Dudes: Blu-ray / DVD

Penelope Spheeris movies have a long history of having hard-to-get releases. There was a time where every punk house had their coveted bootleg VHS tape of Decline of the Western Civilization. When the Decline trilogy was released on DVD in 2015, the world rejoiced.

The same thing happened with Spheeris’s 1987 punk western Dudes. The movie had a very limited release in theaters and an equally-as-small release on VHS. There was a time where the only way to get a copy of Dudes was by ordering a bootleg VHS through the Kung Fu Records catalog.

Dudes starts off at a Vandals show, where we see the protagonists being thrown around in the pit to “Urban Struggle.” They are Milo (Flea), who wears coffee mugs on his leather jacket. Mohawk-sporting Biscuit (Daniel Roebuck). And the punk everyman, Grant (Jon Cryer). After a near-death experience, the trio decides it’s time to leave the big city and move to California.

On the way to California, the trio is bombarded by a gang of toughs led by Missoula (Lee Ving), who rob them and kill Milo. From this point on, the movie is no longer the fun punk road trip movie you may have expected. Biscuit and Grant go on a manhunt to find the gang and get revenge. But being city boys, they aren’t good at it. Not until they run into Jesse (Catherine Mary Stewart), who teaches them how to shoot and survive. Suddenly, Grant is dressed like a desperado with a bullet belt and fingerless gloves. And after having a Native American battle dream, Biscuit starts dressing and acting like a bad Native American stereotype. That aspect of the movie is truly cringe-worthy. Especially when they have spiritual hallucinations after they drink some special firewater given to them by an Elvis impersonator.

Despite those scenes, the movie is enjoyable. And when it’s bad, it’s enjoyably bad. The jokes are corny and the action is whatever. However, you do get the urge to re-watch it after it’s over to revisit the dramatic changes the characters go through. It starts with New York punks kicking pavement to two cowboys shooting at members of Fear in the desert.

This release is the first time the movie has been available on disc format. And it does look much nicer than that copy of a copy, of a copy, of a copy, that made its rounds years prior. The special features include Penelope Spheeris interviewing the main cast. There are some pretty good anecdotes about Biscuit’s mohawk, Jon Cryer being thrown into the pit, and Flea being discovered by Spheeris eating lasagna at Lee Ving’s house. You also learn that Lee Ving is terrified of asbestos.

It’s very cool that Penelope Spheeris’s pre-Wayne’s World movies are finally getting their time in the sun. Now Shout Factory, if you’re reading this, it’s time to re-release Hollywood Vice Squad. –Rick V. (shoutfactory.com)

Bad Reputation: DVD

This is a documentary about modern day saint of rock’n’roll, Joan Jett. She had one goal ever since she received a crappy electric guitar from Sears as a gift as a preteen: to play in a band. The film starts with Jett discovering weirdos at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco where she met corrupt Kim Fowley, who throws her in the Runaways. This documentary fills a gap that Edgeplay: A Film about the Runaways (2004) left due to Joan Jett’s refusal to be a part of it. This time we get to hear Runaways songs and see footage of their European and Japan tours. There is a lot of interesting stuff about Joan and the final days the Runaways. Did you know she hung around in the England punk scene and recorded the first version of “I Love Rock N’ Roll” with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols? And did you know she had a heart attack in her early twenties?

Joan Jett had to put away her bad habits and turn her life around at an extremely early age. But that still didn’t make it any easier for her to get radio stations or record labels to pay attention to her music. She grew up in the 1970s when radio stations were told to only play one woman artist per hour. Jett and her lifelong producer Kenny Laguna started their own label and were the early adopters of selling records at shows. Although Jett was considered a major label artist, she did a lot with punk bands, like producing the Germs record, singing for the Gits, and being real tight with Bikini Kill.

Most rock documentaries usually have an act in the middle showing where things get dark for the subject matter. I feel like Bad Reputation doesn’t focus on that. Joan is usually positive about the dips in her career and, for the most part, just wants to keep going. There is a huge list of people I like saying nice things about Joan Jett: Don Bolles, Debbie Harry, B.J. Armstrong, Kathleen Hanna, Adam Horovitz, Ian MacKaye, Mike Ness, Laura Jane Grace, Shepard Fairey, Pat Smear, and Michael J. Fox.

