In 2021, during SXSW, director Malcolm Ingram premiered his documentary Clerk., an exploratory look at the life and career of Kevin Smith, the loquacious foul-mouthed creator of the View Askewuniverse. Those unfamiliar with that title may recognize a few of the film titles that make it up: Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), and Dogma (1999). He’s since made several more standalone films like Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), Red State (2011), made two films in his Great White North Trilogy, as well as written copious comics (again I ask, where’s Batman: The Widening Gyre, Part II, sir?!), directed episodes for shows formerly broadcast on The CW, and, of course, run his podcast empire. There’re many ways for people to connect with and engage with Smith’s work and, through Ingram’s documentary, an opportunity for those of us who’d like to learn a little more was created. Now, more than two years since its festival premiere, Clerk. releases on limited edition Blu-ray and VHS editions from Mercantile Instinct.
If you want my thoughts on the documentary, head over to the initial SXSW 2021 festival release review. Moving forward, this is going to be focused on the home release and what to expect from it.
The press release for the Clerk. home release describes the film as, “An immersive behind the scenes documentary examining the life and career of indie filmmaking and cultural icon Kevin Smith.” This is a fairly accurate description, with Ingram not only using private footage and interviews with Smith to catalogue his expansive career, but also sitting down with contemporaries, influencers, and coworkers/friends to get their third-party perspective on the auteur. With the film released in March 2021, there was no way to cover the release of Clerks III (2022), created in response to surviving his heart attack, or anything after, so there’s definitely a cap on what anyone can learn moving forward; however, the documentary provides a wonderful way for fans to get a sense of what drives Smith to create.
It’s rare that documentaries receive the home release treatment unless the subject is considered a major figure. In true Smith fashion, the versions made available from Mercantile Instinct come in two distinct “flavors,” each with their own specific options you need to know before ordering.
First, there’s the VHS option.
Based on the press materials, there does not appear to be any special features included with the VHS edition of Clerk., so if you’re looking to get more from the purchase than the doc, this may not be for you. However, via Mercantile Instinct’s order page, you can get a version signed by both Ingram and Smith, though it will be at a premium ($29.95 unsigned; $49.95 signed). This is likely an option to jump on that nostalgia wave us Gen-Xers and Elder Millennials keep having directed at us. Considering that my first copies of Smith’s work *were* on VHS, I get the appeal.
Second, there’s the Blu-ray option.
This is the option I, personally, recommend for several reasons. First and foremost, it comes with bonus materials. This is a lost art among home releases and the materials here are many: two feature-length commentary tracks, an alternate ending, six uncut interviews totaling roughly 90min+ of material, and a nearly 12-minute extended introduction (the Kevin Smith VHS tape sequence that opens the doc). So if you wished you had more information from some of the interviewees, you can only get it here. If you saw this and thought “I wonder what Smith would say about XX?,” there’s a commentary track that’ll likely answer it. Just like with the VHS, you can opt for an unsigned ($34.95) or signed ($49.95) edition. Additionally, for those who like slipcovers, the Blu-ray edition includes one with a different art design from the Blu-ray case. Specifically, the art on the Blu-ray case is the poster for the film, while the slipcover is described on the Mercantile Instinct site as “Clerk. Hockey.” I cannot in any way speak to the quality of the VHS, but the on-disc presentation of the Blu-ray is exactly what you’d expect from a standard HD release and that’s not bad in the slightest.
I’ve said this before, but I’m a long-time fan of Smith’s. His Clerks III (2022) absolutely broke me, his Dogma gives me hope that if a higher power exists, it actually cares for us, and his Mallrats helped me realize that being a nerd didn’t mean being lonely. Not all of his films work for me and there are some I may never see (Tusk comes to mind), but each one is distinctly his. Not only that, but he’s someone who has built an entire career of not only making the things that interest him, but making them with his friends. Who wouldn’t love that? If this describes you in any way and you’ve yet to check out Ingram’s Clerk., now’s your chance. Just make sure you think on the version that means the most to you.
Side note: There’s a fabulous documentary by Sav Rodgers called Chasing Chasing Amy that screened during Tribeca Film Festival 2023 and, if you’re a fan of Smith’s, try to seek it out. It’ll offer some interesting perspective on Chasing Amy that may rattle how you engage with the film moving forward.
Clerk. Special Features:
- Feature-length commentary with Kevin Smith and Malcolm Ingram (1:55:05)
- Feature-length Commentary with the Stanley Brother– Join Sean Stanley (Clerk Editor) and his brother Warren (teaser poster designer) as they discuss the film and their experiences being fans who made it good (1:55:05)
- Alternate Ending – “The Kids” (3:37)
- Ralph Garman: Uncut Interview (32:41)
- Stan Lee: Uncut Interview (2:58)
- Judd Nelson: Uncut Interview (6:39)
- Jason Reitman: Uncut Interview (13:49)
- Richard Linklater: Uncut Interview (15:02)
- Joe Manganiello: Uncut Interview (19:43)
- Extended Intro – “Kevin Smith VHS Tape” (11:43)
- Official Trailer (2:33)
Available on Blu-ray and VHS September 26th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Mercantile Instinct Clerk. webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.