Written by Melkonian and Rich Wilkes, and directed by Melkonian (who would later write and direct 1995's The Jerky Boys flick), the film is a low budget look at high school life in the late 1970s and the social dilemmas confronted by those in that world. Perhaps its most important lesson: Beware of lasers striking you at Blue Oyster Cult rock shows. Released one year after Dazed and Confused, The Stoned Age still has a nice charm to it, in that way that some indie flicks of the early 1990s still do, despite the passage of so many years.
The plot: Hubbs (Bradford Tatum) and Joe (Michael Kopelow) are two burnouts looking for something to do on a weekend night. They ride around in Hubbs' vehicle, dubbed the "Blue Torpedo," which has a large flying eyeball painted on its side. Armed with only a bag of "skankweed" and a huge bottle of Schnapps ("The Schnappster!"), they scour the town for parties and chicks. An alpha-male burnout bully, Hubbs takes for granted his friendship with Joe, who is often the object of insults by Hubbs. Joe, for his part, is a far more sensitive soul, especially after a bizarre experience he had at a recent Blue Oyster Cult concert. It appears that during the solo of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," a laser shone directly upon him, at which point "everything got kind of weird" when he had a vision of a "huge gnarly eyeball." Yikes.
The cardinal sin in this world is to be a "worm," namely, one who pilfers from another the opportunity to pursue "chicks." You see, information about the existence and location of single females is great currency. Rumor gets out that Crump's Brother (known by no other name in the film), recently released from jail, has located "some chicks." Tack (Clifton Collins, Jr.), an acne-plagued deadbeat, wanders off with this information, but ultimately alerts Hubbs and Joe, who ditch Tack and make their way to the home where the chicks are staying, which happens to be near "the old Frankie Avalon home," a convenient landmark. This irks Tack, who spends the rest of the film attempting to regain possession of the chicks.
Hubbs and Joe find the two chicks: the blonde Lanie (Renee Griffin), who multiple characters comment looks like the girl on a Scorpions album cover, and the dour brunette Jill (China Kantner) who is, at best, unappreciative of the presence of the two deadbeats at her father's home. Madcap hijinks ensue as Hubbs and Joe first attempt to buy liquor for Lanie, who is apparently accustomed to more adventurous suitors than they. Then, the four of them trek across town to a party held at the home of jock Jimmy Muldoon (Jake Busey), who admits Lanie and Jill but bars Hubbs and Joe from the party. When that affair is busted by the cops, the foursome escape back to the girls' home, only to be besieged by Tack and his cadre of beer swilling friends, and later, the very angry Crump's Brother who, it turns out, only claims the chicks because he saw them first and not because he actually knew them.
And then, after all that, Jill's father arrives. Hubbs and Joe can't catch a break.
Hubbs spends much of the film attempting to woo the traditionally hot Lanie, who ultimately accepts his bedroom advances. (Nudity alert!) Joe also spends much of the film pursuing Lanie, who rejects him, but who also causes him to realize that sometimes the girl who doesn't look like she belongs on a heavy metal album cover is the right one. He also owes this epiphany to his being hit by the laser, an experience Joe revisits often during the film. The bookish and demure Jill, initially stand-offish, warms up to Joe, and by the end of the film, they realize their mutual attraction for each other. (Joe scores major points by praising her intelligence when standing up to Jill's angry father, who seems to wish his daughter was more like Lanie.).
Located via his Facebook account, Melkonian was kind enough to submit to a brief email interview about the film and his experiences in bringing it to life.
1) Looking back from 2010, what do you think of 1994's The Stoned Age and its place in film history?
It is hard to say what place The Stoned Age has in film history. To me, I like to think it is in league with films like American Graffitti or Dazed And Confused, but since it was made for so small a budget and never really promoted, it is hard to say how many people even know the film. I honestly think it does a good job of capturing and satirizing the attitudes of a certain time period and subculture, and is actually funny, which makes it worthy of some note. The fact that it has a loyal albeit small following even 16 years later makes me think that it does deserve a place along with those other films.2) What were some of the challenges you faced in making the film?
The tough thing was trying to get it made at all as an R rated teen comedy and with me as a first time director. My writing partner (Rich Wilkes) and I had a lot of interest from studios for the script, but since it was before American Pie or Superbad had cleared the way for R rated teen comedies, the studios wanted to make it a PG. So, we ended up making the film for a tiny budget so that we could do it with all the language, sex and drug references which were important to capture that world authentically.3) I've read that although the year the film is set is not stated, you had 1978 in mind. Thus, it's been sixteen years since the film was released in 1994, and the film was set sixteen years before that. What do you think became of the characters shown in the film?
Hah! In some ways to me the characters seem so much part of the world of that time and the film, it's hard for me to imagine what they might being doing today. I would assume Joe, Hubbs and Jill would have ended up okay and been productive members of society like many of us who might have been rowdy in our youth. Things may not have gone so well for Tack and Lanie, but I hope they turned out okay. The 70s were an odd time to grow up with all of the drugs and debauchery, but most people I know no matter how off the deep end they were back then turned out okay.Until a few days ago, when I began preparations for this post, I had not seen this movie since 2000. (Get this: The film can be streamed on Netflix.). It has a some amusing moments and catchphrases, and there is always a charm to a film made at this budgetary level. Much of the humor and fun comes from the characters themselves, their exploits, social etiquette, and slang. (A favorite moment: One character is almost offended when offered a regular sized can of the fictitious beer, Ox 45, because it is not a "tall."). For a low budget flick with a cast of unknowns, it works, and sometimes, even just the characters repeating phrases like "Tack's Chicks," "Crump's Brother's Chicks," or variations of the insult "worm" are enough to provoke a laugh.
For a film called The Stoned Age, there isn't much marijuana. Joe has a bag of "skankweed" with which he attempts to seduce Lanie in a hot tub, although she rejects it for its poor quality. Joe ultimately smokes it with Lanie, but despite it's title, the film is not really a pot comedy.
So, what became of the cast? As the blogger Darsh has noted at the HappyOtter blog, few of the actors and actresses in the film achieved any level of success after 1994; only Clifton Collins, Jr. truly remains active in the profession. For a film set in the 1970s, it's odd that there were no references to Jefferson Airplane, especially since Jill was played by China Kantner, the daughter of singer Grace Slick and vocalist Paul Kantner. (In fact, an infant China Kantner appeared on the cover of the 1971 LP Sunfighter by Slick and Paul Kantner, who were doing a solo effort away from Jefferson Airplane.). Social media alert: Michael Kopelow, who played Joe, has a MySpace Profile and plays in the band, Captain Pants. And finally, behold, the trailer for the film: