Clerks is a 1994 film written and directed by Kevin Smith, who also appears in the film in a minor role. 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 and reinvigorating the field of independent film.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Dante Hicks is a clerk at the Quick Stop, a local convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey. One morning, he receives a phone call from his boss, who claims that another employee is sick. After a brief argument, he reluctantly agrees to work, on the promise that he will be relieved at twelve o'clock so he can play hockey with his friends. When he arrives to open up the store, he realizes that the shutters outside will not open because someone jammed gum in the locks. With the shutters down, the store appears closed, so he writes "I assure you; we're open" in shoe polish on a large bed sheet and hangs it in front of the store.
Next, a man enters the store to buy coffee and talks a customer into buying chewing gum instead of cigarettes after showing him a human lung corroded by tar. As more cigarette buyers come in, the man's interventions become more impassioned, eventually turning them into a mob, who form around Dante angry that he is "selling death", and begin calling him a "cancer merchant". After Dante is assaulted with cigarettes, his girlfriend Veronica Loughran enters, acting quickly and calming the crowd by spraying them with a fire extinguisher. After a conversation, it is revealed that the agitator was a representative for a chewing gum company, and was stirring up the smokers with intent on selling more gum.
Later, Dante and Veronica have a conversation regarding Dante's current disposition, as he seems to be in a rut but has no motivation to change. After the conversation, a customer arrives who is an old boyfriend of Veronica's, Willam "Snowball" Black. It is revealed that Veronica has, throughout her life, performed fellatio on 36 men other than Dante, which makes him furious, considering Veronica hit him previously for admitting to having sex with twelve different women.
Dante's fellow clerk, Randal Graves, who works at the neighboring video store, shows up late once again. Dante finds out from Randal that his unfaithful ex-girlfriend Caitlin Bree is to be married to an Asian design major, much to Dante's disdain. As they pass time during the day they converse about many things, 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 eventually learns that his boss is in Vermont, and no one is going to relieve him at noon as promised. He convinces his friends to play hockey on the store roof, and closes down the store, leaving a sign on the door explaining, "Temporarily Closed. Be Opened After First Period." Twelve minutes into the game an irate customer shoots their only ball off the roof and into a gutter. The two reopen the store and Dante finds out another 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 audience does not see what happened inside the house containing the memorial service, simply seeing them go in, time pass, a woman scream and the two run out (it should be noted that due to an unfilmed scene inside the house being animated for the 10th Anniversary Edition DVD, it is now known that while at the memorial Randal accidentally knocks over her coffin after trying to retrieve keys that are dropped in as an accident, and the body falls out). They rush back and when they return to the store, Randal asks to borrow Dante's car to rent a film from another video store (despite the fact that he works in a video store, he knows the other one is better).
While on duty, a fitness trainer enters the store, and criticizes Dante's body size, and observes that he's out of shape, even asking a customer for her opinion. It turns out the three actually attended high school together, and the two customers reveal that even they knew of Caitlin's infidelity, although Dante was oblivious. During the conversation, another man enters, and questions Dante about where he was earlier in the day, then serves Dante a summons. It turns out the man is there to serve Dante a $500 fine for selling cigarettes to a four-year-old, even though it was Randal who actually sold the cigarettes.
After the trainer, girl, and health department rep. leave, Dante is surprised by a visit from Caitlin. After some banter Dante becomes torn between her and Veronica. Dante finally decides he will go on a date with Caitlin and drives home to change, after Randal returns. When Dante returns he discovers Caitlin has had sex with a dead man in the bathroom mistaking him for Dante (the man had earlier entered the bathroom with a pornographic magazine and collapsed with a heart attack). In severe shock, Caitlin is taken away in an ambulance, along with the corpse she recently fornicated with. Afterwords, Jay and Silent Bob enter the store. Jay invites Dante to come to party with them, but Dante refuses. Jay, frustrated, leaves. Silent Bob, who knows about Dante's predicament, stays behind. He then says to Dante, his only line in the movie, "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." It is then that Dante realizes that he loves Veronica. Later, Veronica comes into the Quick Stop and yells at Dante after Randal tells her he was in love with Caitlin. The two, Dante and Randal, get into a huge fight then reconcile. The film ends with Randal walking out of the store before briefly returning to toss Dante's sign at him stating, "You're closed!"
