Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kevin Smith|
|Produced by||Scott Mosier
|Written by||Kevin Smith|
|Editing by||Scott Mosier
|Studio||View Askew Productions|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Release date(s)||October 19, 1994|
|Running time||Theatrical cut
The First Cut
|Gross revenue||$3.2 million|
Clerks is a 1994 American comedy film written and directed by Kevin Smith, who also appears in the film as Silent Bob. Starring Brian O'Halloran as Dante Hicks and Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves, it presents a day in the lives of two store clerks and their acquaintances. Clerks was the first of Smith's View Askewniverse films. It introduces several characters, notably Jay and Silent Bob, who reappear in his later works.
Clerks, which had been shot for US$27,575 in the convenience store where director Kevin Smith worked, grossed over US$3 million in theaters, launching Smith's career.
Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) is a clerk at the Quick Stop, a local convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey. On Dante's day off, his boss calls him in to cover a few hours for another employee who is sick. Arriving at the store, he finds that the security shutters are jammed closed with chewing gum, so he hangs a sheet over them with a message in shoe polish: “I ASSURE YOU; WE'RE OPEN.”
Dante’s day is spent in the purgatory of serving a succession of customers while bemoaning the fact that he's “not even supposed to be here today.” Interspersed with the demands of his job, Dante passes time in wide-ranging conversations with his slacker friend, Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson). Randal ostensibly works at the neighboring video store, although he spends almost the entire day at the Quick Stop. They converse about many things to pass time, such as if the contractors working on the second Death Star when it was destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi were innocent victims or not. Dante’s current girlfriend, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), also stops in and the two talk about Dante's current disposition—in a rut with no motivation to change. Further contributing to Dante's misery is an announcement in the local newspaper that his unfaithful ex-girlfriend, Caitlin, is engaged to be married.
Learning that he’s stuck working the store all day, Dante convinces his friends to play hockey on the store roof. The game is short; 12 minutes in, an irate customer shoots their only ball off the roof and into a gutter. Reopening the store, Dante finds out one of his ex-girlfriends has died and her memorial service is today. Randal talks him into closing the store again and going to the wake. The visit is disastrous, although the audience doesn’t see what transpires during the memorial service. However, a later conversation between the two reveals that Randal knocked over the casket.
That night Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer) surprises Dante with a visit. After she assures Dante that the engagement announcement was premature and arranged by her mother, the two trade banter and Dante becomes torn between her and Veronica. He finally decides to take Caitlin on a date and slips home to change. He returns to discover that Caitlin had sex with a dead man in the bathroom, having mistaken the man for Dante (the man had earlier entered the bathroom with a pornographic magazine and had suffered a fatal heart attack while masturbating). An ambulance takes Caitlin away in shock, along with the corpse.
Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), a pair of stoners who’ve spent all day hanging out (and dealing Cannabis) outside the Quick Stop, enter the store to shoplift. Dante turns down Jay’s offer to party with them. Knowing Dante's predicament, Silent Bob pauses before following Jay outside and offers the following wisdom: “You know, there's a million fine-looking women in the world, dude. But they don't all bring you lasagna at work. Most of 'em just cheat on you.”
Dante then realizes that he loves Veronica. When she returns to the Quick Stop, though, Randal complicates things by revealing that Dante was in love with Caitlin and is planning to date his ex again. Veronica angrily breaks up with Dante and reveals to him that Randal told her of his plans to be with Caitlin. Dante loses his temper and fights with Randal, though the two end up worn out and reconcile.
The film ends with Randal walking out of the store, popping back in briefly to toss Dante's sign at him stating, "You're closed!"
The events of Julie Dwyer's wake were scripted by Smith, but unfilmed due to the probable cost of producing the scene. For the tenth anniversary Clerks X DVD release, the scene was produced using an animation style similar to that of Clerks: The Animated Series. The "lost scene" was also presented in comic book form of the Clerks comic book series, with the title of "The Lost Scene".
Dante and Randal, after hearing of the death of Dante's former high school flame Julie Dwyer, go to her wake. At the wake, Randal picks up some death cards from a table and discusses collecting them like baseball cards. Dante also runs into another former high school classmate, Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). Alyssa tells Dante that she was going to see Julie's appearance on Truth or Date (see Mallrats) before she learned of her death. Randal walks over to the two and greets Alyssa with "Hey, 'Finger Cuffs'!", prompting her to angrily storm off.
