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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: N/A
• Commentary by Tom Wopat, John Schneider, and Catherine Bach on “Double Dukes”
• The Dukes Story: Building a Legend
Aside from the adulation of millions of Chewers, one of the fringe benefits of my recent review of The Dukes of Hazzard – Season 3 (here) afforded to me was that the set came with a free ticket for the new feature film remake (Devin’s review here). So a few weeks ago I fringed myself into the theatre to see it. My take on the thing? Pretty much what I expected: dumb, yet not altogether unwatchable. I wasn’t looking for it to be great, and it wasn’t, but I think all in all it was a fairly faithful adaptation of the show – especially the first season. If you liked the show, there’s a chance – albeit slim – that you would have liked the movie. If you reviled the show, this flick’s not going to change your mind.
So now I’m back with The Dukes of Hazzard – Season 4. And how did Season 4 differ from Season 3? That’s easy. It didn’t. Same lame-brained schemes by Boss Hogg to get the Dukes. Same car-crunching jumps by the General. Same Daisy Dukes (yeah, baby). So how do I come up with an interesting review for this thing without repeating myself? Simple, compare the show to the flick (which I did for Battlestar Galactica here, so I guess I am repeating myself anyway).
From left to right: Forgotten, fragged, Kent, croaked, Broadway, fat, ex-con(gress), stuffed, same…
PLOTLINE: For Dukes, this term is pretty much an oxymoron. Initially, the show was about trying to portray the Southern lifestyle with the setting being the honest Duke family constantly clashing with the corrupt local authorities led by Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco Coltrane. If you look at the first season of the show, especially the pilot, “One Armed Bandits,” this was done and done fairly well. Well before Season 4 began, however, the show became about the General Lee and how they could work an insane jump into an episode. Aside from that, the show went completely one-note by having Boss Hogg frame the Dukes some kind of way with his scheme of the week – some of them ludicrously bad. As for the movie, the plot wasn’t Mamet to be sure. Hell, it was barely above Uwe Boll. But it did boil down the essence of what Dukes of Hazzard started out being and should have been for its entire run.
Luke: "You just fart?"
Bo: "Maybe now’s not the best time…"
BO and LUKE: To find out just how much John Schneider and Tom Wopat did with the material they were handed week in and week out for seven seasons, just take a look at the atrocious Season 5 that featured a little fiasco known as Coy and Vance Duke. Schneider and Wopat had a natural chemistry with each other that helped sustain the show even in the worst episodes. The very fact that the producers tried to repeat the formula with two look-alikes and failed miserably proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Both actors were likeable in the roles and it just worked (don’t ask me how). Many a time, Schneider and Wopat were handed crap, and their characters were eventually turned into caricatures, but occasionally they did get to explore them a bit more in episodes like “Carnival of Thrills,” “Duke vs. Duke,” and “One-Armed Bandits.”
As for the Seann William Scott and Johnny Knoxville, they got to put their own spin on the characters, but they were just about as one-note as in the TV show. Scott’s Bo was a scruffy, race-obsessed gearhead who would just as much nail the General as drive it. Knoxville’s Luke was a poonhound. Together they acted like they were on Knoxville’s former show, Jackass, pulling pranks on each other and doing stupid shit all in the name of having fun. They didn’t bring the depth (such as it was) that Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson brought to Starsky and Hutch, because Dukes wasn’t a parody like that movie was (at least not intentionally). I didn’t mind what Knoxville and Scott did, but there’s only one set of Duke boys.
The hazzard version of Lo-jack was a bit more hands-on…
DAISY: Back in the day, aside from Wonder Woman, Catherine Bach as Daisy was it, man. The hottest thing on TV, hands down. Catherine Bach today…well…lets just say that time is not a friendly thing and leave it at that. Now, Jessicas are ruling the earth in terms of hotness. Biel in Stealth, Alba in Sin City, and Simpson in the Dukes remake. I know all the jokes about Simpson: million dollar body, ten cent brain. But if you can believe it, she actually does the best job in the movie in terms of acting. Who woulda thunk it? But then again, all she had to do was speak in a Southern accent and look like human dynamite, both of which she pulls off. I liked her work here and her Daisy has got me wanting to see more of this version than going back to see the original.
UNCLE JESSE: Holy shit, was Willie Nelson even in this movie? And if he was, was he watchable? Even for an instant? Denver Pyle brought a bit of nobility to the original, even if he was unbelievably stupid at times. Christ, how many times could he be suckered by Boss Hogg and how many times did he turn the other cheek when he should have smacked that fat bastard in the mouth or let him rot in prison like he deserved? Even when I was a kid I couldn’t stand how ridiculously saintly Jesse was, but today, oh Lord did Nelson blow ass. And he is no Waylon Jennings when it comes to the theme song, not by a long shot.
