Dudes

Studio: Shout! Factory

Nov 06, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Director Penelope Spheeris’ foothold in the nascent LA punk scene has served her well. Her 1981 document The Decline of Western Civilization would capture the salad days of the punk scene, including intimate portraits of The Germs, Black Flag, X, and Circle Jerks She utilized her knowledge as the basis for her cinematic work, as follow-ups Suburbia and The Boys Next Door were explorations into the punk underground and the rise of a new underground ethos.

Her 1987 film, Dudes, wasn’t necessarily a ‘punk’ film per se, but it did feature three punk characters and the music of bands such as Fear and The Vandals. Three friends, Grant (Jon Cryer), Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck), and Milo (Flea), are bored with their life in New York City. Wanting a change, Milo suggests they move to California, and offers to pay for the trip. The three friends load up in Grant’s Volkswagen Beetle, and head west. In Utah, though, tragedy strikes: whilst camping in the desert, a gang of criminals happens upon them and robs them. Led by the evil Missoula (Lee Ving), they engage in a fight, and Missoula winds up murdering Milo.  Grant and Biscuit escape, but when they explain what happens to the local authorities, the police are skeptical about their claim, as they look upon Grant’s leather attire and Biscuit’s large Mohawk with amusement and skepticism.

Realizing that they must take things into their own hands, they set about on a mission to settle the score with Missoula and his posse. With the assistance of Jesse (Catherine Mary Stewart), a sympathetic garage mechanic, the duo’s quest leads them on a wild goose chase, but along the way the ghostly spirit of a cowboy follows Grant, while Biscuit has a recurring dream and ultimately a vision quest among a tribe of Native American warriors. When both seemingly opposed spirits reveal themselves simultaneously, Grant and Biscuit realize that their cause is just, and set about bringing Missoula to justice.

Dudes is a delightful punk-rock romp through the Southwest, and it’s more than that: it’s a coming-of-age tale about fighting injustice and persevering when all hope seems lost. It’s also a clear forerunner for Penelope Spheeris’ most commercially successful creation, 1992’s Wayne’s World.  In a very real sense, it humanizes punk; the characters wear the dress and the attitude, but ultimately Dudes is about real people and not the negative caricatures that mainstream Hollywood exploited at the time.  Even though Dudes is a bit of a sleeper film and lighter fare than her other work of the time, it’s still a delightful little film that resonates with its innocence and charm.




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