As Dante and Randal wait in line to see Julie Dwyer's casket, Dante recalls the time he was caught by Julie's parents while he and Julie had oral sex. When the two arrive at the casket, they question the choice of Julie's funeral clothing (a tube top), and Randal decides he's bored and wants to go to the car. Dante throws him the keys, but Randal misses the catch and the keys fall into Julie's pants. Dante reaches into the pants to find the keys while Randal rubs his shoulders, making it seem like Dante is upset. Julie's father pushes Randal out of the way and, after seeing Dante's actions, pounces on him. Randal is then pushed by Mrs. Dwyer and bumps into Julie's casket, which topples over, as does Julie's body. Randal catches the keys as they fly into the air, and he and Dante run out abruptly.
The film is in black-and-white and roughly edited due to a very modest budget of $27,575. To acquire the funds for the film, Smith sold a large portion of his extensive comic book collection in 1993, maxed out eight to ten credit cards with $2000 limits, dipped into a portion of funds set aside for his college education and spent insurance money awarded for a car he and Jason Mewes lost in a flood. The film was shot in 21 straight days (with two "pick-up" days). Originally, Smith wrote the role of Randal Graves for himself, but after realizing he could not write, direct, work in the store, and take a starring role at the same time, he cast himself in the smaller role of Silent Bob and began searching for someone to play Randal. According to Smith's commentary on the DVD, this is why Randal has the best lines.
A Quick Stop convenience store (located at 58 N. Leonard Avenue in Leonardo, New Jersey) where Smith worked was the primary setting for the film. He was only allowed to film in the store at night while it was closed (from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.), hence the running gag of someone jamming gum in the padlocks and the steel shutters remaining closed; otherwise, it would seem odd that it was dark outside during all the daytime scenes. Because Smith was working at Quick Stop during the day and shooting the film at night, he slept no more than an hour a day. By the end of the 21 day shoot, Smith was unable to stay awake while some of the most climactic scenes of the film were shot.
Several members of Smith's family played roles in the film due to budget constraints. When Dante is discussing the "Milk Maids", the shopper shown is Smith's mother and the customer whose job it is to "manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination" is played by Smith's sister, Virginia. Several of Smith's childhood friends also play roles in the film. Walt Flanagan plays four roles in this film: The "Woolen Cap Smoker" in the beginning (which he reprises in Clerks II), the famous "Egg Man", the "Offended Customer" (during the "jizz mopper" scene) and the "Cat Admiring Bitter Customer,". Walt never intended to play this many roles (Smith would often, in jest, refer to Flanagan as "the Lon Chaney of the '90s"). As one of Smith's friends who was present often during filming as either extra help or just moral support, it fell to Walt to play these characters when the actors Smith originally got to play them just didn't show up.
Dante's beard changes throughout the film because Smith asked Brian O'Halloran to shave his goatee before filming started. After seeing what O'Halloran looked like without it, Smith told him to grow it back. Thus, the scenes earlier in the shoot show a thinner beard, while later ones show Dante with a thicker goatee, as it had longer to grow back.
In the scene where Randal lists the names of the porno movies he needs to order, he and the Happy Scrappy Hero Pup lady are not actually in the room at the same time. Jeff Anderson refused to read the list of porno films in front of her, and particularly in front of the child (although the reaction shots of the Happy Scrappy Hero Pup lady were obtained by a crew member reading the same list to her). In fact, Anderson also felt uncomfortable about knowing his mother would watch the film and hear the list and he, embarrassed, gave the list back to Smith to cut it down — mere seconds before shooting, Smith passed the list back to Anderson with a few more added for good measure. The young girl in this scene is Ashley Pereira, niece of Vincent Pereira (Director of A Better Place and "resident View Askew historian").
