I’m happy to have our good pal from up north, Erin V. of the Kill Panda Kill site, making his first visit to the Basement with his look at the road-punk classic Dudes. Find all kinds of Top 5 goodness and more at his site HERE
Growing up in northern Ontario in 80’s, there wasn’t a lot of access to punk music like there is today. Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet because his wife Tipper was too busy blaming the woes of society on bad language in record albums and the Much Music only had the Pepsi Power Hour, which was mostly hair metal bands and City Limits, which was on at midnight on Fridays, so you would have to tape it, if you remembered. So any movie that had any kind of punk rock reference was like gold to us back then and luckily Dudes just met the criteria.
After a Vandals show in New York, 3 punkers, Milo, Grant and Biscuit decide that they want to give up the New York groove and take a shot at living in L.A. With a thousand dollars in hand, that Milo got in an insurance deal, they jump into Grant’s Volkswagen bug and hit the road. On the way to L.A, they help a Elvis impersonator, Daredelvis get his camper back on the road. He thanks them and lets the guys know if they ever need anything, to give him a shout. Of course, no good deed gets unpunished and that night, while the guys are camping under the stars, they’re attacked by a gang of rednecks! And not the Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy kind with bad jokes, but the Deliverance kind! After the redneck’s rough up Grant and his friends, they take Milo’s jacket, rob them and before anything else happens, Grant sees a chance and takes it. He knocks down one of the thugs and the guys take off into the plains with the rednecks hot on their trail. The guys are chased throughout the desert and end up scaling the side of a rock but Milo slips and slides down into the hands of the rednecks. Milo tells the leader of the gang, Missoula to Fuck off and gets a bullet in the brain pan. Grant and Biscuit can’t believe they just killed Milo and surprisingly neither can some of the gang members. While they’re leaving can be heard arguing with Missoula about taking things to far. The next morning, Grant and Biscuit trudge their way through the desert and contact the police. They tell the guys that their sorry that they got robbed but don’t see any evidence of murder and Grant explains that they took Milo’s body. Frustrated with the cops, Grant and Biscuit decide to find Milo’s killers and get justice cowpunk style.
What originally drew me to this film was that Jon Cryer, who plays Grant, was in it. At the time, Jon Cryer seemed to me, to be the Anti-Matthew Broderick or the “if Broderick is unavailable, get Cryer to do it”, which made me feel for him. I really enjoyed Cryer’s work in Pretty in Pink and for some reason loved Morgan’s Stewart’s Coming Home, so I was totally game for this. I had no idea about who else was in, so I was also pretty excited to see that Flea, who plays Milo and Lee Ving, playing the redneck badguy Missoula, were in this as well. I had just discovered the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lee Ving, from Fear and his excellent role in Clue. However, what totally sold me on the film was, The Vandals at the beginning, playing Urban Struggle. The moment the song kicks in and you can see the Vandals playing at a shitty dive with maybe 15 people in the club, you knew this was punk rock and this might have been the first time I think I saw someone stage diving.
My only issue with the film is that there is a strange metaphysical sub plot that is never really explained. Gran keeps seeing this Marlboro Man motherfucker that no one else can see until him and Biscuit get real drunk. At the same time, Biscuit is having the flashes of Native Americans being killed and their villages burned by Missoula and his gang but dress in 18th century battle garb. Maybe it was a metaphor for their journey, I’m not that deep but think it ate up time in the film that could have been put to use better.
Overall though, this a fun film, director Penelope Spheeris does a great modern-day western. Plenty of bar fights, people riding horses and a pretty decent soundtrack to boot. Give it a watch if you get a chance.