Sadly, we recently lost actor Miguel Ferrer to cancer aged 61. He had a prolific acting career and featured in over 120 movies, TV shows and even lent his voice talent to animated projects and video games. Yet with so much work under his belt and so many varying roles – he’ll always be Bob Morton to me. The head honcho behind the Robocop project from the 1987 movie Robocop.
It also just so happens to be Robocop’s 30th anniversary this year too (July 17th). So no better time for me to take a look at one of my all time favourite movies and share my memories of this flick as I take a look at a film that has a much deeper story than you first think.
This one is for you Miguel as Bob himself would say…
There’s a new guy in town. His name is RoboCop.
I’d Buy That For A Dollar
I must have been around the age of 13 when I first watched Robocop. I remember my older brother renting the VHS tape from our local rental shop. I didn’t know what it was or what it was about. The simplistic title of Robocop was all I needed for it to pique my early teenage interest… a film about a robot cop? I’m in. I also had no idea just how full of violence and swearing it was. I was 13, I had seen violent films before, but nothing quite like Robocop at the time. When the final credits rolled – I was speechless. I sat there with a look of disbelief on my face, stunned at the film I had just witnessed. It was all kinds of awesome contained in 1 hour and 40 odd minutes.
Robocop was a film that scorched images into my head that have stayed there for almost 30 years. The death of Officer Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) was one of… no THE hardest thing I had ever seen on film at that point. It was brutal.
The guy robing the liquor store screaming obscenities over and over and over as Robocop walks in to arrest him. That (almost) rape scene and the exquisite solution to saving the blonde woman. Poor Kinney (Kevin Page) being perforated by ED-209 in the boardroom. Emil (Paul McCrane) getting splattered after his toxic bath, etc. So much of that film impacted me at that young age and I loved it. All I talked about at school the following weeks was Robocop, telling friends about the film and trying my best to describe what I had witnessed. I covered my school books in Robocop pictures, drew doodles of Robocop in the back of them too… and got in trouble for it. I was obsessed by this film, yet I didn’t understand it at that young age. To me then – it was just an awesome flick with a ton of swearing and violence. It wasn’t until I was much older and when I saw the film as an adult when the true genius of this picture was revealed to me.
Dead Or Alive – You’re Coming With Me
Its a completely different film now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the bloody violence and swearing as much now as I did when I was 13. Its just that now, I see what this film is with its truly spectacular subtleties and deep humanity story that it has. Director Paul Verhoeven has gone on record as saying that Robocop is his version of the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In an interview with MTV, Verhoeven said this…
“The point of Robocop is of course that it is a Christ story. It is about a guy that gets crucified after fifty minutes then is resurrected in the next fifty minutes and then is like the supercop of the world. But is also a Jesus figure as he walks over water at the end. he could walk over the water and say this wonderful line, which is basically, em, to Clarence Boddicker ‘I am not arresting you any more.’ Meaning I’m going to shoot you. And that is , of course, the American Jesus.”
The film’s writers; Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner crafted a carefully layered and subtle story that has a lot more meaning behind it than most people first think. Yeah, action and gore-hounds are well catered for here. But then so are folks who want a bit more depth to their story and characters.
On the surface and looking at it as simply as possible – then Robocop is a basic revenge story that ticks all the boxes. If that is all you want from the movie then great. But there is much more to Robocop than just vengeance. There is the internal struggle Robocop faces as he slowly starts to remember his past life as Alex Murphy. The scene where he visits his old family home and the memories of his previous life appear on screen, the sombre music that slowly builds in the background and best of all… Peter Weller’s amazing acting. I mean, seeing as you can only see his mouth – he still manages to convey emotion with his face and movements in that bulky costume.
Murphy… Its You
I just adore the scene where his ex-partner, Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) starts to talk to Robocop and whispers those 3 words that kick-start his memories. That one scene is amazing and for 3 very good reasons.
- Verhoeven’s directing is masterful here with great camera angles that capture one of the most important parts of the movie.
- Neumeier and Miner’s writing is subtle yet effective. Full of character with very little dialogue.
- Weller’s acting is sublime here. Its that thing I mentioned before about how he can convey great emotion while wearing that helmet only showing his mouth. The way Robocop steps backward, stunned at Lewis’ words and he becomes Murphy once more – even if only for a few seconds before snapping back into Robocop mode. Brilliant.
The film is full of great little moments like this and many people miss them.
Can You Fly Bobby?
Of course, every great film need great antagonists and Robocop is no different.
A ragtag group of villains that features; Leon C. Nash (Ray Wise), Emil M. Antonowsky (Paul McCrane) and Joe P. Cox (Jesse D. Goins) who likes to show his penis to female police officers. All headed up by the cold and callous Clarence J. Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). I adore Clarence as a villain, if I made a list of top movie bad guys then Clarence would definitely be in there. This guy is evil personified, he’s just total bad-ass and played brilliantly by Smith. The whole teasing/tormenting of Murphy during his death is disturbing and entertaining at the same time. A sadistic bastard, but one I love watching.
Nice shooting son. What’s your name?
The ending to this film always leaves a huge smile on my face too. The whole final scene where Robocop takes out Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) and then ‘The Old Man’ (Dan O’Herlihy) asks our hero that all important question.
Robocop smiles and answers, “Murphy”. Finally connecting to his humanity and accepting who he was and now is. Then it just abruptly ends and cuts to credits.
I love this ending, its sharp, snappy and uplifting.
But I’d like to end this article the way I started it, remembering Miguel Ferrer and Bob Morton…
You Are gonna Be A Bad Motherfucker!
Bob Morton is a complex character. Is he a good guy or is he a bad guy? I mean in his own words he “restructured the police force to place prime candidates according to risk factor”. So he is directly to blame for Murphy’s death as he ensured Murphy was placed in high risk areas. Plus he really enjoys ‘models’ and drugs. So he is a villain then right?
But then he did create Robocop and crime declined because of that. Also notice how much he adores his Frankenstein-like creation through the film? He actually cares and believes in his project and Bob Morton becomes a very likeable character. Villain or not, its a tough one eh? You know how there are anti-heroes, those characters that do the wrong things but for the right reasons. I consider Bob Morton a anti-villain, a character who does the right things but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Miguel Ferrer brought this character to life. Love or hate Bob Morton, Miguel Ferrer made him memorable.
I really don’t think I can top that so I’ll end here. Thanks Miguel for creating one of the best characters in one of my favourite films…
RoboCop was maybe the best summer of my entire life. It was the summer of 1986, and it was the best part I’d been asked to do at the time.