If you weren’t a fan of Joan Jett before seeing this, you will definitely have a mantle dedicated to her afterwards. I’ll end with a quote from Razorcake contributor Ben Snakepit. “At the end I was bawling like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona, ‘I love her so much!’” –Rick V. (badreputationfilm.com)

D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage: DVD/Blu-ray

Released in 2017, this is the first legit U.S. release of D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage, which was originally shot in 1978. The documentary started as an attempt to capture the Sex Pistols first (and subsequently last) U.S. tour by High Times magazine founder Tom Forçade. The film contains great raw footage of the Sex Pistols and their audiences. The crowd was about two-thirds punks and punks trying hard to be punks. That final third was people who bought tickets just to throw bottles or fight the Sex Pistols. There are some pretty wild interviews with some of the kids who came to the shows or were just hanging around at the time. Most notable are a moody kid with tape stuck in the shape of an “X” on their face and a woman just lying on the ground in the parking lot complaining about security.

The Sex Pistols U.S. tour footage only makes up about half of the documentary. Scattered throughout, there’s footage from England capturing the natural habitat of the ’70s fashion punk. This best stuff is shot in these segments, including awesome clips of actual enjoyable bands like X-Ray Spex, Generation X, the Rich Kids, Sham 69, and of course Terry And The Idiots. You’ve never heard of Terry And The Idiots? Well, they’re real bad and their frontman Terry Sylvester is worse. He makes for great content in the film, along with an interview with a very high and sleepy Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.

Throughout the documentary you get: southerners mourning Elvis, a nameless band with a nun playing a harmonica, a kid playing with a rope, a self-described “Anti-Smut Crusader,” and the Sex Pistols’ dumb lyrics subtitled during their shows.

The standout special feature on this DVD/Blu-ray set is Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Almost Never Was—a feature length documentary about the antics that went around filming the movie. You see, Tom Forcade had everything he would need to put the original documentary together. He got director Lech Kowalski, a couple of 16mm cameras, and an Atlanta film crew. However, he had no actual access to the shows or the members of the band. The Sex Pistols were apparently surrounded by hired biker bodyguards, their eccentric manager Malcolm McLaren, and executives from Warner Brothers Records. They had to disguise themselves as reporters to get into the shows. John Holmstrom and Roberta Bayley of Punk magazine fame tagged along with the film crew on that tour and regale some hilarious and horrifying experiences. There is even an interview with Lamar St. John (The previously mentioned woman laying down the parking lot) who drove from San Francisco to Texas with her friends to see the Sex Pistols.

The documentary about the documentary was much more educational and I highly recommend watching it if you are into punk history. John Holmstrom is like a human ’70s punk database. –Rick V. (MVD Visual, mvdvisual.com)

Us Festival, The: 1982 The Us Generation: DVD

In 1982, Steve “The Woz” Wozniak was flush with cash following the success of the computer company he co-founded, Apple. Looking to festivals past and wanting to inspire a more community- and tech-oriented generation stressing a sense of “us” rather than the “me” generation he saw in the 1970s, he decided to spend some of his cash on a festival of his own held at Glen Helen Regional Park (now Glen Helen Amphitheater) in San Bernardino, Calif. over Labor Day weekend, 1982.

Split into themed “days” focusing on new wave, rock, and more eclectic fare, gracing the stage were many of the era’s top acts—Ramones, Talking Heads, Gang Of Four, The B-52’s, The Police, Tom Petty, Pat Benatar, The Cars, Eddie Money, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and so on—spread out over the three-day weekend, playing for several hundred thousand attendees. Despite triple-digit weather, more than a hundred arrests, several drug overdoses and reported twelve million dollars in losses, Woz threw another, even bigger festival the next year.

