Filmsite Movie Review
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
The Story (continued)

The Dude's Nightmare - "Gutterballs":

The nightmarish, psychedically-hallucinogenic dream, a film-within-a-film, was viewed with Kenny Rogers' and the First Edition's trippy-sounding "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)."

The first surrealistic image after a black screen was similar to a lunar eclipse (a sliver of light) - it was the start of a sexually-suggestive sequence of bowling pins and balls:

  • a vertical white bowling pin emerged from behind a shiny bowling ball and traveled or sailed to the right
  • it entered between two bowling balls
  • another horizontally-positioned, upright, phallically-erect bowling pin rose up between the two balls
  • the two balls knocked the pin over

The Dude's bowling-themed dream was presented as a Jackie Treehorn Presentation, titled Gutterballs, a Busby-Berkeley inspired, fantasy musical dream sequence, starring the Dude and Maude Lebowski (identified with title cards).

[Note: There were design elements in the production that resembled director Thornton Freeland's musical comedy Whoopee! (1930) - Busby Berkeley's first choreographed film - including the "Stetson Hat" scene of the camera shooting between the long legs of western-outfitted, cowboy-hatted chorine-dancers, the Goldwyn Girls, who were hopping along.]

A miniaturized version of the Dude danced (using Marty's style of performance art-dancing) into a long concrete corridor (similar to Maude's warehouse-loft entry), casting a giant shadow. The wide-eyed Dude was wearing a sleeveless, torn shirt and waist repair-belt that resembled the outfit of the cable repairman (played by Uli or Karl Hungus) in the porn flick Logjammin'.

A Saddam Hussein (Jerry Haleva) personage stood behind a rental counter in front of an immense cubby-holed, skyscraper-sized stack of neatly-categorized bowling shoes by size. The rack of shoes ascended up to the sky, capped by a large full moon.

[Note: A man resembling Saddam tended the rental counter at the bowling alley. The name 'Saddam Hussein' was also obliquely referenced in the Stranger's voice-over and in President George H. W. Bush's TV speech in the opening.]

The Dude gazed up at the shoes at the counter, as Saddam (with his name embroidered on the left breast pocket) turned and offered him a pair of shoes (one-half silver and one-half gold) for rent - he had an ecstatic look on his face. With the shoes on his feet, the Dude danced down a long flight of stairs (with a black and white checkerboard or harlequin pattern, the same tile pattern found in Mr. Lebowski's hallway) that also ascended up toward a starry night sky (with star decorations resembling those at the bowling alley).

At the foot of the stairs on a large checkerboarded floor, Maude stood surrounded or encircled by over two dozen chorus dancers with bowling-pin cut-out headdresses and matching mini-skirt outfits, who began to perform an intricately-choreographed Busby Berkeley-styled dance (with a top view).

[Note: The flamboyant head-dresses were similar to the gigantic, phallic bananas on the heads of dancers in the number "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" that featured Brazilian star Carmen Miranda in the Technicolored musical The Gang's All Here (1943), directed by Busby Berkeley.]

On the other side of the dance floor, a bowling lane extended outward into blackness. Maude was dressed as a Viking or Valkyrie Queen, complete with a white-horned helmet covering her long braided pigtails, a bowling-ball brassiere, a three-pronged metal trident in her right hand, and brass-colored body armor. [A bronze female statue holding a trident had been briefly glimpsed in Lebowski's mansion, standing next to the locked safe.]

With one hand, the Dude held up over his head a shiny bowling ball with black and red swirls on its surface. He stood behind Maude, pressed against her, and caressed her arm. The other chorines were seated on the floor around them, with their splayed legs askew (similar to Maude's painting). He assisted Maude in proper form and guided her follow-through technique in holding the bowling ball for a few practice swings. The dancers pranced in two lines down both sides of the bowling lane, but then straddled the single lane with their long legs - transforming the lane into a tunnel through their legs, with the 10 pins seen far in the distance.

