Punk rock never quite got a fair shake from Hollywood. Most punk rock characters feel into two categories: colorful comic relief and safety pin through the nose villains. Why couldn’t they be the heroes? Perhaps theater owners feared a pro punk rock film would inspire an audience ready to slash up chairs with switchblades and coat the screen in Golden Flavoring? A few of us were interested when word got out that Dudes was a punk rock Western. The soundtrack album looked interesting with the kid from Pretty in Pink in cowboy gear and his pal with the Mohawk. But it didn’t seem to show up in our area until a VHS copy popped up on the shelf at North American Video in the late ’80s. The film was rented and we watched Dudes without any furniture being destroyed.
Deep in a punk club in New York City, Grant (Two and a Half Men‘s Jon Cryer), Biscuit (The Late Shift‘s Daniel Roebuck) and Milo (Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea) are getting rather board. Milo suggest that instead of waiting around for another nasty Manhattan winter, the head West to Los Angeles to check out the scene and see if there’s more to the punk rock life. Grant and Biscuit aren’t up for a move until a few misadventures later, they’re packed in a VW Bug on the road to Hollywood. The trip goes really bad when they camp out on property in the Utah desert that’s used by an outlaw gang led by Missoula (Fear’s Lee Ving). While normally they only mess with Mexicans, they don’t like the punk rockers and things get nasty and ugly quick. The next morning the law enforcement doesn’t believe anything really happened out there. This leads to Grant and Biscuit forced to track down Missoula and his gang to get revenge. As they hunt, the duo find themselves crossing paths with an Elvis impersonator rodeo clown and tougher than they can believe tow truck operator (Night of the Comet‘s Catherine Mary Stewart) that teaches Grant how to be a cowboy. Can they get Western style revenge before heading on to Los Angeles?
Dudes remains a good film and it doesn’t use punk rock as a cheap prop. Penelope Spheeris at the time was the director of punk rock films that didn’t depict the life like an episode of Quincy or CHiPs. She got into the scene with her documentary The Decline of Western Civilization which gave a glimpse into the underbelly of Los Angeles with performances from X, Black Flag, The Germs and Fear. She followed it up with the punk drama Suburbia featuring The Vandals. She doesn’t play punk for laughs here. Cryer is perfect as the goofy punk kid pulled into being hardcore. He’s not just that goofy kid from Pretty in Pink being ignored by Molly Ringwald. The cinematography by Robert Richardson gives you a sense as to why he’d win 3 Oscars. He captured the energy of slam dancing and the rugged landscapes of Utah.
If you wanted to think very deep, there’s something symbolic that Lee Ving plays the redneck villain who screws up the trio’s journey. Was this a code that Los Angeles’ punk scene didn’t want anymore New Yorkers looking to skank and slam dance under the palm trees? Judging from Ving’s performance in Streets of Fire, the deep meaning is that he’s a force you don’t mess with. He’s pure chaos and danger on the screen.
We weren’t the only ones that missed out on a chance to see Dudes on the big screen. It had a lame original theatrical release. The VHS tape seemed checked out quite a bit at North American Video. Dudes: Collector’s Edition finally gives the movie a high resolution release so you can absorb the wild west action and punk rock attitude.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the beauty of Richardson’s cinematography. This film deserves to be appreciated beyond the limitations of VHS tape. The audio is DTS-HD MA Stereo The mix lets you hear Jon Cryer without being engulfed in the loud soundtrack. The movie is subtitled.
DVD with all features of the Blu-ray.
Duckie Dude (31:42) has Jon Cryer interviewed by Penelope Spheeris. He enjoyed being in the film and remains grateful that he was finally given a hero role. They talk about the issues about making a punk rock movie in the west. Most of the time Cryer was getting mistaken by locals for two diffent actors. They even discuss their favorite indie hardware store. Spheeris explains that her directorial career varies in genres and tones because she takes that jobs she can get.
Suburbia Dude (26:05) has Flea interviewed By Penelope Spheeris. She recounts her first encounter with him which coincidently involved Lee Ving. The bassist was a member of Fear at the time.
Dude Looks Like A Lady (13:01) sits down with Catherine Mary Stewart (13:00) her reflect upon her amazing ’80s cinematic career. She enjoyed playing strong female characters such as The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet. She enjoyed getting to ride horses in the film. She did get an injury during the film, but she still has fond memories of the shoot.
Mohawk Dude (25:15) features Daniel Roebuck talking with Penelope Spheeris. He wanted to be in the film since it wasn’t a teen angst flick. He was hot after his time in River’s Edge. He discusses how the mowhawk affected his life. He confesses that he wasn’t a punker.
Writer And Producer Dudes (14:12) sits down writer J. Randall Jahnson and producer Miguel Tejada-Flores for a chat about how the project came about. He talks about the reasons they brought in Spheeris.
Theatrical Trailer (2:25) promises cowboys and punks.
Vintage Featurette: “Making of Dudes” (6:50) talks about the untamed land of the American West and the punks. They explain what “Dudes” mean.
Still Gallery (7:39) are the photos from the location, promotional pictures and publicity artwork from the film.
Shout! Factory presents Dudes: Collectors’ Edition. Directed by: Penelope Spheeris. Screenplay by: Randall Jahnson. Starring: Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck, Catherine Mary Stewart, Flea & Lee Ving. Running Time: 90 minutes. Rated: R. Released: October 10, 2017.
Tags: Dudes, Jon Cryer, Shout Select