The original ending for the film was meant to continue from when Randal throws Dante's "I Assure You, We're Open" sign to him. After Randal leaves, Dante proceeds to count out the register and does not notice another person entering the store. Upon informing the latecomer that the store is no longer open, the customer shoots Dante, killing him. Afterwards, he makes off with the money from the cash register. The sequence ends with Dante's dead face looking off past the camera; after the credits roll, a customer (played by Smith, with his beard shaved off) comes into the store, sees no one around (Dante is lying behind the counter) and steals some cigarettes. The depressing ending was criticized by Smith's mentors Bob Hawk and John Pierson after its first screening at the Independent Feature Film Market, and it was under Pierson's advice that Smith cut the ending short, deleting Dante's death and ending the movie with Randal's departure. Fans have since analyzed the death of Dante as an homage to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, which is discussed earlier in the film as Dante's favorite Star Wars movie because "it ended on such a down note." Deleted scenes from the extended cut of the film also implied that the killer would never be caught, as Randal disconnects the security cameras earlier in the day. Smith said it concluded this way because he "didn't know how to end a film." Both versions are available in Clerks. X, the tenth anniversary special edition; the lost ending itself was among the extras on the 1995 Laserdisc and the 1999 DVD release; in his commentary on the 1999 DVD, Smith states that had he kept the original ending, there would have likely been no further View Askewniverse films. The culprit in question was played by Smith's cousin John Willyung, who would go on to appear in later Smith films (most notably as "Cohee Lunden" in Chasing Amy).
The MPAA originally gave Clerks an NC-17 rating, based purely on the film's explicit dialogue; - it contains no real violence, and no clearly depicted nudity. This was a financial death sentence, as very few cinemas in the United States will screen NC-17 films. Miramax hired civil liberties lawyer Alan Dershowitz to appeal the decision; the MPAA relented and re-rated the film with the more commercial "R" rating, without altering a single frame or word.
The film became a surprising success after it was taken by Miramax Films and has made over $3,151,000 gross in the United States despite never playing on more than 100 theater screens in the United States at the same time. Clerks won the "Award of the Youth" and the "Mercedes-Benz Award" at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, tied with Fresh for the "Filmmakers Trophy" at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards (Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay and Jeff Anderson for Best Debut Performance). In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Clerks the 16th greatest comedy film of all time and in 2006, British film magazine Empire listed Clerks as the 4th greatest independent film. This film is also number 33 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 13th on "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" and 21st on "The Comedy 25: The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years". Also in 2008, Empire named it one of their "500 Greatest Movies of All-Time" placing it 361st on the list. The film was also one of the 500 films nominated for a spot on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs but failed to make the top 100. It was also used in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
The film got an 86% by Rotten Tomatoes critics, giving the film an overall good report from mainstream reviewers. The RT community however, gave the film a 91%; to this day, the movie is considered a cult classic.
Clerks was first released on VHS on May 23, 1995. On August 30, 1995 a laserdisc version was issued. This version features the original letterboxed version of the film, audio commentary by Smith and various cast and crew members, seven deleted scenes from the film, a theatrical trailer and a music video for "Can't Even Tell" performed by Soul Asylum.
The first DVD incarnation of the film appeared on June 29, 1999. The special features for the DVD do not vary from the laserdisc features. It was then released as a 3-disc, tenth anniversary edition set in 2004.
The film was released on UMD (playable on PlayStation Portable) on November 15, 2005. Special features include "Clerks: The Lost Scene", "The Flying Car" and original cast auditions. In the fall of 2006, a new edition of the Clerks DVD appeared in Canada, dubbed the Clerks: Snowball Edition. The new release included a photo of a bikini-clad model on the cover and some of the extra features from the 1999 edition. It appears Smith was not involved in this release, as he indicated on his official message forum in August 2006 that he was not aware of its release.
It was recently announced by Kevin Smith on SModcast, his weekly podcast with Producer Scott Mosier, Episode 81, that there will be a future Blu-ray Disc release of Clerks with new special features, including the documentary Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party. He also mentioned that a standard definition DVD release of this edition is a possibility.
Clerks was released on Blu-ray Disc on November 17, 2009, as a "15th Anniversary Edition".
On September 7, 2004, a tenth anniversary edition of Clerks was released. The 3-disc set is commonly known as "Clerks. X" as part of the Miramax Films Collector's Series. The features for this version of the DVD include:
The soundtrack to the film was released on October 11, 1994. It was composed of various new and previously released songs by alternative rock, grunge and punk rock artists such as Bad Religion, Love Among Freaks, Alice In Chains and Soul Asylum. The soundtrack also featured various sound clips from the film. It has been noted that Clerks is one of the very few films in which the cost of obtaining the rights to the music used was greater than the production costs for the entire film.
The Soul Asylum song "Can't Even Tell", which was played over the film's end credits and featured on the soundtrack, peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1994. The music video for the song was directed by Smith and was filmed in the same locations as the film. The video featured Smith, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran reprising their roles from Clerks.
