Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friday Forgotten Film: Dudes (1987)

Dudes (1987)
"They Were Looking for the American Dream, They found the American Nightmare"

Here is the pitch,three young adults are heading west to LA from NYC, they are looking for a new life. Somewhere in the middle of Arizona they are attached by a gang, one of them is killed, and it is up to the other two to avenge their friend. Along the way they find out who and what they are, and are forced to grow up.

Now from that pitch you could have almost any kind of film. A Western, a Hard Boiled Noir, a coming of age tale, a thriller or a horror film. When I first saw the ad for this movie in a video catalog in 1988, I was sure that it was going to be a horror film-- something along the lines of The Zero Boys or The Hills Have Eyes. The poster was an ominously dark and garishly colored affair, two young men, a pink land yacht and a dark desert behind them-- I had to rent it, and I did.
What kind of film did it turn out to be? get this, a Punk Rock Western! yep, that's right a genre blend of crime, Punksploitation and the Western . John Cryer (Duckie from Pretty in Pink), Daniel Roebuck (Rivers Edge and US Marshals) and Flea (from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Back to the Future) are three punks in mid 80s NYC, they lives are going nowhere, they go to shows, work dead end jobs, drink and have minor adventures in the pre Gulliani blight of NYC. With nothing to loose they head west looking for the promised land of California. Along the way they pass though desert landscapes, help a Elvis impersonator with his stuck car and talk about their future in the land of sunshine. On their last night before reaching California they camp under a massive stone, only to be bushed whacked and one of them get's killed. It is from this point what might have been a film about NYC Punks finding their place in the LA Punk world turns into a revenge story with elements of the typical fish out of water story. They find that they appearance hampers their ability to follow their friends killers, and have to deal with being outsiders in a part of the country that was hostile to them.

I'm not going to make the case that this is a great film, it has it's moments. There is great scenery and a soundtrack that is almost perfect in relation to the film. Dudes might have played for a weekend in the theaters, but once I saw it for the first time, it was mine. It was everything that I was looking for in a film, it was about outsiders who took control of their lives, who stood up for themselves, and found purpose. It had adventure, crazy dreams, surreal shoot outs and just a little bit of romance. There is something also to be said about the connection between the myth of the American west, American Punk rock and the world of indie film making, all of them have the element of Do It Yourselfness, do what you have to do, and forge ahead as best you can in common. In a time when so many people seem to be sitting around crying that the jobs that have always been there are gone, and that the middle class life they felt they were promised has vanished a film like Dudes, with a message of finding your path and going for it might just be what the doctor ordered.


Todd Mason said...

I keep coming in in the middle of this one (note to Patti Abbott--cable movie channels are the new continuous-play theatres), so hadn't realized "Flea" was the murdered friend. While his band felt the need to sexually hassle a friendly acquaintance of mine, making it difficult for me to ever take any of them for other than spoiled thugs, the notion of Cryer and Roebuck as backhanded revengers alwasy was somewhat amusing.

Iren said...

Todd: I know what you mean about Cryer not fitting the idea of a action hero, I think that was part of what makes him work in the role, and by the end he shows a bit of grit. I almost wonder what his career would have looked like if he had bulked up and went for more action oriented roles (See Anthony Michale Hall I guess). Roebuck on the other hand was best know for his psycho role in The Rivers Edge at the time and I could see him easily as the lite action type of guy (which he did in things like Disorganization Crime and the Fugitive). On the other hand if they had been tough guy types (or even proto-tough guy types) they wouldn't have been ambushed and would have been able to fight off the attackers, and you wouldn't have the story. Maybe it is best that we have a couple of semi scary looking softies who have to get tough, stand up and fight.

That said, I didn't write about this really acting wise the film is all Lee Ving the villain. He had a minimal Hollywood run: the sidekick to William Defoe in Streets of Fire (another forgotten film), an episode of Who's the Boss and the film Clue didn't seem to get him enough notice to play the heavy on TV or even Straight to video work. He's the kind of guy that if Ellroy was writing about the 80s would likely show up as a Hollywood fringe guy doing dirt or acting as a bag man somewhere in the mix.

I also have to say something about Catherine Mary Stewart-- she was my ideal woman as a teenager. She was tough and sexy, she had a fire and presence that was so unlike the women and girls around me. That came as much from Dudes as from Night of the Comet.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never even heard of this one. Usually I have at least a dim memory of a movie, but not a bit resonates.

Todd Mason said...

Oh, I was very much aware of Roebuck (and Lee Ving, for that matter)...Roebuck was not too likely a Rambo figure, either, as opposed to Norman Bates as Robert Bloch described Bates.

Todd Mason said...

Sorry you couldn't find too many local CM Stewarts...I did, more or less, and was lucky enough to spend some "quality" time with one or two of them.