Documenting the first Us Festival, this film is largely skint on actual performances by most of the bands—you get a full song from the odd band and brief snippets of footage from many others—and flush with talking head testimonials from the guys who pulled it off yakking about the challenges of mounting a large-scale event and about the genius that is Steve Wozniak for wanting to do so in the first place. Nowhere near as engrossing or culturally significant as the documentaries Woodstock or Gimme Shelter, the results are oddly focused more on one man and the small group of people he employed to make his dream come true, rather than the collective “us” in the name of the festival they created. –Jimmy Alvarado (MVD Visual, mvdvisual.com)

Records Collecting Dust II: DVD

The first installment of this two-film (at least so far) series was largely centered on the West Coast, with a gaggle of punker icons from that side of the country sharing their record collections and ruminating about their first purchases, specific items they think are particularly significant/favorites, and so on. This time ’round the filmmakers head to the other coast to enter into similar conversations with scene luminaries Al Quint, Cynthia Connelly, and Mike Gitter, as well as members of Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Dag Nasty, Fire Party, FUs, Gorilla Biscuits, Government Issue, Helmet, Iron Cross, Jawbox, Jerry’s Kids, Minor Threat, Mission Of Burma, Moving Targets, Prong, Scream, Sheer Terror, Shudder To Think, Slapshot, SOA, Swiz, The Freeze, and Underdog.

As with the previous installment, the results are surprisingly engaging, focusing on the role of music on some of American punk’s heaviest hitters as fans rather than musicians. The discussions come off as sincere, intelligent, and more about inspiration—some of which are pretty surprising considering the bands repped here—rather than “look at this cool fuckin’ record I got that you wish you had, losers.” It’s no easy feat to string a series of talking heads waxing poetic in a visual art form about an aural art form, but they pull it off well here, resulting in a film that’s interesting and thoughtful. –Jimmy Alvarado (MVD Visual, mvdvisual.com)

Everything Is Not OK: DVD

If I get anything from this video, it’s that Everything Is Not OK Fest in Oklahoma City has to be a fucking riot. However, I’m not the audience for this. I know shittily-recorded, live shows are inseparable from punk rock, but my patience for them completely dissolved way back when I got my first car and could travel from my shitty town to see bands myself. That said, there’s probably not a lot to see here for someone who didn’t attend this fest in 2018. With a single song per band, you don’t get to watch a full set of a band you like—gauging the recording’s value against your sheer love of their music. Instead, it’s a jarring mess of good bands with bad sound quality, bad bands with bad sound quality, and okay bands with bad sound quality. If you were there, you’d get excited, thinking stuff like, there I am!, I remember this!, or maybe, I had memorable but unremarkable sex with that person! I don’t fucking know! Anyway, there were a ton of bands on this DVD, some I liked more than others, but that’s irrelevant, saying more about how well their songs translated to the muddy recordings (I haven’t heard of any of these bands), so I’ll just mention a few, arbitrarily: Xen Wolf, Bad Example, Tamagotchi Teenage Dirtbag, Blystex, BAUS, and Natural Man. –Craven Rock (Big Plan Pictures)

Piss on You: Winnipeg’s Early Punk Scene: DVD Directed by Katheryn Martin

I am a huge fan of localized punk scene documentaries, especially Canadian ones. Here, we have a historic retelling of how punk started in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For those not in the know, Winnipeg is one of Canada’s most remote major cities. It’s long prairie drives in every direction until the next city center. The fact that so many punk rock heavy hitters came out of the city is a wonder on its own. Having seen similar documentaries on other cities such as Vancouver and Victoria, it is telling how the Canadian punk rock experience is surprisingly similar from coast to coast.

The story goes like this. A few social outcasts hear about something called “punk rock” in the news, later discover the sounds of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, or The Clash, decide they can do it, too, and now you have a scene. In Winnipeg, early bands such as Le Kille and The Nostrils gave rise to internationally known bands such as Stretch Marks, The Unwanted, and the indomitable Personality Crisis.