The lost scene[edit | edit source]
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. 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 and Julie were caught having sex by her parents. 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's 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.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Brian O'Halloran as Dante Hicks
- Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves
- Marilyn Ghigliotti as Veronica Loughran
- Lisa Spoonhauer as Caitlin Bree
- Jason Mewes as Jay
- Kevin Smith as Silent Bob
- Scott Mosier as Willam Black/Angry Hockey Playing Customer/Angry Mourner
- Scott Schiaffo as The Activist/Chewlies Gum Rep.
- Walt Flanagan as Woolen Cap Smoker/Egg Man/Offended Customer/Cat Admirer
- Joey Lauren Adams as Alyssa Jones (The Lost Scene)
- Ed Hapstack as hockey player/ angry funeral woman
- Frances Cresci as Little Smoking Girl
Production[edit | edit source]
The film is in black-and-white and roughly edited due to a very modest budget of US$27,575. To acquire the funds for the film, Kevin Smith sold a large proportion 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.). This is why in the film "someone jammed gum in the locks" and the steel shutters had to remain 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 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.
Reception[edit | edit source]
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.
The film got a 86% by rotten tomatoes critics, giving the film an overall good report from mainstream reviewers. The RT community however, gave the film a 91% and is to this day considered a cult classic film and is considered Kevin Smith's best film to date.
Themes[edit | edit source]
Often the items that the customers are purchasing are strangely and coincidentally relevant to the topics the characters are discussing. For example, the woman who interrupts Dante and Veronica's conversation about oral sex is purchasing Vaseline and rubber gloves. The offended customer in the "Jizz Mopper" scene is purchasing Windex and paper towels. The woman who "manually masturbates caged animals for artificial insemination" is purchasing jerky.
Because the filmmakers did not want to pay for the rights to use a particular cigarette brand, customers only ask for a "pack of cigarettes". Many fans pass this off by assuming that the Quick Stop only carries one brand of cigarettes. In later Kevin Smith films, notably Clerks II, all cigarettes are from the fictional brand "Nails" and the cigarette pack artwork has a coffin with the cigarettes being the metaphorical 'nails' in the coffin (in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, a poster advertising Nails shows an X-ray of a human lung containing several three-inch nails). This is also a reference to the line "[merchants] sell you nails in your coffin" from a Chewlies gum representative earlier in the film. However, in Clerks, assorted real-world brands are visible (if not particularly distinct) behind the counter.
Home video release[edit | edit source]
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.
Clerks. X[edit | edit source]
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 Collector's Series. The features for this version of the DVD include:
- A 24-page color booklet featuring thoughts on the film from Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier ten years after making it. The booklet also features various reprints of reviews and images of posters and memorabilia from the film's release. Kevin states in the booklet that Clerks II would be filmed in 2005.
Disc 1: Theatrical Feature
- The original theatrical cut of the film in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.
- The original 1995 laser disc commentary track.
- An "enhanced playback track" featuring trivia subtitles and title card descriptions.
- "Clerks: The Lost Scene" animated short. This scene was originally written in the screenplay for the film but was never shot. For the DVD, the scene was animated in the same style as Clerks: The Animated Series. The scene can be presented in two different ways.
- The scene can be viewed separately from the film with an introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
- The DVD also presents the owner with the ability to play the theatrical cut of the film with the animated scene as if it were part of the feature.
- The Flying Car, a short film featuring Dante and Randal. The short was shot in 2001 for The Tonight Show and features the two main characters from Clerks stuck in traffic having a somewhat similar conversation as the one in Clerks where the two are driving to a funeral and discussing sexual curiosity. On the DVD, the short is presented in its original cut with an introduction from Kevin Smith.
- A series of short television ads that MTV commissioned from Kevin Smith featuring Jay and Silent Bob. Eight of them appear on the DVD (MTV also aired a special that Smith hosted but it could not be secured for the DVD for clearance reasons). The spots are introduced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
- An original theatrical trailer for the film edited by Matthew Cohen with a brief introduction from Kevin Smith.
- The original music video for "Can't Even Tell" performed by Soul Asylum directed by Kevin Smith. The music video is introduced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
- Three short featurettes about the restoration process used to recreate the feature film for the Clerks. X DVD. In the first featurette, Scott Mosier describes the sound restoration process. In the second, David Klein explains the visual restoration process. The third featurette is hosted by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier as a general introduction to the restored version of the film.