In addition to the "Daisy Dukes," Catherine Bach’s other, lesser-known contribution to Dukes fashion was the frontless bikini…
BOSS HOGG: Even though he had nearly 120 movie and television credits in a career that spanned nearly forty years, Sorrell Booke is only going to be remembered for Boss Hogg – and deservedly so. He was easily the most memorable character from the show and his rapport with James Best as Rosco, although devolving into caricature slapstick by the end of the Dukes run, was the comedic heart of the show. I enjoyed his work in the role, although no one was more afflicted by the stupid elements of the show’s plot contrivances than Boss Hogg. Then there’s Burt Reynolds in the remake. To harp on Reynolds here is to beat a dead horse. Actually it’s to beat on bottle of Elmer’s after the horse had made a trip to the glue factory. Another forgettable performance. He was actually better in Striptease.
Wopat: Good to, you know, work with…
Schneider: Yeah, me too…
Wopat: So we’ll, like, you know uh, see ya…
Schenider: Around, you know…
Mayer: So let’s do lunch sometime…
ROSCO: Like Booke, James Best is only going to be remembered for Rosco P. Coltrane – and again deservedly so. He and Booke were the Laurel and Hardy of Dukes, although nowhere in their league, let’s make that very clear. Still, you come up with another character like Best’s Rosco in the pantheon of TV and I’ll be shocked. Again, another victim of the inane plots used in the show, Best’s Rosco actually started out a bit like M.C. Gainey’s badass version of the remake: a bitter sheriff who got screwed out of his pension and said fuck it to the straight and narrow. But like Hogg he quickly morphed into a slapstick idiot who couldn’t arrest somebody if they were already in the jail cell. But he was plenty memorable. Gainey didn’t have much to go on here. He was mostly the muscle behind Reynolds’ Boss Hogg and didn’t get to show too much of what we’ve come to expect in such movies as Breakdown and Con Air.
Needless to say, the first version of the General Lee had to be re-thought a bit…
ENOS and CLETUS: Sonny Shroyer and Rick Hurst in the original, Michael Weston and Jack Polick in the remake. There’s really nothing to compare here. Weston and Polick were barely in the remake. Shroyer was pretty likeable as the true-hearted Enos in the original, but he was just as one-note as any of the other original characters. Hurst as Cletus was a pale imitation that brought nothing as his replacement. And God help me I even watched Enos’ eponymous spin-off back in the day.
COOTER: If you didn’t like Cooter Davenport then you simply don’t like good ole’ boys (*cough rednecks cough*). He could fix anything on wheels, looked like he crawled out of a sewer and always reminded us that he was crazy but he wasn’t dumb. Ben Jones as Cooter was a great sidekick to the Duke Boys. A reliable go-to guy when the Dukes were in trouble and even occasionally got a little focus put on him. In the remake, the most misused character was David Koechner as Cooter. A brand new character, Skeev (Kevin Heffernan) had more to do than Cooter, so where’s the logic in that? No reason that Cooter couldn’t have been adapted to fulfill both roles. If Heffernan had portrayed Cooter, using character elements that he did for Skeev, this might have been closer. Cooter should have been Skeev instead of an afterthought.
No! There’s only one General Lee! They didn’t destroy it every episode!
(Sticks fingers in ears)
Nope, there’s only one! I can’t hear you! LALALALALALALALALA….
GENERAL LEE: Well, since it’s the same car, you would think that it’s a wash. But actually, the remake’s General Lee had more personality than the original’s. At first, it’s a junker with a bad homemade paintjob and you can tell that Bo has driven the shit out of it. Then it’s pimped out (ridiculously fast by the way) into a mean Mopar mofo. And the thing is, when it’s damaged, like when Bo rams a couple of cop cars, it actually stays damaged. The original’s General would perform an impossible jump, get pancaked, then come out looking like a show car. Don’t get me wrong, the jumps in the remake are just as insane, but the car looked like it had been through hell afterwards.
And to briefly touch on a side issue involving the General Lee, the controversy of the Stars and Bars on the roof, my thinking is this: you either love the flag or you wipe your ass with it. Lot of history behind that flag – most of it bad – and I’m certainly not going to solve the issue here in this pittance of a review. But if I’ve got to give an opinion (and of course I do), I say give the Stars and Bars to the Palestinians so they can burn a flag worthy of it when they protest America every week. Throw some Old Glory on the top of the Dodge and be done with it.
"Picard to Riker. Have you made contact with the local inhabitants yet?"
"Riker to Picard, stand by…"
BALLADEER: Couldn’t tell you who did the job for the movie, but there’s no way they were ever going to replace Waylon Jennings.
HAZZARD COUNTY: When Dukes originally began, the show was shot in Georgia, and Hazzard had some geography to it. But then they moved the whole shebang to Hollywood and the backlot hell that they shot it on for the rest of the show’s run. The movie got back to how it should be and Hazzard actually looked like someplace you could visit instead of one of those faux Russian “Americatowns” from the ‘50s that the KGB used to train their agents to impersonate us. Boss Hogg was going to strip mine the remake’s Hazzard. A better plot would have been to strip mine the original show’s backlot instead.
