Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dudes (Penelope Spheeris, 1987)

Some might say the only genuine punk moment to take place in Penelope Spheeris' Dudes is when "Biscuit" asks "Hazekiah" (who's naming these people?) to sing "Holiday in Cambodia" by The Dead Kennedys when the latter tells his visibly annoyed audience that he does requests. Well, given the circumstances, you wouldn't expect a drunken old coot to know anything about The Dead Kennedys. And you would be right, he's not familiar with the song in question. However, I found this reference to punk rock to be a tad disingenuous. In fact, the second Biscuit mentions the song, I thought to myself: Oh yeah, these guys are supposed to be punks. The reason I forgot was because the soundtrack up until then had been nothing but Faster Pussycat, W.A.S.P. and Keel. Maybe sometime during filming Penelope Spheeris lost interest in punk rock and started get into heavy metal; after all, she would go on to make The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years soon after this film came out. It's also possible that the producers told Penelope to use heavy metal instead of punk, I don't know. But I do know the sight of three New York City punks driving through the desert in a beat up Volkswagen Bug to the sounds of Faster Pussycat is not punk. I don't care how adorable Brent Muscat is, and, believe me, he is adorable, punks don't usually go for hair metal. This is especially true for punks who spend their evenings stage diving at gigs that feature The Vandals, a punk band who appeared in Penelope Spheeris' seminal Suburbia (now that's a punk rock movie) and fighting over a salmon-gloved Pamela Gidley (Cherry 2000).

Quit your bellyaching, you sound like a freaking baby. Besides, this is one of them fish out of water thingies, so it makes perfect sense for the music to represent the opposite end of their cultural comfort zone. If that's the case, shouldn't the film be nothing but country and western songs? I mean, the film is basically a western. Good point. If I was forced to categorize this film, I would put it in the western section, as it contains all the ingredients that make up your typical western.

Still, I was disappointed by the lack of punk music in Dudes. That being said, I did take solace in the fact that Vance Colvig, Jr., the old drunk who doesn't know who The Dead Kennedys are, sings "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo at one point. Wait, did the punks request that song, too? Nope, he just starts singing it of his own volition. Awesome. Did he sing the line about eating barbequed iguana? Nah, just the "I'm on a Mexcican Ray-deeo / I'm on a Mexican whoa-oh ray-deeo" part. Nevertheless, it was a pretty cool moment. It also reminded me of that time when Kramer on Seinfeld sings "Mexican Radio" while installing a reverse peephole on his apartment door in the aptly titled episode, "The Reverse Peephole."

How can you complain about there not being enough punk in this movie when it opens to sight of Jon Cryer stage-diving to "Urban Struggle" at a Vandals concert? Yeah, I got to admit, it's quite the punk sight to behold. Bored with life in New York City, three punk rockers, Grant (Jon Cryer), Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck), and Milo (Flea) decide to move to Los Angeles. Whoa! Stop the presses. Bored with life in New York City?!? I'm sorry, but that doesn't make any sense. If you're bored in New York City, it's not the city's fault. What are you trying to say? What I'm saying is, you're probably the one who's boring. You know what? Forget about "probably," you're definitely the one who's boring.

Whether you agree with them or not, they're going to Los Angeles. Yeah, I get the whole "let's go to Los Angeles" angle, I'm a big fan of Los Angeles. It's just that they live in New York City. You know what I'm saying? Anyway, after getting in a fight with Pamela Gidley's musclebound boyfriend at a Chinese restaurant, the three punk rockers hangout in an alleyway to discuss their bleak futures. When Grant nearly falls to his death while jerking around on a pipe, those who were reluctant to sign on to Flea's idea to move to L.A. are quickly brought on board.

Hopping in their beat up VW Bug with a 1,000 dollars in cash, the punk trio hit the road to the strains of "Jesus Came Driving Along" by The Leather Nun. Now that I've had some time to think about it, I take back what I said earlier about Dudes not being punk enough. I mean, The Leather Nun song has a sort of goth punk vibe about. And not only that, Daniel Roebuck's mohawk is quite impressive when viewed in the harsh light of the open road. Believe or not, I had this strange idea in my head that it was a fake mohawk. You don't mean a faux hawk, do you? No, I wouldn't go that far. Either way, I grew to love it, no pun intended, as the film progressed.

Entering Utah (eww, that sounds kinda dirty), the punks help Daredelvis (Pete Willcox), an Elvis impersonator/renaissance man, whose trailer is stuck on the side of the road. The side of the road is also where Grant first sees Witherspoon (Cal Bartlett), his, as we'll soon find out, cowboy spirit guide.

