Last month I was invited to an event at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It had been a while since I last attended a rock’n’roll show, but I couldn’t say no to this one, as it was a live performance of the REPO MAN soundtrack – as far as I know, the first one ever. As you might expect, I enjoyed it: much more than I expected. The performances were great, and I was reminded what an excellent score the picture has – perhaps the best of all my films. Not that this has anything to do with me! The soundtrack is a sampler of the amazing energy, irony, and political astuteness of LA punk circa 1984.

The Red Room Orchestra plays REPO MAN (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

The band leaders were Marc Capelle and Allyson Baker, who have apparently done this kinda thing before, under the shingle of the Red Room Orchestra. Their chosen location was superb – as you can see form the picture above, it features booths, boxes and balconies, demented quantities of gilt, and looks like it was built around the time Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford and other kindly benefactors of humanity decided to construct the transcontinental railroad. It is a fantastic venue in the middle of absolute destitution: the Tenderloin. I don’t spend a lot of time in our great cities, and one of the reasons is that it makes me sad to see so many homeless people living on the streets. The Tenderloin makes LA or Portland look insipid – it is a literal movie set of wretchedness, with addicts shooting up on the sidewalk, huffing crack on street corners, while poor people root through garbage cans, and the middle class dine in upscale restaurants watching them (or attend punk rock shows).

Tito Larriva plays La Bamba (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

But enough of misery! Frolic, Hieronimo! Star of the show was Tito Larriva, co-composer of the original score. I hadn’t seen him in decades but recognised him instantly from afar due to his splendid posture and massive charisma, which bounces off the walls, irradiates the room, and obliges you to stamp your feet and sing. In addition to his theme song, La Bamba, Tito played Hombre Secreto, Flor de Mal, Reel Ten, and my favourite, which circulates through my system to this day, El Clavo y la Cruz.

Tito was far from alone. Joining the Orchestra was original cast member Zander Schloss, who recreated some of his immortal scenes from the film, including the “stop singing” incident, and entertained us with Feelin’ Seven Up, and the Circle Jerks’ popular lounge song, When the Shit Hits the Fan. Zander invited me on stage to tell some lies and recount the story of the Elks Lodge Hall police riot, which it turned out was instigated by Tito’s manager.

Zander’n’Al (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

Don’t Zandy and I look like a pair of aged crypto salesmen? Give us your money and we’ll make it disappear … I mean reward you with Non-Fungible Punky Monkey Tokens! Zander was back from a year-long tour with the Jerks. They play very fast these days, and he said it felt good to slow down … a little bit. All the musicians seemed to have brought their favourite instruments. Listening to Tito and Zander discussing their axes, I felt like someone overhearing Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday perusing Buntline Specials and shotguns — especially when they were joined by Billy the Kid, in the form of Adam Dubov. Adam is another Repo veteran, who provided radio voices (“mysterious showers of tiny cubes of ice…”) and impersonated Elvis for Milk Cow Blues.

Adam Dubov, in DuboVision (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

Needless to say, these veterans of the film itself were not alone. They were joined by a truly splendid Orchestra which played not only the rock’n’roll material, but also performed the “old style” songs which Harry Dean Stanton listened to on his car radio. Karina Deniké, Dina Macabbee, and Petra Haden performed Rhumboogie and TV Party, while Karina soloed See See Rider and Petra essayed Let’s Have A War.

Zander, Karina, Dina, Petra (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

And there were other notable contributers. Blag Dahlia of The Dwarves sang Iggy’s title song; you can see his performance here. And Eugene Robinson, lead singer of the band Buñuel, did a fine version of Sy Richardson’s song Bad Man. I am the author of the Bad Man lyrics, which are based on Sy’s dialogue in the film. Somehow this fact has eluded the rights authorities, but I’m sure BMI and ASCAP will be getting in touch any day now, to sort this out.

Eugene and Zander get down (© 2023 Photo by Jakub Mosur)

There were some veterans in the audience, too: among them producer Jonathan Wacks, musician Dan Wool (who refuses to play live), actors Tod Darling and Linda Jensen, and audio mixer Richard Beggs. But most of the crowd were authentic volunteers, who seemed to have a good time. Afterwards, Tito and Zander expressed a desire to do this again, in the City of Angels, where Repo Man was born. Tito modestly felt we should play the Hollywood Bowl. I called my friend Satya, who lives adjacent to the Bowl and knows about these things. He tells me it seats 200,000 people, and is booked up three years in advance. So maybe its’s not the venue for this year’s Fortieth Anniversary Repo Show.

But who knows? LA is still the home to some of the Repo crew, including Sy and Dick and Miguel and Del and ’em… Maybe Mike of the Suicidals still lives in Santa Monica, and would like to perform his chef-d’oeuvre, Institutionalized, with us. Where does Lee Ving live? Perhaps he can join us, for Let’s Have A War. And what of Iggy? I got an email from him only yesterday: he’s gigging in Chicago, and it’s snowing. Maybe he could come and gig with us in LA, where it never snows! Oh, wait…

Anyone with a decent LA venue is invited to get in touch. And you can do this too! Organize your own Repo Man show, and get the musicians to play some scenes (recommended are ‘stop singing’, and Miller’s and J. Frank’s speeches). Now that the US screenplay rights have reverted to me, you have my permission.