[Note: This part of the dream sequence was an obvious reference to 42nd Street (1933) and its choreographed number by Busby Berkeley of the song "Young and Healthy", with a tracking shot between dancers' legs.]

The Dude helped Maude release (actually toss) the ball through the corridor, although the Dude himself was transformed into the torpedo-like, levitating ball (positioned face-down with his arms to his side) sailing between their legs. As he flew, levitated or glided down the lane, his body twisted half-way around with a barrel-roll maneuver, now positioned face-up as he smiled and looked up the dresses of the chorines, before he performed another twist back to his original position. At the end of the lane, he approached and struck the 10-pin configuration - sending the pins flying into the blackness.

Another topless female dropped in slow-motion from the blackness into the frame - (similar to the half-naked woman at the Treehorn's beach party blanket-toss), and then descended out of view.

The three German nihilists (each in full-body stretch pair of red spandex tights) menacingly appeared in the darkness - running, advancing and holding giant pairs of scissors with which to cut off the Dude's 'Johnson' - as they had threatened earlier.

[See earlier note about the painting or wall hanging in Maude's studio.]

Appearing terrified of castration and the loss of his masculinity, the Dude turned and ran - performing arm pumps or strokes to get away.

Apprehended and Taken to the Malibu Police Station:

The light dimmed, but the Dude was then illuminated by car headlights, as he fled (again doing the breast-stroke to get away) onto a busy highway (the PCH or Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu) at night-time. A police squad car with flashing lights pulled up - and the Dude was apprehended. He found himself in the back seat, strangely singing the lyrics reflecting the theme of the 1960s TV show Branded - about a lone survivor who was innocent and on the run:

"He was innocent. But the charge was true. And they say he ran away. BRANDED!"

The Dude was roughly tossed into the Malibu Police Chief Kohl's (Leon Russom) desk inside his office. The only ID in the Dude's wallet was his Ralph's Value Club Card. The Chief also discovered the "Treehorn" note-pad pencil sketch (of the man with an erect penis) folded up (not crumpled) inside. He chastised the Dude: "You don't know s--t, Lebowski," and explained how the Dude had been ejected from Treehorn's garden-beach party for being drunk and abusive. The Dude demanded representation by a lawyer: "I want Bill Kunstler, man, or uhmm, or Ron Kuby."

[Note: Kunstler was notorious in the 1970s as a radical civil rights activist attorney. Ron Kuby had interned under Kunstler and served as his legal partner from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.]

He was obviously confused when he reversed his words: "Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man." The militant Police chief was unimpressed by the Dude, and kept stressing the sanctity of the "nice quiet little beach community" exemplified by esteemed resident Treehorn - where orgies and porn existed!:

"Mr. Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town, You don't draw s--t, Lebowski. Now we got a nice quiet little beach community here, and I aim to keep it nice and quiet. So let me make something plain. I don't like you suckin' around bothering our citizens, Lebowski. I don't like your jerk-off name, I don't like your jerk-off face, I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off. Do I make myself clear?"

[Note: This was one of several recreated scenes that paid homage to North by Northwest (1959). In Hitchcock's film, intoxicated protagonist Cary Grant - in another case of mistaken identity - was arrested and interrogated in a Glen Cove police station after leaving a fancy mansion, and the officers refused to believe his tale of abduction, espionage, and attempted murder. An even more indicative copy-cat or parallel scene was when Cary Grant rubbed a pencil over an impression left on the next sheet of notepad paper to reveal an address: 1212 North Michigan Avenue - similar to the Dude.]

The Chief threw his coffee mug at the distracted Dude and hit him directly in the forehead, and it upended his chair. The aggression prompted the Dude to retaliate and call the chief a "f--kin' fascist." The "deadbeat" was ordered to stay out of Malibu and kicked on the floor as the Chief shouted at him - "Keep your ugly f--kin' gold-brickin' ass out of my beach community!"

