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Wednesday May 22nd 2024

Robocop | 1987

Robocop location: Emerson Street, Houston
Robocop location: the sinister ‘OCP headquarters: Dallas City Hall, Dallas, Texas | Photograph: Visit Dallas

In the hands of Paul Verhoeven, what could have been a run-of-the-mill actioner becomes a sharply dark satire on the privatisation of law enforcement, with sleazoid techno-freaks incorporating dead cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) into a damn near indestructible law’n’order machine.

It’s set in a futuristic ‘Detroit’, but the sharp-eyed will soon spot the landmark buildings of Eighties downtown Dallas, Texas, standing in for the dystopian Motor City. How can you miss Dallas’s illuminated ball-on-a-stick Reunion Tower?

The towering headquarters of ‘Omni Consumer Products’ is a composite of several different buildings. The exterior is Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla Street – not a high-rise at all, but clever pre-CGI optical effects stretch it up to an impressive 95 stories.

Its steel and glass atrium, though, has to be in a high-rise, if only a modest 25 stories (the atrium itself towers a dizzying 13 stories). You can ride those glass elevators in the Plaza of the Americas, 700 North Pearl Street, a mall incorporating stores, offices and the Dallas Marriott hotel.

The ‘OCP’ boardroom in which ED 209 proves such a success at dealing with an armed threat – despite the odd glitch – was a vacant suite at the top of Renaissance Tower, 1201 Elm Street, which now houses the library of a law company. Chosen for spectacular views over the city, it still rises only a piddling 56 stories. If you’re a fan of TV series Dallas, you might recognise its exterior as the HQ of ‘Ewing Oil’.

And OCP’s parking garage (seen much later in the movie, when Robocop is savagely raked with police bullets after escaping ED 209) is beneath Building 100 of the Hotel Crescent Court, 400 Crescent Court.

The luxury of OCP is contrasted with the rundown ‘Detroit Police Precinct, Metro West’, which blends a mere two locations.

Overshadowed by the black glass Plaza of the Americas, the precinct exterior is the old Dallas High School, 2311 Live Oak Street at North Pearl Street.

Almost a mile to the east, the interior is the Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm Street at Exposition Avenue. Built in 1911 by the Order of the Sons of Hermann, an organisation of German emigrés founded in New York, it’s currently used as a music venue, specialising in blues and swing.

Newly transferred to the precinct, Murphy meets a bloody end at the hands of Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his gang, but rebuilt as Robocop, he’s soon on a single-handed mission to clean up the city. He starts modestly enough dealing with a grocery store robbery at Bob’s Liquor, which stood at 378 South Industrial Boulevard, down by the Trinity River Greenbelt Park.

He thwarts a sexual assault – by neatly shooting the rapist between the legs of his would-be victim – in the small parking lot at the northeast corner of Main Street and North Cesar Chavez Boulevard.

Robocop location: Emerson Street, Houston
Robocop location: the mayor is held hostage: Dallas Municipal Building, South Harwood Street, Dallas, Texas | Photograph: Wikimedia / Joe Mabel

When the mayor is held hostage by a disgruntled employee, Robocop is on hand to sort out the situation. The classical ‘Detroit City Hall’ is the Dallas Municipal Building, 106 South Harwood Street between Main and Commerce Streets.

The situation ends more happily than the real events which inspired the scene. When ex-Supervisor Dan White took a gun into San Francisco City Hall in 1978, he shot dead both Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the events portrayed in Gus Van Sant's Milk.

There’s more real-life history here at the old Dallas City Hall, too. Lee Harvey Oswald was held in City Hall after the shooting of JFK, and it was in the building’s basement that Jack Ruby shot Oswald before he could stand trial, thereby adding fuel to the multiple conspiracy theories.

Gone now is the Shell gas station, where Emil (Paul McCrane), one of Boddicker’s men, recognises Murphy during a robbery. It stood on the north side of Ross Avenue at Arts Plaza.

With his memory jolted, Murphy looks up his records at police HQ and takes off to visit his old home. Chances are you didn’t buy ‘548 Primrose Lane’ as a real Detroit address. And although that address does exist in Dallas, Murphy’s one-time house, which he finds deserted, is 9233 Church Road, in Lake Highlands to the north of Dallas.

The dance club where he catches up with another of Boddicker’s gang, Leon Nash (Ray Wise) was legendary – if short-lived – 80s hangout the Starck Club (which launched the career of its designer, Philippe Starck). The club was revived as Zouk, 703 McKinney Avenue, but that too seems to have closed.

Boddicker and the guys are meanwhile trying out the fire power of their newly-acquired military grade weapons on a scruffy downtown street. The 2500 block of Elm Street at Hawkins Street, east of the North Central Expressway, survived the onslaught, only to fall eventual victim to the wrecker’s ball.

One location was found outside Texas, way to the northeast in Pennsylvania. The old steel mill in ‘Sector 3D’, where Murphy holes up and finally takes out Boddicker’s crew, was the Duquesne Steel Works, off Route 837, Duquesne, just southeast of Pittsburgh. The plant had been closed down in 1984 and, as you’s expect, has since been totally demolished.