While camping near a giant rock, Biscuit, named so because he loves dog biscuits, says the first thing he wants to do when he arrives in Los Angeles is to meet The Go-Go's. When Grant informs him that they split up, he remains defiant, declaring that he wants make babies with them. Now, that would be an amazing movie: A trio of NYC punks travel to L.A. to impregnate the members of The Go-Go's. If I had to pair Biscuit with a Go-Go, I would fix 'em with Gina Schock. Why? Oh, I don't know, he digs drummers, and she's into chubby guys who eat dog biscuits. Who cares? It would be a great movie.

You know who doesn't think it would make for a good movie? Lee Ving. You mean the singer from the band Fear? Yep, the very same. Playing a lowlife piece of human garbage named Missoula, Lee Ving and his unruly gang of thugs, including Wes (Glenn Withrow), attack the punk's camp and end up killing Flea in the process. No, not Flea! Who's going to impregnate Belinda Carlisle?

It's weird that you thought Flea and Belinda would... You know what? Never mind that. I guess Grant and Biscuit are going to have to continue onto L.A. without Flea.

Changing his mind mid-flee, Grant decides he wants to avenge Flea's death. Wanting no part of it, and no doubt still dreaming of ejaculating sperm inside Gina Schock, Biscuit refuses to go along with Grant's plan. That all changes, however, when Biscuit gets in touch with inner Native American while napping at Catherine Mary Stewart's house. It's at this point in the film when it starts to resemble an episode of The Lone Ranger, with Grant, helped by his cowboy spirit guide, as the titular lawman, and Biscuit, inspired by his tribal elders, as Tonto, his loyal sidekick. Of course, I've never seen an episode of The Lone Ranger, nor did I see the recent movie. But I'm sure it was something like this.

You probably noticed that I mentioned Catherine Mary Stewart in the above paragraph. Well, the reason I did this is because she is totally in this movie. She plays Jessie, a tomboyish tow truck driver who helps Grant and Biscuit with their Lee Ving problem.

Realizing that a rugged Catherine Mary Stewart isn't exactly going to drive teenage boys wild with desire (discerning teenage lesbians, on the other hand, will love C.M.S. in this flick), Penelope Spheeris calls upon her go-to babe Christina Beck (Suburbia) to play Lee Ving's floozy girlfriend in a brief yet pivotal scene that takes place in a Wyoming saloon.

Mixing the spirit of the wild west with punk and heavy metal might seem like a dicey combination, but Dudes is not about genre mashing, it's essentially about standing up for yourself, or more specifically, not allowing all the Lee Ving's out there to push you around. Getting reacquainted with their inner outlaws, Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck manage to grow a pair just in time for the climatic showdown with Lee Ving. Of course, at times it seemed like Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck were merely playing dress up. However, I thought they brought some unexpected pathos, along with some deft comedic touches, to their respective roles. Now, if I knew going in that the film would turn out to be a glorified western with a heavy metal soundtrack, I would have probably steered clear of Dudes. But now that I've watched it from start to finish, I can confidently say that it was a sort of worthwhile experience.


  1. You are awesome.
    That is all.


    Oh, your mayor is nuts, but we already knew that. Now the whole world knows!

  2. Thanks, K.A.

    I don't know if you know this, but I've never even been to Toronto. That's right, I'm from Yellowknife, baby. ;)

    Seriously, make it stop.

  3. Leave NYC for LA? In 1987?!?!? I guess they are just being all wild and crazy! And need a plot device for a road trip. John Cryer as a punk sounds cool, though. I'll never understand why he didn't win out in "Pretty in Pink." Boggles the mind.

    Sorry to hear about your mayorial problems. Don't worry. Washington DC had Mayor Barry, who smoked crack and was then re-elected. Only in 'Merica.

    For other batshit crazy city officials, check out the former governor of Tokyo. Can't wait for this asshole to die. Just zip down to his "Political Views":

  4. Now that I think about it some more, L.A. is a better place for homeless punks to live (the weather for starters). However, my puny brain still can't fathom leaving NYC in the 80s (it was basically an open air porno shop/drugstore/toilet).

    Focus groups run amok were probably the reason JC didn't get Molly at the end.

    Thanks for the mayor-based sympathy. I could give a shit about civic pride, but it's making the city a laughingstock.

  5. FYI legit Punk bands on the Dudes Soundtrack:

    The Vandals
    The Little Kings
    Legal Weapon

    the rest is heavy metal, and some of what would become alternative... Leather Nun and Janes Addiction.

    the screenwriter Randall Jahnson used to have a nice write up about the film and what he was listening to while writing the film, but I it seem to have vanished with a redesign of his page..