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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dudes (Blu-ray)
Dudes (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // October 10, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 25, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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In the 1980s and 1990s, Penelope Spheeris made her mark with a number of classic films, namely her Decline of Western Civilization series of documentaries, and of course the contemporary classic Wayne's World. Still, several of her films remain underground, waiting to be resurrected and rediscovered. Dudes, a punk rock western/revenge/road trip/teen/romance/action/comedy/fantasy may be the most obscure of them all, having never gotten much of a theatrical release and remaining mostly unavailable on home video (save a VHS release) for nearly 30 years.

The film follows a trio of punk goofballs -- Grant (Jon Cryer), Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck), and Milo (Flea) -- who have nothing better to do in New York City but leave. With nothing but Milo's $800 and a working VW bug to their name, they set off to California, hoping to gain something out of a change of scenery. Instead, they run into a gang of thugs led by Missoula (Lee Ving), who steals their money and murders Milo when Milo has the courage to try and stand up for himself. Biscuit wants to flee, but Grant can't let his friend die in vain, convincing Biscuit to go on a cross-country chase tracking Missoula to get revenge. Along the way, they get some assistance from a beautiful red-haired gunslinger named Jesse (Catherine Mary Stewart) and a rodeo clown / Elvis impersonator named Daredelvis (Pete Wilcox), while Jesse is plagued by visions of a ghostly cowboy (Cal Bartlett).

With so many tonal shifts and disparate elements coming together, it's no surprise that Dudes is an uneven film, but "uneven" represents a high watermark considering the film's wildly original ambitions. Although the film drifts from time to time, the friendship of Grant and Biscuit and the basic decency of their characters creates a strong anchor for Spheeris. Anyone familiar with Cryer or Roebuck will scoff at the idea of either playing punks, but it plays into the film's exploration of the difference between their spike-laden, torn-up outfits and the average, good-natured teenagers underneath. The same contrast also makes Milo's death more affecting than the average comedy would dare to aim for, while also providing real stakes for Grant's evolution from carefree teen to focused tracker.

The film's primary modes are road movie and action movie, and Spheeris impresses on both counts. Memorable action sequences include a fistfight in the middle of a bull pen (complete with a miniature stampede and the threat of goring), a shootout across two moving cars on a desert road (finishing off with a spectacular crash), and a stand-off in a movie theater with gunfights both in the aisles and on the screen. There are also two lively comedic fights in the movie, both taking place in diners. The movie's low-budget, scrappy nature doesn't necessarily lend itself to the air of an epic, but Spheeris and cinematographer Robert Richardson still manage to fill the screen with picturesque landscapes and canyons underneath bright blue skies. A hallucinatory detour inside an empty ghost town doesn't work as well as it could have, and there is a somewhat awkward final showdown inside an abandoned warehouse, but for the most part, the film's action is stylish and its energy is invigorating.

If there's a weak link in the film, it might be Ving, whose screen presence is naturally intimidating but whose whole gang lacks character -- their actions are more memorable than their actual faces or personalities. It's also a shame that Jesse doesn't get more to do, even if her character gets a decent bit of backstory and Stewart plays the role well. There's also, as with so many 1980s films, a bit of unfortunate casual racism, in a sequence where Roebuck dons brownface to play a Native American who he has some sort of mental connection to. Although it sets up a bit of bravery for Biscuit, the movie's spiritualism, including the ghostly cowboy figure, often feels a bit half-baked. Then again, Dudes' everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mentality pays off more than it misfires, coalescing into a particularly unique oddity that defies description.

The Blu-ray
Dudes comes to Blu-ray with revised photographic art featuring a new title treatment and bull skull logo, which, considering the existing options (the worst being one with cartoonish photo manipulations of Cryer and Roebuck posed as cacti next to a giant cactus outfitted in a punk shirt and sunglasses), is probably a good idea. The rest of the art follows Shout Select's box template. The two-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case with the Blu-ray and DVD copy, and there is a leaflet featuring a list of other Shout Select titles, and a selection of cover artwork for various Shout! Factory, Scream Factory, and Shout Select Blu-rays on the other side.