Another song which appeared on the soundtrack was "Got Me Wrong" by Alice in Chains, which had previously been released on the band's 1992 EP Sap. The song was issued as a single in late 1994, due to renewed radio interest due to the song's appearance in Clerks. The song peaked at #7 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks in 1994.
Various title cards are used throughout the film (after the title card for the film's title itself, "Clerks," with the exception of Dante). While some are merely the names of the characters that the ensuing scenes introduce, many of them are long vocabulary words that Smith pulled from a dictionary. Though none of the vocabulary terms are defined in the film, the enhanced trivia track on the "Clerks X DVD" defines them as they appear.
On DVD and LaserDisc, the film is split into 18 scenes. Each scene is titled by a corresponding title card with the first being "Dante/Opening Credits" and the last being "End Credits".
Following Clerks, Smith set several more films in the same "world", which he calls the View Askewniverse of overlapping characters and stories. Of all of Smith's films, however, Clerks is the one with the most direct spin-off products.
A pilot for a live action TV series was produced in 1995. It was produced by Disney and Buena Vista Entertainment. The pilot only referenced the character names and starred none of the cast from the original film, contained no foul language, did not feature Silent Bob. The character of Jay was featured, prompting Smith to point out that he owned the character rights to both Jay and Silent Bob (for the purposes of featuring them in separate films). The producers' solution was to change the character's name to Ray. Kevin Smith was unaware of the production of the series until casting was underway. Smith had been in production with Mallrats at the time and attempted to become involved in the series but became disheartened quickly as an episode he had written for the series was shot down. He would later use the script for an episode of Clerks: The Animated Series.
Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson both auditioned for the role of Dante Hicks (as Anderson's part of Randal from the film had already been filled by future SNL performer Jim Breuer). After seeing the result, Smith said that it was terrible, and O'Halloran and Anderson said they were both glad they didn't get the part.
Clerks: The Animated Series was a short-lived six-episode animated television series featuring the same characters and cast of the original film. Two episodes aired on the ABC network (a subsidiary of the Disney company, which also owns Miramax Films, the studio which released many of Smith's films, including Clerks) in late May/early June 2000 before being pulled from the lineup. The full six episodes were released on DVD in 2001 before being run on Comedy Central in 2004 and Adult Swim in 2008. In a trailer for (not in) Smith's 2001 film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Randal remarks on the series, saying to Dante: "If you were funnier than that, ABC wouldn't have canceled us."
A feature animated film based on the series, Clerks: Sell Out, has been announced as in production by Smith.
Clerks is a series of comics written by Kevin Smith featuring characters from the film. In the series are Clerks: The Comic Book, Clerks: Holiday Special and Clerks: The Lost Scene. Smith has discussed plans for Clerks 1.5, a comic that would bridge the gap between the original film and its sequel, to be included in a reprint of the Clerks. trade paperback. The story ultimately was printed in the 2006 Tales from the Clerks collection, which also included the other Clerks comics with additional View Askewniverse material.
The live-action, feature film sequel to Clerks was released on July 21, 2006. The working title was The Passion of the Clerks, though the film was released under the title Clerks II. The credits for Dogma stated "Jay and Silent Bob will return in Clerks 2: Hardly Clerkin"; however, that project "evolved" into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The sequel features Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran reprising their roles as Dante and Randal. The two now work at a Mooby's restaurant after Randal's incompetence resulted in the destruction of the Quick Stop and RST Video.
During press for Clerks II, Smith briefly discussed the possibility of a Clerks III. Stating that "if there's ever gonna be a Clerks III, it would be somewhere down the road in my 40s or 50s, when it might be interesting to check back in on Dante and Randal. But I don't know about Jay and Bob so much, cause at 45, leaning on a wall in front of a convenience store might be a little sad."
This was confirmed further during one of the three audio commentary tracks on the Clerks II DVD where Kevin Smith expressed interest in making a Clerks III in his 40s or 50s in which Jeff Anderson jokingly says "Oh, don't get me started,", referring to Jeff's well known doubts about making Clerks II when first approached by Smith.
On 25 December 2009, Kevin Smith replied to a tweet with a message board post. In it he says "Might be nice to box "View Askew Productions" 'til the eventual look back in on Dante and Randal with CLERKS III."
Smith has also jokingly talked about Clerks III: In Space.
Clerks is a 1994 film about two clerks: one who works in a convenience store and the other in a video rental store. They have an unusual day at work when dealing with girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, protesters, drug dealers and — worst of all — the customers.