The most unusual Dukes guest performance was when the Crypt Keeper stopped by for a number…
STUNTS: I seriously doubt you’re going to find many shows that pulled off the car stunts that the original show did. Anytime you saw the General Lee jumping something, you can be assured that the Charger they used for that stunt was history. They had those things jumping rivers, trains, barns, you name it. This was of course before the producers decided to go cut costs and go to miniature cars (I’m still trying to block that out of my mind). The movie had some impressive stunts as well, particularly when the General jumped onto the freeway and the mad dash of the road rally with the cop cars in hot pursuit. And plenty of Chargers met their end there as well. But the show did pretty much all of that stuff before, and did it for a much longer period of time.
TONE: Finally, there’s the tone of the original and that of the remake. The original basically insulted your intelligence with touchy feely goodness that was so saccharine as to put you into a diabetic coma. The Dukes were the salts of the earth and Boss and Rosco were the softest bad guys in TV history. The remake got the Dukes back to their moonshining, hell-raising ways and they even cussed. And Boss Hogg was a legit bad guy and you absolutely didn’t want to mess with Gainey’s Rosco. In other words, these people in the remake could actually exist….
FINAL TALLY: ORIGINAL 8, REMAKE 5. So it appears that the original still reigns supreme…if that’s saying anything. No tie bullshit this time. If you’re picking up this set, some of the better episodes to be on the lookout for are “Miss Tri-Counties,” where Daisy competes in a beauty and mechanics pageant of all things; and the two-parter, “10 Million Dollar Sheriff,” where Rosco inherits ten million dollars, pimps out with a Rolls Royce sheriff’s car and hires the incomparable William Smith to get rid of the Duke Boys.
When I used to envision this moment in my fantasies, Uncle Jessie was wearing something see-through…
If there’s one flaw in Season 4 it’s that by this point in the show’s run, there’s a glaring retread of plot ideas from previous episodes and even subsequent episodes later in the season. For example, the episode, “Goodbye, General Lee,” where Boss Hogg has Luke hypnotized to want to get rid of the General Lee echoes a little too much the Season 3 episode, “My Son, Bo Hogg,” where Boss took advantage of an amnesiac Bo and made him think he was his son so that he would make a dangerous moonshine run for him. Another couple of Season 4 episodes, “Bad Day in Hazzard” and “Dukes in Danger” dealt with the exact same concept of having criminals take all of the Dukes and Boss and Roscoe hostage in order to fulfill their plot, be it looking for valuables or escaping the law. And the episode, “Hughie Hogg Strikes Again,” featured no less than the third go-round with Boss’ evil nephew Hughie Hogg, who appeared in two Season 3 episodes, and showcased the trouble he ends up causing the Dukes.
Still, by Season 4, the show was on autopilot in terms of formula and was still in the meat of the better episodes during its entire run. It was also the last full season before the appearance of the other Duke Boys, which we’ll save for the Season 5 rant. Bo and Luke didn’t stay away very long, but everybody pretty much knows that that’s when the show jumped the shark and just wasn’t quite as good as anymore. Seasons 6 and 7 didn’t break much new ground after that and in fact the shows went down in quality due to budget cuts and the wearing thin of the formula. So once again, if you loved Dukes of Hazzard, Season 4 is still part of the Golden Age of the show…before the dark times that laid ahead. It pretty much comparable to Season 3, so it also rates a -
7.1 out of 10
Although Bach was listening to Orbison, secretly she was longing for Fett…
Pretty much comparable to that of Season 3 also. Stock footage, look goes down. Catherine Bach or insane car jump, score goes up. Of course by Season 4 we’d pretty much already seen it all.
7.3 out of 10
Let’s see, General’s Dixie horn? Check. Yea-hoos? Check. Crunching metal of destroyed cars? Check. Scary ‘80s guest Country performances? Check. It all sounds fine.
7.2 out of 10
Compared with Season 3, there’s not as much goodies this time around. There is another cast commentary from the three major stars on “Double Dukes,” but it’s not presented in “DukesVision” this time around (video commentary) which is a bit of a letdown from the previous offering.
But there’s another good 30 minute documentary, The Dukes Story: Building the Legend, where creator Gy Waldron, Wopat, Schneider and Bach reminisce on how they built the show into a monster hit and how close they all were. This revisited a lot of material covered in the Season 3 documentary, Dukes Family Tree, but it was still a fairly good watch. There were a couple of features from the previous offering, namely Bo, Luke and Daisy: The Stars Reminisce, that were absent from this one. I didn’t miss them a bit because they were about the stars rambling on unhearsed or unscripted. But for an entire season TV box set, the offerings here are rather paltry.
4.6 out of 10
"So who’s this guy Cousin Zed wants us to meet?"
"I don’t know, Gimp somebody…"
Where the &*#$^ is Daisy?
I knew this artwork was coming a couple months ago when I was preparing Season 3. If they have more of the old publicity shots of the three main stars looking young and hot and country all over (Seasons 1 and 3), that’s good artwork for these sets. These Photoshop retreads (Seasons 2 and 4) blow. This is the worst cover art of the four sets by far.
3.6 out of 10