- Original auditions for the film featuring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti and Ernest O'Donnell. The auditions are introduced by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
- DVD-ROM features.
Disc 2: Clerks: The First Cut
- The very first cut of Clerks before it was edited for theaters. This cut of the film features additional scenes and the original ending intact, less sound production and no music soundtrack. This version of the film replicates what Smith showed to film critics and journalists before taking the film to Sundance and selling it to Miramax. It was taken from a Super-VHS tape and unlike the theatrical release underwent no apparent restoration. It is included the 10th anniversary set in lieu of the collection of deleted scenes that had appeared in the previous DVD issue.
- Audio and video commentary for the first cut of the film. The commentary was recorded in 2004 with Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes.
Disc 3: Bonus Features
- "Snowball Effect", a 90-minute retrospective documentary for Clerks that focuses on Kevin's early inception of the film, the process of making and distributing and finally, the reaction and response to the film from critics and fans.
- Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary, a short student film that Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier made during their time at film school. It comes with an introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier.
- 10th Anniversary Q&A session with Kevin Smith, David Klein, Scott Mosier, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes, Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran.
- 13 deleted scenes and outtakes from "Snowball Effect"
- A still photo gallery of over 50 photographs and production images from Clerks as well as early photos of crew and cast members.
- Two collections of journal entries written by Smith. The first entries were written before finishing Clerks and the second were written while Kevin took the film to Sundance Film Festival.
- Eight articles and reviews about the film.
Soundtrack[edit | edit source]
The soundtrack to the film was released on October 11, 1994. It was composed of various songs by alternative artists and 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.
Vocabulary title cards[edit | edit source]
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 the DVD, 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".
- Vilification - An act of making cruel and insulting statements about a person
- Jay and Silent Bob
- Syntax - The arrangement of something in a methodical manner
- Vagary - An erratic or peculiar modification, act or thought
- Purgation - An act of getting rid of something disagreeable, flawed or unsatisfactory
- Malaise - An all-around feeling of illness or bad health without any exact cause
- Harbinger - A person or thing that predicts the future
- Perspicacity - The intensity of judgment or observation
- Paradigm - A typical example of something
- Whimsy - A thought that has no apparent explanation to exist
- Quandary - A condition of doubt or uncertainty as to what to do in a certain situation
- Lamentation - An act or expression of sadness or distress
- Juxtaposition - An act of comparing two things, especially in a way that suggests connection between them or to distinguish them
- Catharsis - An event or sensation of spiritual cleansing brought on by a powerful emotional experience
- Denouement - The part of the ending in which all questions are answered and everything is cleared up
Related projects[edit | edit source]
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.
Clerks: The TV Show[edit | edit source]
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 mention Jay and Silent Bob, and had nothing to do with Kevin Smith, as he was making his second film Mallrats at the time. 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 of the same name, featuring the same characters and actors. Two episodes aired on the ABC network (a subsidiary of the Disney company, which also owns Miramax, the studio which released many of Smith's films, including Clerks itself) in late May/early June 2000 before vanishing from the lineup altogether. The Comedy Central network eventually broadcast all six episodes of the series in 2004, as part of its late-night and weekend programming. A feature animated film is planned, based on the series, titled Clerks: Sell Out. In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Randal quips to Dante: "If you were funnier than that, ABC wouldn't have canceled us." This was a reference to the animated series.
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 3. Stating that "if there's ever gonna be a Clerks 3, 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 were Kevin Smith expressed interest in making a Clerks 3 in his 40's or 50's 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.
Smith has also jokingly talked about Clerks 3: In Space.
References[edit | edit source]
- Muir, John Kenneth (2002). An Askew View : The Films of Kevin Smith. Applause Books. ISBN 1-55783-586-1
- Smith, Kevin (1997). Clerks and Chasing Amy : Two Screenplays. Miramax Books. ISBN 0-7868-8263-8
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Kevin Smith. Clerks and Chasing Amy : Two Screenplays. Miramax Books. 1997.
- View Askewniverse Miscellaneous Info. 
- Box Office History for Clerks Movies, Nash Information Services, LLC. 1997-2006 
- IMDB List of Awards for Clerks. 
- Rich Johnston. "Lying In The Gutters" Vol 2, issue 16, for September 6, 2005. Comic Book Resources
- Silent Bob speaks | Herald Sun