“Blue Collar” (Minor Bleg)

The confluence of the blogospheric discussions of Nixonland and labor unions made me think about Paul Schrader’s film Blue Collar, which I remember as amazing (and angry-making) but haven’t seen since it first came out in theatres during the rise of the Reaganaut “morning in America” apparatchiks. (Pause while half of you exclaim, “Wow, I hadn’t even been born yet when that happened!”)

Unfortunately, it’s not available on Netflix, the ‘DVD-R on demand’ versions available through Amazon get lousy quality ratings, and the used copies are pricey. Anybody want to give an opinion on this movie from a more recent viewing… or maybe recommend a reliable source for a copy of the 2001 reissue?






41 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    (Pause while half of you exclaim, “Wow, I hadn’t even been born yet when that happened!”)

    Oh, don’t be like that. I remember seeing that back when I was 2.

  2. 2
    beltane says:

    I rented it on VHS about 20 years ago. Excellent movie. My husband and I just last night were talking about how since the 80’s Hollywood stopped making movies or TV shows that reflect or dignify the reality of American life. Turn on the TV and everyone has a beautiful kitchen and nice things.

  3. 3
    ninja3000 says:

    Saw it on TV about three weeks ago, but can’t remember whether it was HBO, Cinemax, or Starz.

  4. 4
    Yossarian says:

    It’s a great, great movie. I’m not sure Hollywood would have the courage to make it today.

    I got it on Comcast OnDemand. Finding a DVD copy is going to be a bear — no idea why they don’t re-release it.

  5. 5
    Dan says:

    Try libraries.

  6. 6
    stuckinred says:

    It’s been on cable quite a bit lately.

  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
    stuckinred says:

    A review. Dudes work in a auto plant. They get fucked up and fucked over constantly. Richard Prior, who grew up in Peoria home of Cat, is a funny motherfucker. Yaphet Kotto is a bad motherfucker. Thank you Samuel L Jackson.

  10. 10
    Michael says:

    @beltane:

    My husband and I just last night were talking about how since the 80’s Hollywood stopped making movies or TV shows that reflect or dignify the reality of American life. Turn on the TV and everyone has a beautiful kitchen and nice things.

    Every time I see “Slapshot” or “Rocky”, I’m struck with how the filmmakers did a great job of capturing the abject scruffiness of lower middle-class homes.

  11. 11
    Pococurante says:

    You buy it on iTunes for ten bucks, rent it for three.

  12. 12
    newhavenguy says:

    Great agitprop film. Pryor, Khoto and Keitel have great on screen chemistry, though I seem to remember hearing that they hated each other.

    Bought the VHS on E-Bay or Amazon from someone in the UK a few years ago for an exorbitant price— $35 or something— but well worth it.

  13. 13
    Dan says:

    @stuckinred: They say that cat Shaft is a bad mother …

  14. 14
    stuckinred says:

    Review from IMDB

    Ever worked in a sh***y car factory?Ever been on strike?Ever been f***ed over by your boss AND your union?No?Well,writing as someone who has experienced all the former,let me tell you that BLUE COLLAR is the truest story of car making,sweat drippin’,metal bashing,production line workin’ anger your gonna see.I’m writing this 28 years after its making,and I can honestly say that at no time before have I ever seen the frustration of working class men so accurately and painfully displayed.I find it hard to comment on this film objectively,because,as I have said,I’ve witnessed it for 11 years.From coffee machines stealing money and ball breaking foremen,to friendships destroyed over ambition and men pushed to breaking point,this film is a true reflection of life on “the Track”. For most it will be gritty drama,for others it will be all too familiar…

  15. 15
    stuckinred says:

    @Dan: shut yo mouth

  16. 16
    Michael says:

    The greatest scene in 70s moviedom.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i_D6oQO6b8

  17. 17
    geg6 says:

    Though I usually loath Brett Rattner films, I read a summary of this upcoming film in Entertainment Weekly and, based on the summary and the casting, I may be forced to break my boycott of Rattner films:

    http://www.movieweb.com/news/t.....l-pictures

    Perhaps blue collar people are back in style.

    I do, however, with they’d kept to the original title “Trump Heist.”

  18. 18
    Michael says:

    By the way, rather than seeing a fictional story about unions and bosses, why not go for the real thing?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCiVMngILEI

    I saw “Harlan County USA” on cable a couple of years ago, and was infuriated to rage.

  19. 19
    geg6 says:

    @Michael:

    I saw “Harlan County USA” on cable a couple of years ago, and was infuriated to rage.

    Ditto.

  20. 20
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @beltane: Yes! This is very true. I noticed it a long time ago.

  21. 21
    geg6 says:

    @beltane:

    So true. Just saw an interview with Roseanne Barr a few weeks ago and she made the exact same point. And, if you think about it, her show was really the last time we saw a depiction of what a real blue collar/working class family is like. Say what you will about Roseanne, love her or hate her, she got that right.

