Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dogs in Space (Richard Lowenstein, 1986)

"Shove it, brother, just keep walking!" - Michael Hutchence. Since this movie opens with an Iggy Pop quote about eating dog food, it only makes sense to begin my review with a quote from Michael Hutchence himself. Now, some of you might be thinking, "I don't remember hearing those lyrics on "Never Tear Us Apart." Well, that's because the line is taken from a song that appears on INXS' debut album. You see, before the band starting making safe, non-threatening pop rock, they were scrappy as fuck. However, just before releasing KICK, their mega-selling, chart-topping album in the autumn of 1987, Michael Hutchence got reacquainted with his scrap-adjacent roots by starring in Dogs in Space, the punk movie to end all punk movies. (It can't be that be that punk, can it?) Um, yeah, it can. Well, for starters, it's Australian. And there's nothing more punk than Australia. I mean, look where it is on the map. Plus, they have winter in the summer. How punk is that? I rest my case. Aussie punk cred aside, the film earns its place in the pantheon of great punk movies by shirking the living shit out of traditional storytelling. Oh, sure, words are kind of said and stuff sort of happens. But for the most part, things transpire organically. And I liked that.

It's true, every once and while, the film, directed by Richard Lowenstein (director of numerous INXS music videos), would come close to having a plot. Nevertheless, these flirtations don't last very long. In order to nip them in the bud for good, the film would simply have Michael Hutchence roll around on the floor mumbling incoherent nonsense. And, if we're lucky, his rolling escapades would usually lead to him clawing at Saskia Post's nylon-adorned legs.

Claw at those sexy, hose-ensnared stems, you gorgeous motherfucker. Claw at them!

I'm sorry, it's just that this film is replete with hot punk chicks in jet black hosiery.

You would be forgiven if you thought the crowd lined up on the street in the opening scene were all auditioning to be extras in the next Mad Max movie. But they're not. It's 1978 and all of Melbourne's youth are waiting in line for David Bowie tickets (Heaven is hell and heaven is waiting). Well, almost all of Melbourne's youth. A skinhead in platform shoes pulls up in a car, gets out and asks Sam (Michael Hutchence) if he's from "Planet Poofta" or "Planet Stupida"? Confused by the question, Sam simply hides underneath his many blankets. Since Sam is in no shape to fight the skinhead, it's up to Anna (Saskia Post), Sam's leggy ladyfriend, to deal with him.

The sight of the wispy blonde getting pushed around by this colossal prat causes the rest of the crowd to turn on the skinhead, and so begins Dogs in Space, the punk movie to end all punk movies. (You already said that.) I know, but it needs to be said again, as it makes all other so-called "punk movies" seem, well, less punk.

In the next scene we get our first glimpse of the house. Now, I'm not sure if the house is still there, but if it is, it should be hallowed ground for punks, new wavers, goths, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads or anyone who digs things that are cool. Anyway, this particular house is going to be the scene of many wild parties. And it's also where the punk/new wave band, Dogs in Space (Sam's band), rehearse.

Awoken by the Dogs in Space theme song, the aptly titled, "Dogs in Space," is Lucio (Tony Helou), an engineering student who lives in the house. Studying for an important exam, Lucio spends most of his time in his room. But he does party every now and then. In a classic scene, the Volkswagen Beetle he's driving crashes with about six punk chicks inside. But don't worry, they simply push the Beetle back on its wheels and carry on to the party, a rowdy shindig featuring the way out sounds of Whirlywirld; their song "Win Lose," by the way, is probably my favourite song on the soundtrack.

What I liked about the Lucio character is that he provided the outsider perspective. The same goes for Deanna Bond, who is credited simply as "The Girl." A teenage runaway, "The Girl" can usually be found staring at the punks, freaks and "bloody sex maniacs" with a childlike sense of wonder. And I'm not surprised her sense of wonder was so childlike, she can't be older than sixteen. That being said, you would boast a look of childlike wonder as well if you saw a dishevelled Michael Hutchence playfully flinging warm dog food at a leggy blonde in the vicinity of a poster advocating independence for East Timor; which finally happened in 2002 (the poster worked... eventually).

It just dawned on me, Michael Hutchence wasn't just clawing at Saskia Post's hose-ensnared stems for erotic purposes, he was trying to gather up the bits of dog food that had landed on her. Eww/Yum.

Other than the subplot about Lucio's exam and the stuff  with "The Girl," the only other plot line involves Tim (Nique Needles) and his wonky synthesizer. You gotta feel for the guy. I mean, if Michael Hutchence's Sam thinks you're a fuck up, you must be doing something wrong.

After his homemade synthesizer conks out during a gig (one featuring The Primitive Calculators), Sam informs Tim that's he's no longer a member of the Dogs in Space. Unlike most movies, though, this scene transpires with a carefree nonchalance. Sure, Tim didn't seem all that thrilled to hear that's he been kicked out of the band, but I think even he realized his days were numbered. Oh, and instead of smashing shit, Tim simply sulks while watching Marie Hoy and Friends perform "Shivers."

While part of me admires the lifestyle depicted in this movie, I have to admit, I wouldn't want to live next-door. I've had neighbours who leave their garbage lying everywhere (we're talking soiled diapers and used condoms), so, I know what's like to live next to scum (Cheech and Chong with a touch of Gummo). However, this particular brand of scum are making the world a more interesting place to live. So, leave these kids alone. The movie they star in rules.


  1. Hey there, I just reblogged yr tumblr post. This movie looks soooo up my alley you even know. Thanks for reminding me of it.

  2. Hey Yum-Yum! This film looks great, thanks for the review. BTW, which is your Tumblr blog? I would follow you to the end of the Earth (or at least to Australia, which is far enough from both to be labeled like that). While I was reading this I thought "Yum-Yum would love Arrebato (Iván Zulueta, 1979); where is Arrebato in this blog?" I'm pretty sure there's a DVD release with English subtitles available... I hope a copy (or at least an .avi ) will find you. Here's a trailer :)

    1. My Tumblr is Radioactive Lingerie

      I don't really need to watch the trailer, as I was sold on Arrebato simply by looking at the poster. I'll add to the list.

    2. Awesome :D! BTW, the artwork and design of the original poster was by Zulueta himself. He also made a lot of posters for other filmmakers (Almodovar, Buñuel, etc.) Here you can check a wide selection of his artworks:

  3. this is a really old post, but yes - that house is still standing in Berry Street Richmond. it’s definitely a famous local landmark, even though it looks a lot less punk nowadays.
    it sold for $1.1 million in 2012. probably worth 2 or 3 times that these days...