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Punk Vacation (1990)

Punk Vacation coverStudio: Vinegar Syndrome

Original Release: May 1st, 1990

DVD Release: July 9, 2013

Rating: UnRated!

Directed by Stanley Lewis

Review by Craig Sorensen

A hidden gem of late ‘80s video weirdness rears it’s ugly head in the digital age with Vinegar Syndrome’s Punk Vacation.  Sure, the punks are about as authentic as a mall Hot Topic, the acting almost across the board stilted and wooden, confusingly edited in sections and cheap to a fault, but the film still has a strange charm that’s kind of hard to deny.

Somewhere in California, Deputy Steven (Stephen Fiachi of Night Eyes) is trying to get back together with his girlfriend, Lisa (Sandra Bogan of Hider in the House).  Her father doesn’t like Deputy Steven though because he doesn’t think he’ll ever make something of himself (a police officer isn’t a viable career choice evidently).  One night, one of the most clean cut punks rides up to the father’s diner on his dirt bike to get an orange soda.  First of all, they’re out of orange soda in the Dr. Pepper machine out front.  The punk is disappointed but opts for a Dr. Pepper instead.  Then the machine eats his last quarter and doesn’t spit out his bottle.  Naturally this kid is pissed.  He shakes the machine and hits it (much as I would do, maybe that makes me a punk too?).  So the father, of course, comes out with a shotgun.  The kid tries to explain that the machine took his last bit of money and didn’t give him a drink.  Rather than go inside and give the kid his money back or get him a Dr. Pepper (he’s got plenty inside I’m sure), he chases the kid off.  Eventually he comes back with his PUNK friends and beats up his car.  They also get ahold of his daughter and vaguely threaten her.  The father ends up running into a knife by accident and the kids run off as Deputy Steven pulls up in his police cruiser, hitting the clean cut punk.  Now they’ve really pissed off the PUNKS.

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So, right off the bat you can kind of tell where this movie is going.  The film does kind of defy those expectations in how it actually treats the punks as opposed to the townspeople.  The film basically follows the template of a ‘60s biker film, with the ‘punks’ filling in for a biker gang.  Of course, in a biker film it’s the gang that upsets the idyllic tranquility of small town life with their corrupt morality and depravity, usually killing and raping along the way.  In this, the gang rides into town and the first person they deal with is a frightened, questionable business owner who deals with minor problems with a shotgun in hand.  And the kids only bring out a knife when the man gets his shotgun again.  And even then, they don’t intentionally kill the man.

And the film basically treats all the townspeople as either bumbling buffoons or literally insane.  The sheriff (Warhol alum Louis Waldon) is obsessed with ‘pinko commies’, Lisa is obsessed with murdering the punks (she twice puts herself in danger trying to kill them) and Deputy Steven takes cucumbers into battle for some reason.  The punks themselves are played as fairly reasonable people.  When they catch Lisa with a gun in their camp, they don’t kill her.  They undress her and you think that maybe there might be a sexual assault coming but no, their leader Ramrod (Roxanne Rogers of 976-EVIL) is just taking her clothes so she can sneak into town to get Kentucky Fried Chicken for them to eat.  The punks do tie Lisa up but for the most part don’t treat her too bad.  Of course, Deputy Steven and his partner come racing in shooting the place up to get her back, once again escalating the violence.  So, it’s almost like the biker and townspeople roles are reversed.  Eventually the townspeople form a posse and the bikers are forced to use their ingenuity to slow them down (in completely non violent ways, while the posse is armed with shotguns) so they can make their escape.  In the end, these kids just want to end their Punk Vacation and get the fuck back to LA.  That’s right, the title is accurate, these kids just wanted to take a vacation, to get away from the city for a while and see nature.  Of course, the film is so cheap, direction and editing so terrible that it’s hard to tell how much of this is intentional or accidental.  In the end I suppose it doesn’t matter.  I had a hell of a time watching it.  It’s weird and funny and has enough going on to keep you entertained.

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Vinegar Syndrome’s new 1080p transfer of the film looks fucking gorgeous.  Now, this being a cheap film from the early ‘90s, there are going to be inconsistencies in the way that this was shot.  So you aren’t going to get something that look like some modern piece of shit film.  But I be that this looks better than it did when first screened.  Detail is really strong here and colors completely natural.  Sound can be a problem sometimes but I think this has more to do with the cheap and rushed production.  Dialog can be very soft at time, with sound effects occasionally drowning out speech.  I’m sure that it’s a good representation of how the film was shot however.

There aren’t any special features other than a still gallery on the Blu-Ray itself.  All the special features are saved for the included DVD version.  First, you get a couple of video interviews with producer/actor Stephen Fusci and PA/stuntman Steven Rowland, detailing the making of not only this film but also a film called Nomad Riders.  The biggest special feature here though is that film, included as a second feature.  It’s transfered from a 1 inch master tape and is full frame but is completely looney in it’s own right (a guy in an outhouse is blown up with a hand grenade) and is certainly welcome.

[Rating: 4 Stars]

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