  22. 22
    Jack Bauer says:

    Watch Harlan County USA. It’s instructional because that’s where we’re headed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yylvib5oW4c

  23. 23
    Jack Bauer says:

    @beltane:

    “The Middle” actually does a reasonable job of it. But the rest of tv, even the ‘reality’ shows are full of rich people.

  24. 24
    Michael says:

    I just checked – “Harlan County USA” is available on Amazon Pay Per View for about 4 bucks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Harlan-C.....roduct_top

    Frankly, I’d like to see Cole or some other front pager pimp it out on the main page. it is an important piece of history, portrays the necessity of union action, shows the perfidy of capital, and is real.

  25. 25

    Harlan County, USA is available on Netflix streaming, and is a real union documentary. Highly recommended.

  26. 26
    Linnaeus says:

    I’m hoping that the discussion we’ve been seeing as of late in the blogosphere about labor can be directed, in some way, to more union & worker activism. (full disclosure: I’m a union member and union local employee, though not an organizer or representative)

    I appreciate what Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum have said recently about the importance of labor rights and the importance of organizations that exist to give workers a voice in the workplace and in the political arena. I’m less satisfied with their very pessimistic tone; they seem to metaphorically throw up their hands and decide that there’s nothing to be done to reverse the decline of labor. Don’t get me wrong here; I get that the situation is serious, even dire, and that things for labor will probably get worse before they get better. And it’s certainly not a given that they will get better. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try harder to organize, etc., because we know if we don’t do that, things definitely won’t improve.

  27. 27
    geg6 says:

    @Linnaeus:

    Over the last three or four years, I have done a lot of grassroots political work with organized labor. I can’t say enough good about them. There is no one you can count on more than the union guys and gals when you need some flyers posted, some doors knocked on, a GOTV effort, or pretty much anything else having to do with political issues that you can think of. Best allies out there, and heads and shoulders above most of the DFHs of the far left who can’t be bothered with pedestrian stuff like that.

  28. 28
    JenJen says:

    @stuckinred: As already noted by stuckinred, just looked it up on my DirecTV and the next showing is February 2 at 2:15 am on HBOZ. Set it to record already, I’ve never seen it, let alone heard of it! Thanks for the heads-up!

  29. 29
    Linnaeus says:

    @geg6:

    I’m very glad to hear that. Yes, unions have their own problems that need fixing, but when you have to put feet on the ground, they’re among the very best.

  30. 30
    piratedan says:

    well if we’re pimping films with a labor bent, I would heartily reccomend Matewan by John Sayles. I have West “By God” Virginia roots and as they say down in SW, it’s just over the mountain from where my family comes from.

  31. 31
    Pangloss says:

    How in the world do the cops on Law & Order live in spacious Manhattan lofts?

  32. 32
    TR says:

    If you’re interested in “Blue Collar,” that’s another reason you should go with Cowie’s Last Days of the Working Class over Perlstein’s Nixonland — he covers it beautifully.

  33. 33
    WereBear says:

    @beltane: Turn on the TV and everyone has a beautiful kitchen and nice things.

    So true; busboys have multi-room apartments in NYC. As if!

  34. 34
    Rufus says:

    Paul Schrader is a great filmmaker and it’s a wonder that the Criterion Collection hasn’t done a Schrader boxset by now. I watched Blue Collar on youtube and it’s probably my favorite Richard Pryor performance. Everyone in it’s good though. And the Captain Beefheart theme song is just icing on the cake.

  35. 35
    Janus Daniels says:

    @geg6: One of many reasons to like the well reviewed, sometimes brilliant, and short lived Veronica Mars TV series: the lower middle class lives of father & daughter, and the little apartment they lived in.

  36. 36
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @geg6: The DFHs of the “far left” are exactly the ones who want the Democrats to stop crapping on unions and do something to help them ([cough]EFCA[cough])

  37. 37
    Tokyokie says:

    I think I’ve got a copy of it on laserdisc, of all media. Guess I should watch it again, but I loved it when it first came out.

  38. 38
    geg6 says:

    @Steve LaBonne:

    Well, when I see them actually doing any of the work on the ground, I’ll give them credit. Bitching about it or forwarding petitions on the Internet really isn’t helpful as shown by how successful their tactics have been with getting the EFCA passed.

  39. 39
    Anne Laurie says:

    @TR: Stayin’ Alive looks good — I may buy it myself — but it’s not available in paperback & it’s too recent for used copies to be widely available. Let’s hope the BJ Book Group will be around long enough to share the paperback version!

  40. 40
    Rick Perlstein says:

    Anne, you should see what Jefferson Cowie has to say about “Blue Collar” in “Stayin’ Alive”–not kind: basically it makes the union the villain in a way he found quite offensive and illuminating about New Left prejudice against the working class.

  41. 41

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