role of Zeke Brown, who owes money to the IRS and struggles to support his wife and three children. Harvey Keitel plays Jerry Bawtowski, who also has trouble meeting his bills and can't even afford braces for his daughter. And Yaphet Kotto, a physically imposing black man who is actually the son of a Cameroonian crown prince, plays the role of Smoky James, an ex-con who throws wild parties with drugs and women which serve as escape for the growing frustration of the men. All three see the union as corrupt and decide to rob the union office. They hope to get a few thousand dollars apiece. Instead they get more than they bargained for and the series of events that follow lead to betrayal, and murder.

This is the directional debut for writer/director Paul Shrader, known for writing Taxi Driver, and he does a masterful job. He puts the viewer right there on the assembly line, with the harsh clanging of heavy machinery and the constant pressure of the foreman to work faster and faster. I could almost feel the heat and smell the machine oil and sweat of the workers. Along with the physical labor, there's constant stress and this goes on day after day after day. The subject is serious and the story real but the wisecracks provide comic relief and the story is fast paced and gripping. An excellent blues musical score enhancing the action underscores all this. And all the performances were so good that I forgot they were acting.
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2 Comments 26 of 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
"Blue Collar" is one of the great underrated American films of the 1970s. It tells the story of three desperate, powerless men who work in a Detroit auto plant. When they're not being suppressed by their soulless company, they're being duped by their arrogant, corrupt labor union. Their collective desperation leads them to conduct an almost laughably amateurish robbery of the union safe. Instead, what they find is evidence of widespread union corruption. When they decide to blackmail the union, they find that three working men are no match for a ruthless, powerful labor union (and--in a larger sense--the American capitalist system).
Director Paul Schrader (who co-wrote the film with his brother Leonard) presents this tale in a gritty, realistic fashion. Its bleak message is timeless, but the film is very much of the late 1970s, both in the sets (note the ugly orange sofas!) and in its infusion of drama and socio-political commentary. Filmed in Detroit, Kalamazoo, and Los Angeles, you really get the sense of the hopeless desperation of these three men, who are dying to make a better life for themselves and their families, but are trapped in soul-crushing jobs at the factory.
Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto are their usual brilliant selves. The true surprise for most viewers will be Richard Pryor in one of the very few dramatic roles he ever played. He's hilarious, tragic, sympathetic, and--in the end--despicable all rolled into one.
The DVD version of "Blue Collar" contains interesting bios of the three stars and of Schrader, and a commentary from the director and a female journalist (who spends much of the time swooning over Keitel...particularly when he's in his underwear!).
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Comment 15 of 15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
This little-seen film (hence the reason I'm the first and so far only person to review it) is one of my favorites of the '70s, which would pretty much make it one of my favorites ever since the '70s was the best decade for film ever. After writing successful screenplays for directors like Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma, Paul Schrader here makes his directorial debut, and it is still his best film to date. It's a searing, knowing drama about the lives of Detroit auto workers, and in it Richard Pryor gives his first dramatic performance. He's brilliant, and Harvey Keitel--no surprise here--matches him. If you'r a fan of filmmakers like Scorsese, you'll like Paul Schrader and this film in particular. Highly reccommended.
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