The B-Movie Isle: Shout Factory’s Dudes (Shout Select)
The B-Movie Isle/Adam takes a gander at the newest Shout Select title; Penelope Spheeris’ Punk Rock Western odyssey Dudes starring Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck and Catherine Mary Stewart. Does Spheeris’ bridge the gap between her documentary work and feature films with her first narrative feature? Does a Punk Rock Western even work? How amazing is Catherine Mary Stewart in everything she does? Read on…
Like many kids that grew up in the 1980’s that parents were divorced I spent much of my life having and going to sleep overs with my friends. The weekends with my best friends would be about few things; playing video games, ride our bikes around the neighborhood, playing war outside, playing football or baseball and watching movies.
There were films that we watched together that are ingrained into my our collective psyche; Gotcha!, Teen Wolf, Clue, Karate Kid, Cloak and Dagger, Karate Kid Part 2, Gleaming the Cube, Robocop, Tango and Cash! We’d go to the local Video Stores. The system for picking a film was quite simple; pick the movies with the best VHS covers. We’d spend the rest of the night eating pizza drinking Dr. Pepper and watching movies. Dudes was one of those films. Its iconic poster and VHS cover was a quick easy choice. The imagery instantly grabbed me and my friends; two punk rock kids on a deserted highway with the looming red rock formations of Monument Valley surrounding them.
Often times films did not live up to the VHS Covers (I’m thinking of you Masters of the Universe!), Dudes directed by Penelope Spheeris, definitely does live up to its cover. As much a spiritual cousin to the western ideals set forth in John Wayne films as it is steeped into the Punk Rock ethos that Spheeris brought to light with her own films; Decline of Western Civilization and Suburbia. The melds what seem like very opposing viewpoints together beautifully.
Tiring of the NYC Punk Rock Scene Grant (Jon Cryer), Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck) and Milo (Flea) set about their journey west to the promise land, e.g. Los Angeles. The journey makes a turn for the worse when Missoula (Lee Ving) and his posse of bad guys show up. Bad things happen and the group is left to recover and track Missoula to exact their revenge.
Those expecting a light comedy look elsewhere. Spheeris lays into the darker violent aspects of the story as much as she’s prone to the comedy. That darker, meaner streak works in favor for this story. It earns both the comedy and the action that alternates throughout the story. Much of this tonal balancing act is thanks in large part to the way that Spheeris handles the script and takes everything seriously. She never winks nor nods to the screen. She cares about these kids and the world in which they inhabit. It shows, this is more akin to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (with a dash of Taxi Driver) than Better Off Dead.
Cryer and Roebuck are as perfect a duo to lead this film as one would hope for. They feel like they’ve been friends for years. This is Cryer at the height of Cryer’s popularity and command as an actor. His youth face belies an anger that comes through in the last third where he makes a credible action lead. Roebuck has been type-casted since his beautiful work in River’s Edge. Here it’s not any different. Spheeris is able to pull out the more humane side of the archetype that Roebuck plays as Biscuit.
The man that owns this film is Lee “Clue” Ving. The Punk Rock star and B-Movie Character actor is given the spotlight as Missoula. Spheeris never backs down on just how dangerous he and the gang is. There’s a feral quality to Ving that Spheeris lets loose in the film. It creates this challenge for Grant and Biscuit in a similar vein to another recent release from Shout Factory, Three O’Clock High. Both films understand that the key to a great action film is a great villain.
Dudes has everything you could possibly want in a film; punk rock, western aesthetics, great characters, Lee Ving and of course the amazing Catherine Mary Stewart!
Shout Factory has gotten a great source material for this film. Age is shown at the beginning of the film but clears up to a beautifully crisp transfer.
They include the following
- Duckie Dude – Jon Cryer Interviewed By Penelope Spheeris
- Suburbia Dude – Flea Interviewed By Penelope Spheeris
- Dude Looks Like A Lady – An Interview With Catherine Mary Stewart
- Mohawk Dude – Daniel Roebuck Interviewed By Penelope Spheeris
- Writer And Producer Dudes – An Interview With Writer J. Randall Jahnson And Producer Miguel Tejada-Flores
- Theatrical Trailer
- Vintage Featurette: “Making of Dudes”
- Still Gallery
Close to two hours of special features this Shout Select entry delivers the good. The special features feel more hand crafted, thanks in large part to the participation by Penelope Spheeris. Spheeris hosts the interviews with the actors, writers and producers recounting the making-of the film. The best is the interview with Roebuck, a character actor who rarely, if ever gets a spotlight on his great work. Also included are a trailer and a vintage featurette. A note, I’m loving that Shout Factory has pushed really hard to get vintage EPK material to place on their disc. It shows the level of respect and care they bring to all their titles.
The Bottom Shelf
Dudes is the real deal; a great punk rock western… if only more were made like this one! High Recommendation.