Punk Vacation (1987)

PUNK VACATION will soon be available for the first time on Blu-Ray and DVD.  The spiritual cousin of Greydon Clark’s SKINHEADS, PUNK VACATION is the story of a gang of lost souls heading out Los Angeles to try to find an America that will accept them.  Not really, they are just out raising hell.

An idyllic California town welcomes dawn in soft focus pastoral imagery.  The equally soft echo of gunfire is the only thing that that can be heard over the slow guitar ballad playing in the background as Deputy Steve Reed (Steven Fiachi) practices his shooting until a harsh bellowing voice erupts from his cruiser’s radio ending the peaceful scene.  As night falls a gang of motorcycle mounted “punks” wreak havoc at the convenience store on the outskirts of the town after a brief dust-up with an angry punk over a soda machine.  The storeowner is forced to watch as his youngest daughter is assaulted before he is killed and the group rides off toward town.  Reed runs down one of the bikers as he arrives on the scene and this sets up a showdown between the town and the punks as their leader Ramrod (Roxanne Rogers) decides that they will get their injured friend back.

The dead man’s daughter, Lisa (Sandra Bogan) is hellbent on revenge and ends up the gang’s prisoner spending much of her time tied up in her lingerie.  The gang just wants to hang out and rock out until an opportunity to spring their busted bud free presents itself.  A bloody raid staged by Deputy Steve and his pal Don leave the punks thirsting for revenge and Ramrod announces her declaration of war during a fiery orgy of punk mayhem that culminates in the immolation of two of the punks’ corpses. 

Though they are in Mayberry trying to escape some of the big city smog, the punks prove to be adept at  making their way through mountainous terrain in the dead of night.  Already taxed to its limits, the sheriff’s department calls in a posse to help deal with the violent gang of punks.  When the redneck’s close in on the gang as the film nears its climactic showdown the ever present, tongue-in-cheek comedic undertones bubble to the surface and cartoonish, almost slapstick, elements become apparent to illustrate the ridiculousness of this (lack of) cultural clash.  There are even Monty Python-like marching themes for the hillbilly hunting party.  

Some folks may gripe over the hijacking or misuse of their movement, but PUNK VACATION isn’t trying to be a serious movie.  If anything it is a satire.  If there is any doubt look at some of the dialog by Sheriff Virgil (Louis Walden) after he refers to the gang as “filthy, yellow-bellied, fascist, communist, pinkos.”

Sheriff Virgil: “Did Patton call state troopers when he took Iwo Jima?”
Deputy Reed:  “No, that was MacArthur.”
Sheriff Virgil: “Well did Patton call MacArthur when he took Iwo Jima?”

Any question of seriousness should be put well to rest at this point, but the movie still has some hard ass themes.  The violence between punks and rednecks and the opening off-screen underage rape which leaves the child in a catatonic state.   

The “punks” are more 
glam than punk.  They are the style over substance flavor of punk.  PUNK VACATION has a rockin’ 80’s sythpop soundtrack but you know whats missing?  Punk music.  Yep.  Not even a single three chord strum to be found anywhere.  What this gang does have going for it are some bitching names.  Ramrod is the leader of course.  The others are: Billy, Coach, Feggy, Florence, Fudge, Karl, Maria, Robespierre, Shirley, Sinbad, Special Ed and Venny.  The fashion on display here ranges from the standard grunge to punk lite.  This gang is tough as hell if toughness is measured in conformity loathing sneers.  

The story moves along at a good pace and never really drags along at any point.  There is enough going on and the gang is interesting enough to entertain so the film never becomes boring.  There are some fun bad movie tropes such as when characters are navigating disparate parts of the story… bang, “Don’t even ask what happened to me,” and they are both right where they need to be!  And the troublesome moment where they’ve been climbing through rugged mountain terrain for ten minutes good thing someone remembered their motorcycle… PUNK VACATION is a satirical, even fun, look at a culture clash different from but not entirely unlike films like EASY RIDER and MEDIUM COOL.  Something about this movie sent me off to listen to Baba O’Riley.  Check it out.

PUNK VACATION has a July 9, 2013 release date and is available from Vinegar Syndrome in a DVD/BD combo pack.  It is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and is a crisp and clean 2k transfer from 35mm archival elements.  The special features reside on the DVD and include interviews with producer/actor Stephen Fusci, PA/stuntman Steven Rowland and a comprehensive still gallery.  Also included is the feature film NOMAD RIDERS (1984).  It can also be pre-ordered from Amazon.

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