Michael Nesmith, executive producer of REPO MAN, played here two nights ago. I didn’t get to see him since his show began at the Boulder Theater at 6.30pm (rock’n’roll shows seem to start earlier and earlier) and I teach screenwriting till 7.30pm. Which is a pity (not the screenwriting part — it’s a great class and my students are more literate and inventive than you could possibly imagine) because I wanted to hand him a copy of the Criterion Collection BluRay disk of REPO MAN, which had arrived that day.

First let me praise the package! Criterion’s artwork is simply lovely, particularly the cover art. This is the very best graphical representation of the film I have ever seen: even better than the old English poster of the smoking boots. The illustration is by Jay Shaw:

Image I don’t need to go into the contents of the box, since they are described in amazing detail at the DVD Beaver site, which compares the original Anchor Bay NTSC DVD with the Universal NTSC DVD, with the Masters of Cinema ‘Region B’ BluRay, with the new Criterion ‘Region A’ release.

The original Anchor Bay was sparse in additional elements, inevitably, since Universal Pictures had refused to create any. Instead, Jay Douglas of Anchor Bay paid for an audio recording in which Nesmith, I, Sy Richardson, Zander Schloss, Del Zamora, and  Vicky Thomas all participated. He offered us each a $2000 bonus if Harry Dean Stanton came to the recording session! But Harry declined to attend. Still, the Anchor Bay DVD was popular, so popular in fact that Universal demanded the rights back — terminating their contract with Anchor early, and giving them the DVD rights to EVIL DEAD 2 in return.

Universal, well aware how much money Anchor Bay had made, wanted a piece of that REPO DVD action. But now they faced a problem. Other than the audio recording we had made there were no additional elements. All but eight of the production stills we had delivered had been lost. A solution came in the form of Rick Finkelstein, formerly Nesmith’s attorney and, suddenly, CEO of Universal Pictures. I contacted Finkelstein and suggested Universal bring out a decent DVD of REPO MAN, rather than a vanilla one. Thanks to Rick’s intervention, Universal gave me a budget to create elements for the DVD: I shared the dosh with the film’s producers, Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy, and we created three new elements — Peter’s interview with Harry Dean Stanton, Jonathan’s round-table chat, and the “missing scenes” interviews with Sam Cohen and Zander Schloss.

Rolling Stone magazine decreed the result their DVD of the year. At which point Universal should have swallowed their pride, contacted Nesmith, Wacks, McCarthy and me and offered us $20 million to make a sequel. Unfortunately they didn’t: instead they re-branded one of their unreleasable flops as “REPO MEN” and sent a letter threatening to sue me if I ever made a movie with the word REPO in the title.

Charming, aren’t they? I talk a bit about Universal’s weird threats and the studio’s attempts to own the word REPO on the Masters of Cinema BluRay: for some reason, this element doesn’t make it onto the Criterion Blu-Ray disk which is, otherwise, entirely complete. The DVD Beaver site goes into extraordinary detail comparing the visual aspect of the two Blu-Rays. Both look damn good to me. In any case, which one you watch has already been decided for you, depending on where you live, thanks to the MPAA’s regional censorship and profit regime.

Thanks very much to Criterion for this lovely new release. And under no circumstances should you watch the outrageously-offensive, almost certainly untrue hidden additional element created by a pair of Colorado cowboys named Hafnor and Powers. I have no idea who these varmints are, but they’d better watch out, telling such subversive stories about the real origins of REPO MAN. As Hanging Judge Jeffreys said, the fact that the libel may be true, just makes it worse!

By the way, the rights to the original screenplay of REPO MAN revert to me in just a few years’ time. If anyone wants to remake the original script, or do a sequel to it, get in touch with me in early 2015…


The Blu-Ray got a very nice writeup from the LA Times but when I tried to post a comment I was unable to (it seems you have to sign up for a subscription first, which is a bit extreme. Or maybe my browser’s broken…) so here is the comment I wanted to post:

Thanks for that very nice analysis of my film REPO MAN. I do have to correct one misapprehension, though. REPO MAN is not a critique of Reagan policies, because these policies, sad to say, were systematic, whatever party was in power. It’s true that we saw a massive increase in the homeless on our city streets when Reagan came to office (I’d seen the same thing happen in England when Thatcher’s government took power). But it’s wrong to ascribe agency to either politician.
It was generally assumed that George H.W. Bush ran the show during the Reagan years. Bush was a highly intelligent man, fluent in Mandarin, and the former head of the CIA. Reagan was… an actor.
In terms of international politics, the Central American holocaust and the disastrous blowback of Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan were the invention of Jimmy Carter, as CIA chief Gates observes in his memoir, From The Shadows.
So REPO MAN isn’t a critique of any individual, no matter how detestable. Its analysis is systematic: it’s a little clearer in WALKER, which perhaps explains why the studio expended more efforts to suppress that film.