The film takes us on a tour of 1970s Winnipeg—of sketchy bars that would allow punk and sketchier punk houses that bred bands almost as fast as they bred dysentery. (That is a bit of a fallacy. The most legendary punk house was named The House of Beep because everyone who lived there drank copious amounts of a sugary, Canadian orange drink called Beep in an attempt to keep their vitamin C intake up to avoid scurvy and the like.) There is plenty of quality archival footage from shows as well as a local access TV program that featured underground music.

All of the bands involved have at least one member talking on camera, as well as the requisite appearance of DOA’s Joey Shithead. If you are unaware of Personality Crisis, just stop and search them out now. Now that your mind is blown, continue on. The footage on PC and Stretch Marks is brilliant for sure, but I was really excited to learn about previously unheard of (by me) bands like The Ruggedy Annes and Dub Rifles. The film flows well and doesn’t repeat itself too much. It provided a good look at a punk rock community that is rarely heard about in the larger scheme of things. I like that. Apparently the disc is hard to come by, but well worth the search. –Ty Stranglehold (No address listed)

Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk: DVD

Doing any sort of “[hi]story of…” type deal—book, film, panel, whatever—is destined to attract detractors, often based just as much on who/what was not included as on who/what was included. Turn It Around has its share of omissions, some rather glaring (one of Berkeley’s key first-wave hardcore bands and arguably the most influential of U.S. anarcho-punk bands, Crucifix, is diminished to a passing mention), some more understandable (Rabid Lassie, Sewer Trout). It’d be easy as pie, especially so for scene locals, to bicker and nitpick Turn It Around and totally miss the forest for the trees—a reverential film about one of the country’s more influential venues, 924 Gilman Street, the community that built up around it and flourishes within its walls, and the bands that have called it home.

True, the early history of punk in the East Bay is kinda blown through relatively quick-like: The Free Speech Movement and hippies give way to the first smatterings of punk in the shadow of San Francisco’s larger scene housed at the Mabuhay Gardens. That in turn spawns the Maximumrocknroll multimedia juggernaut, serving as the back story leading to the establishment of Gilman. That aside, what’s left is a very well made, good-looking film (thanks to Green Day and its former manager, who serve as executive producers) lovingly crafted with the direct input of many who were/are directly involved in that scene. A two-and-a-half-hour run time sounds daunting, but pacing is such that one hardly feels it. Director Corbett Redford successfully juggles many narrative pins in the air at the same time—varying and sometimes clashing politics/viewpoints that occur between individuals, subgenres and generations; differing ways of dealing with outside pressures; the inevitable sniffing around by the music industry in the wake of “Gilman bands” Rancid and Green Day’s success; and the flawed, very human folks who brought it all into existence. It’s done in a way that accentuates the positive while maintaining a level of honesty, revealing that even the best utopic intentions of, say, a DIY punk venue has its share of challenges and missteps. Exhaustive dumpster-dive into thee history of a scene? Nope, but it is a helluva testament to the lasting effects of what people can do on their own without corporations, Svengalis, money-grubbing parasites, and all the bad, boring shit they drag along in their wake. –Jimmy Alvarado (1-2-3-4-GO!, 1234gorecords.com)

Weird, Wonderful World of Jeffrey Garcia, The: DVD

The brunt of this DVD’s eighty-minute run time is made up of two short films, Whimsy and Hester and Radio Candy. Whimsy and Hester runs about twenty minutes and concerns the plight of a set of conjoined teenage twins, desperate to lose their virginity before the big dance. Their dad huffs cleaning products! Their mom drinks! It’s madness I tell you! At the risk of spoiling this cinematic masterpiece for generations of impressionable youth (WARNING: I intend to do just that! Read no further, impressionable youth!), one twin loses her virginity, while the other doesn’t. The still-a-virgin twin becomes depressed over this regrettable state of affairs, so the de-virginized twin has sex with the other twin (I did mention they’re conjoined, right?), and everybody’s happy. But oh no! The de-virginized twin has given the other twin AIDS! They commit suicide by wrapping plastic bags around each other’s heads, and the movie ends with the dad urinating on his daughters’ still-conjoined corpses before floating them down the river on a raft. The end. As far as I can tell, it’s sorta like Trailer Park Boys meets Roger Corman filming a John Waters short film.