The Video and Audio
On one of the supplements, Spheeris says Dudes received a new 2K scan for this release, but there's no mention of it on the packaging, and the 1.78:1 1080p AVC image on the disc has a certain chunkiness in the grain and a level of fine detail that suggests an older transfer (even if Shout's tendency to do scans off the IP rather than the negative makes it a little harder to judge). On the whole, this is a decent presentation, with strong colors and a reasonable amount of detail. However, there is print damage throughout, and worse, a distracting amount of filtering on faces that makes them look especially smooth even when the surrounding image features noticeable grain. This is most prevalent in some of the outdoor nighttime sequences, such as the scene where Biscuit claims he's going to hitchhike to California instead of go with Grant on his revenge mission. Indoor scenes, such as the lunchtime conversation between Grant and Jesse, are unaffected. Sound is an adequate but somewhat unrefined DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which is mostly dedicated to the film's raucous soundtrack. English subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Although the packaging lists the new interviews as a single supplement, almost all of the participants are actually interviewed separately, in segments that total over two hours in length.

The main attraction are interviews with the "dudes" themselves, Jon Cryer (31:42), Daniel Roebuck (25:15), and Flea (26:05). Not only that, all three of the guys are interviewed by Spheeris herself. The best of the trio is Roebuck, who is enthusiastic and animated about his experiences with a painful mohawk, allowing a stuntman to fire an arrow at his face, running into fans of the film (he and Spheeris discover they shop at the same hardware store), and what it's like to know it might have another lease on life 30 years later. Second place goes to Flea, although his interview is as much about his time working on Spheeris' Suburbia as it is Dudes. He chats about being discovered by Spheeris, the intimidation of working with real actors and learning to do it while also launching the Chili Peppers, struggles with the horse, and also some side stories about growing up knowing Slash. The interview even gets surprisingly touching at the end when Flea expresses his gratitude to Spheeris for her impact on his career. Last, but not least, is Cryer. For lack of a better word, Cryer's inherent dorkiness makes his interview feel a little less exciting than the others, but fans will no doubt be thrilled to hear his recollections about shooting with Lee Ving, learning to ride a horse, being the action hero, and being mistaken for a different John Hughes player.

Two more interviews without Spheeris are included as well. First, there is a joint chat with writer J. Randall Johnson and producer Miguel Tejada-Flores (14:12), who are both in high spirits. They chat about the script, meeting Spheeris, Johnson's experience during the first day on set, and casting a cameo by a member of the Doors. In one of her interviews, Spheeris alludes to Johnson's momentary dissatisfaction that she had turned what he envisioned as a serious film into more of a comedy, but it doesn't come up -- although Tejada-Flores does cite her serious thriller, The Boys Next Door as the clincher that got her the job. The last interview, and sadly, the weakest on the disc, is Catherine Mary Stewart (13:01). Stewart's recollections are so complimentary as to be generic, something that may have been alleviated with a stronger interviewer (in both this and the Johnson/Tejada-Flores pieces, the interviewer's questions are not heard). Stewart talks about what drew her to the role, her love of horses (and bad experience filming with one), and practically lights up when talking about Spheeris -- it's a shame she wasn't among the cast members who got to chat with her.

The disc wraps up with a VHS-sourced vintage featurette (6:50) with a cheesy voice-over, and a photo gallery. An original theatrical trailer for Dudes is also included.

Conclusion
When presented with a run-of-the-mill success and an unforgettably unique failure, one should always choose the failure, and Dudes scores more often than it doesn't. It's such a charming oddity, and Shout! Factory's Blu-ray treatment should delight anyone who would groove to Dudes' rhythms. Mostly decent picture quality, solid audio, and a fantastic package of extras earn the disc a solid recommendation.


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