There’s something magical about a person so unwaveringly terrible that they can bring you, a person of decent moral standing, to your lowest (or their standard) level of being. Usually people call them teenagers, but in cult filmmaker Danny Plotnick’s 1988 vision Dumbass From Dundas, they’re even more magnified as lunkheaded punks. With their mantra of “Nobody leaves me standing out here in the cold,” they piss off person after person until they are eventually, every time, left standing out in the cold (even if it’s a super hot desert).
Dumbass From Dundas follows the lives of two unlikely dudes who are simultaneously and ceremoniously thrown out of their so-called friends respective cars in the middle of nowhere. They are the exact same person, with the same mannerisms, same nihilistic attitude, same self-denial that they’re not abandoned, same slurry of putdowns and comebacks, both determinedly dysfunctional, and both wearing the same flannel shirts—the only difference being that one wears a KISS T-shirt underneath while the other wears a Twisted Sister shirt.
After reciting their mantras, they start in on each other, projecting their own insecurities on each other, but since they’re the same, it’s like talking into a mirror. Recycled toilet jokes, cuss words, and disses roll out of their mouths and fall on deaf ears like water disappearing into the desert sand. My favorite line comes as they convince each other that they were supposed to walk back into town all along, because it’s part of the “ritual,” that it’s “a guy thing,” and then they get pissed when the other starts to follow. Ray Wilcox, in the KISS shirt, starts in on some tirade about being cool and Joshua Pollock, in the Twisted Sister shirt, snidely says, “I’d rather be seen walking around town naked with six to ten pounds of salmon strapped around my neck.” The dialogue in the film is like a crude poetry wrapped in nerd machismo. Their ruthless berating is what gets them into trouble and what got them where they are. Even when a drunk chick rolls up and offers them a ride in her car or on her lap, they can’t help but put down the other with lines like he’s a “seat wetter, and dumb breath, ass-wipe, butt-scratch cheesemaster, and a goddamn toilet eater.” The slang and curses in the film are really things of beauty.
The production was as troubled as the characters, with the camera breaking down immediately into production forcing the crew to drive back home 400 miles to get it fixed. Once they got back out to the desert the boom operator passed out due to heat exhaustion, the lead actress was so bored she just got wildly inebriated, and to top it off the car broke down. It’s punk, it’s rough around the edges, it’s almost seven minutes long, and it’s ready for you. Don’t leave it standing out in the cold.
Danny has made over 20 films in 25 years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. His films fall into the fringes of American cinema, huddled up closely with other low-budget indies from John Waters, George Kuchar, Todd Rohal, and Richard Linklater. Like those filmmakers, he blends low and highbrow ideas into something entirely familiar and utterly unique. A champion of the DIY aesthetic and punk ethos, his films aim capture the same energy inherent in those styles. He’s taken his films on the road and screened them out of the back of his truck, but has been recognized by the industry as well—his work is played at dozens of festivals, at the MoMA in NYC, in mortuaries in Baltimore and on the Independent Film Channel. He’s the man.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.
Previously – 'Chonto'