If that trips your trigger, you’ll certainly be agog for Radio Candy—at thirty-five minutes in length, a veritable Titanic of the genre. I won’t give away the plotline of that one—to be honest, I kinda forgot what it was —but you’ll love how the scene where the people jerk off on the wheelchair-bound grandma after battering her senseless with baseball bats segues right into a scene involving a crucifixion with a power drill. You’ll also adore how, on occasion, a dude will give another dude a blowjob—not to flesh out a character or advance the storyline or anything, but, you know, because it’s wacky! The remainder of the disc is given over to a bunch of much shorter pieces, sort of Robot Chicken style, of which Mysteries of the Universe is the most appealing. I could see hauling this cinematic masterpiece out at a party if everyone is hammered to the point of idiocy. Regifting is a suitable option as well. –Rev. Nørb (Pecan Crazy, pecancrazy.com)

L.A.M.F. Live at the Bowery Electric: DVD

The Heartbreakers were one of the first five punk bands whose records I owned. Oddly, my introduction to them wasn’t their classic (and only) studio album from 1977, L.A.M.F., it was Live at Max’s Kansas City—a posthumous document of a 1978 farewell/reunion show. I was fourteen years old and had never even heard of the band, but the back cover liner notes made them seem important (it said they joined the Sex Pistols, Clash, and Damned for the “ill-fated Anarchy Tour”) so I figured they must be somebodies and their album worth my babysitting cash. It is the first live punk album I’ve ever heard or owned, and remains one of my favorite live albums of all time to this day.
This DVD represents a 2017 live performance of L.A.M.F. in its entirety, knit together from three different performances at New York’s un-huge Bowery Electric club. Original guitarist/second banana Walter Lure, having had original bandmates Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Billy Rath all be grimly reaped over the years, is joined by an all-star cast of Tommy Stinson (Replacements), Wayne Kramer (MC5), and Clem Burke (Blondie) who slam through the album’s dozen tracks (plus an encore of “Do You Love Me” by the Contours, just like on Live at Max’s!) with a mixture of deft precision and fingers-crossed-hope-for-the-best anxiety, everyone trading vocal chores like baseball cards.
Here’s what I took away from the performance: 1) It really isn’t that interesting to watch Tommy Stinson sing Heartbreakers covers; 2) It really isn’t that interesting to watch (special guest) Jesse Malin sing Heartbreakers covers; 3) It is slightly interesting to watch Wayne Kramer sing Heartbreakers covers because he’s such a stiff at it; 4) It is slightly interesting to watch (special guest) Cheetah Chrome sing “Going Steady” just because he never really seemed like a “Going Steady” kinda guy; 5) It’s somewhat interesting to watch Clem Burke sing Heartbreakers covers just to prove he can drum and sing Heartbreakers songs at the same time; 6) It’s quite interesting to watch Liza Colby sing “I Love You,” because I had never heard of her before this and I always thought that song was dippy, but she knocked the shit out of it, and 7) Even though his voice breaks from time to time and his hat and jacket make him look like a cross between a punk rock Captain Kangaroo and Red Skelton, it’s still interesting to watch Walter Lure sing Heartbreakers songs, although, quite frankly, I’m more interested in hearing him singing Waldos songs from the ‘90s than Heartbreakers songs from the ‘70s these days, but I’m always happy to take what I can get.
Overall, the sound is great, though the camerawork is marred a bit by what appears to be senseless autofocus (hence auto-blurriness as well), and the cameras never really seem to be stable on their tripods, as they’re always moving slightly this way or that. Overall, it comes across exactly as advertised: An all-star cast getting together after a couple of practices to knock out some forty year old punky rock’n’roll classics, no more, no less. It was nice to see so many people of such disparate ages singing along, but, jeepers creepers, I think if you really “got” the Heartbreakers you’d put your fucking phones away during the show. I guess that’s what Walter must have written “Get Off the Phone” about. –Rev. Nørb (Jungle Records, Suite 3E, Alperton House, Bridgewater Rd., Wembley, HA0 1EH, United Kingdom, jungle-records.net)