Transmissions to Earth Presents:
Review by LL Soares
In 1981, director Penelope Spheeris got some attention for her documentary THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, chronicling the hardcore punk scene in Los Angeles at the time, a louder, more angry-sounding version of the music that made the Sex Pistols such a big deal in the 1970s. With performances by bands such as X, The Germs, Black Flag, and Fear, DECLINE has become a classic for fans of music documentaries. Between this film and the movie that made Spheeris a Hollywood player, the megahit WAYNE’S WORLD (1992), she made several movies, both fictional and documentaries, that might not be as widely known, such as SUBURBIA (1983), THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (1985) and a sequel to DECLINE, called THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS (1988), which are also worth checking out.
Spheeris made DUDES in 1987, and while it has some elements that are cheesy (a staple of a lot of 1980s movies for some reason), it has a decent story and characters, and is worth checking out.
It begins with three punk rockers named Grant (Jon Cryer), Milo (Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck). They hang out in New York City, where they go to concerts, mosh, stage dive, and basically just live from day to day, working dead-end jobs. One day, Milo says that he inherited some money from an insurance policy and plans to go across the country to California. He talks his two buddies into going along with him. Since they don’t have much else to do, they pile into a Volkswagen Bug and head out for sunny Los Angeles.
In Utah, while camping for the night, they’re attacked by some rednecks led by a guy called Missoula (punk rocker and actor Lee Ving). Just so he doesn’t forget his name (I guess) he’s got it tattooed on one of his forearms. From what these guys say to each other, it sounds like they make a habit of attacking campers in the vicinity, usually Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border, and stealing their stuff.
Things get violent, and Milo is killed. The next day, Grant and Biscuit go to the local police, who don’t seem to be very interested in tracking down Milo’s killers. So, Grant becomes determined to track them down himself. Despite being the biggest of the three guys (and sporting a huge Mohawk hairdo), Biscuit doesn’t want anything to do with it, and wants to keep going to L.A., but Grant eventually wins him over. With just the name Missoula to go on, they head toward Montana, stopping at various landmarks along the way, asking questions and making progress.
Early on, they help out a singer and rodeo performer named Daredelvis (Pete Willcox) whose trailer is stuck on the road. He’ll show up again later to help the boys out later at a rodeo.
Along the way, they also meet up with a mechanic named Jessie (Catherine Mary Stewart, also in THE APPLE, 1980, NIGHT OF THE COMET, 1984, and WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S, 1989) who takes a liking to Grant. After their car is forced off the road, Jessie takes the boys in and teaches Jessie how to shoot. Biscuit, who has suffered a concussion, wakes up believing he’s a real Mohawk Indian (in the movie’s most cringe-worthy plotline). Jessie lets them borrow a car with big bull horns on the hood, and gives them guns and ammo. Eventually, they track down the bad guys and there’s a final showdown.
I actually liked Cryer a lot here. For anyone who just knows him from his role as Alan on the sitcom TWO AND A HALF MEN (2003 – 2015), you might be surprised to know he actually had a movie career in films like this and PRETTY IN PINK (1986), SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987), HIDING OUT (1987), and HOT SHOTS! (1991). Daniel Roebuck had previously been in CAVEGIRL (1985) and the acclaimed movie RIVER’S EDGE (1986), and went on to have a long career in movies and television, mostly recently on the Amazon series THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. Flea has had a long career in one of the most popular bands of the past few decades, but still occasionally acts, most recently as a criminal in BABY DRIVER (2017). Lee Ving, my favorite of the bunch, has also done a lot of acting, outside of his gig as lead singer of the band Fear, having appeared (mostly as bad guys) in such films as FLASHDANCE (1983), STREETS OF FIRE (1984), CLUE (1985), THE TAKING OF BEVERLY HILLS (1991) and FAST SOFA (2001). I wish he’d do more acting, and more music as well.
After DUDES, Penelope Spheeris went on to direct such movies as WAYNE’S WORLD, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (1993), THE LITTLE RASCALS (1994), and BALLS TO THE WALL (2011). The script for DUDES is by Randall Jahnson, who also co-wrote THE DOORS (1991) with Oliver Stone, and was one of the writers of THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998), starring Antonio Banderas.
DUDES is a quirky 80s buddy movie, with a good soundtrack of punk and metal songs (by bands like The Vandals, Keel, W.A.S.P., Jane’s Addiction, and Megadeth), that has a kind of “midnight movie” appeal to it. Check it out if you have the chance.
© Copyright 2018 by LL Soares