Blu-Ray Review: Blue Collar

Richard Pryor was arguably the most influential, important and downright funny stand-up comedian of the last fifty years. His X-rated tirades on racial politics and current affairs wowed audiences around the world. His brand of storytelling revolutionised the medium. Pryor starred in a number of comedy films, most notably in Stir Crazy with frequent collaborator Gene Wilder. He also starred in several dramas. He’s probably best remembered for his role in Superman III, but it’s in Blue Collar where he delivers his best performance.

Zeke (Pryor), Smoky (Yaphet Kotto) and Jerry (Harvey Keitel) are three friends who work in the automotive industry in Detroit. They’re fed up with the lack of pay and general mistreatment from management, not to mention the inability of union leaders to do anything about it. They concoct a plan to rob the union headquarters, and whilst they only come away with a small amount of money they do find a ledger containing evidence of links to organised crime syndicates. Their attempts at blackmail lead to increasing pressure baring down on them from all sides. They must choose between friendship, family and survival.

Blue Collar is a powerful drama which challenged the union practices of the day and placed working-class industrial life under the microscope. Paul Schrader brings the menace he suffused into his script for Taxi Driver to his first outing behind the camera. The tension on set ekes out onto the screen as the relationships between the three friends becomes increasingly fraught. Whilst Blue Collar is a quintessential slice of 1970s American cinema it’s as relevant as ever today.

Indicator Limited Edition Special Features:

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with writer-director Paul Schrader and author Maitland McDonagh
• Paul Schrader BFI Masterclass (1982, 106 mins): the filmmaker presents a fascinating summary of the many issues and ideas he explores in his screenwriting class, recorded at the National Film Theatre, London
• ‘Visions’: Interview with Paul Schrader (1982): archival interview, presented in two versions – the broadcast cut with its original Tony Rayns introduction (21 mins), and the complete interview rushes with a newly recorded introduction by Tony Rayns (58 mins)
• Keith Gordon on ‘Blue Collar’ (2018, 12 mins): a new filmed appreciation by
the filmmaker and actor
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Brad Stevens, archival interviews with director Paul Schrader, and film credits
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies

Blue Collar is released on Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films as part of the Indicator Series on 22 January.

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