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Blue Collar Details


Paul Schrader's directorial debut examines the trials of Detroit autoworkers living at the mercy of a heartless corporation and a corrupt union. Surviving from paycheck to paycheck, Checker Cab assembly linemen Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel), and Smokey (Yaphet Kotto) scrape by and take pleasure in a few rounds of beer or bowling (and occasional illicit amusements). But when their money troubles pile up, Jerry and Smokey join Zeke in a desperate plan to steal cash from their local union office. Along with a piddling $600, they unexpectedly swipe evidence of union corruption. Deciding to use it for blackmail, the men discover instead how powerfully malevolent the union can be in a system that counts on petty divisiveness to keep the larger power structure intact. Inspired by stories of real-life disillusionment, Schrader and his brother/co-writer Leonard Schrader took on politically difficult issues of race and corporate labor, infusing the indictment of unions with a suggestion of post-Watergate paranoia about forces beyond the union that keep workers in their place. From the opening sequence of the assembly line to the final evocative freeze-frame, Schrader maintains an atmosphere of gritty realism, with the lead trio lending low-key dramatic force to a situation beyond their control. Too downbeat for a late '70s audience increasingly drawn to happier fare, Blue Collar flopped, yet it did earn Schrader critical accolades. Although he has reportedly since disowned the film, Blue Collar remains one of Schrader's best works, with Zeke and Jerry powered by the same sense of simmering frustration that would explode so effectively in Leonard Schrader two decades later. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

  • Release date:February 10, 1978


Richard Pryor
as Zeke Brown
Harvey Keitel
as Jerry Bartkowski
Yaphet Kotto
as Smokey
Ed Begley, Jr.
as Bobby Joe
Harry Bellaver
as Eddie Johnson
George Memmoli
as Jenkins
Lucy Saroyan
as Arlene Bartowski
Lane Smith
as Clarence Hill
Cliff De Young
as John Burrows
Borah Silver
as Miller
Harry Northrup
as Hank
Leonard Gaines
as Internal Revenue Man
Milton Selzer
as Sumabitch
Sammy Warren
as Barney
Jerry Dahlmann
as Superintendent
Denny Arnold
as Unshaven Thug
Rock Riddle
as Blonde Thug
Stacey Baldwin
as Debby Bartowski
Steve Butts
as Bob Bartowski
Stephen P. Dunn
as Flannigan
Speedy Brown
as Slim
Davone Florence
as Frazier Brown
Eddie Singleton
as Ali Brown
Rya Singleton
as Aretha Brown
Jaime Carreire
as Little Joe
Tracey Walter
as Union Member


Paul Schrader
Don Guest
Leonard Schrader
Paul Schrader
Bobby Byrne
Ry Cooder
Composer (Music Score)
Ry Cooder
Musical Arrangement
Jack Nitzsche
Composer (Music Score)
Tom Rolf
David Nichols
Associate Producer
Peg Cummings
Set Designer
Ron Dawson
Costume Designer
Alice Rush
Costume Designer
Willie D. Burton
Sound/Sound Designer
Vic Ramos