The Dude complained as he was driven back to his bungalow by a black Cab Driver (Ajgie Kirkland) - who was incensed when the Dude asked for the car radio channel (playing the Eagles' "Peaceful Easy Feeling" 1972 hit song) to be changed: "I had a rough night, and I hate the f--kin' Eagles, man." The Cab driver screeched to a halt by the side of the road. He hauled or dragged the Dude out of the backseat, and left him standing there.

[Note: The cab dropped him near the corner of Duquesne Ave. and Jefferson Blvd. in Culver City.]

The Sudden Appearance of Bunny:

As the Dude stood there pondering what to do next, a red sports car convertible, a 1989 Jaguar XJ-S, zoomed by carrying Bunny Lebowski, with her California license plate reading: "LAPIN" (translated from the French, 'rabbit'). She was loudly and wildly singing along to her radio playing "Viva Las Vegas" -- with a significant excerpt from the lyrics:

"There's a thousand pretty women waitin' out there, And they're all livin' devil may care, And I'm just the devil with love to spare, So Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas..."

A close-up of her two feet (on the clutch and accelerator) wearing open-toed red sandals revealed that her painted digits were all intact. This was clear evidence that she hadn't been kidnapped.

A Sperm Donation and Post-Coital Talk With Maude:

The Dude warily and cautiously entered his bungalow, with the door ajar. He swore when he saw everything had been ransacked - presumably by Treehorn's two thugs. As he walked into his trashed living room, he tripped over his own useless 2x4 plank that he had nailed into the hardwood floor to prevent intruders. From behind him, Maude emerged wearing his brown robe (from his floor's POV, she was upside down). She opened and dropped the robe to the floor, revealing her nakedness underneath, as she emotionlessly implored him: "Jeffrey...Love me." The screen went black again.

In the dark, Maude's voice was heard as she asked about the Dude's past background: "Tell me about yourself, Jeffrey." He responded with a drawl: "Not much to tell." As he struck a match, his bedroom was illuminated and Nina Simone's 1962 hit tune: "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" played. After sex, the Dude and Maude (nude under a sheet) laid naked in bed together. The Dude lit a joint in a roach clip as he told her that in his radical youthful days, he was an original author of the Port Huron Statement, and a member of the Seattle Seven, and beyond that, a brief stint as a roadie for the heavy metal band Metallica:

"I uhm, I was, uh, one of the authors of the Port Huron Statement. Uh, the original Port Huron Statement...not the compromised second draft. Uh, and then I, uh, you ever hear of the Seattle Seven?...That was me. And uhm, there were six other guys. Uhh, and then, uh, a music business briefly...a roadie for Metallica...'Speed of Sound' Tour....Bunch of assholes. And then, uh, you know, a little of this, a little of that. Uh, my career's slowed down a little lately."

[Note: As the Dude allegedly claimed in a brief autobiographical summary of his past, he was a co-author of the first draft of the political manifesto - the 1962 Port Huron (MI) Statement - of the radical activist group, led by Tom Hayden, known as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Seattle Seven referred to 7 members (6 males and one female) of the radical, anti-war early 1970s group known as the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF). The mention of a 'Speed of Sound' album by Metallica was fictional.]

When Maude asked what he did for recreation, he neatly summarized his daily routine:

"Oh, the usual. Bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback."

He theorized that Treehorn's thugs had wrecked his place looking for her father's money, while he was reported to the police and kept away. She corrected him - it was the Foundation's money that her father had raided, she insisted. As she spoke, she assumed a yogic position to increase her chances of conception and insure pregnancy. She raised her pelvis, placed a hand on each knee-cap, and pulled her knees in toward her chest. The Dude mixed a White Russian for himself as he spouted his theory about the location of the money, and admitted that he was coping with all of his "complicated" problems with drugs:

"Oh, Larry Sellers, this high-school kid. Real f--kin' brat. You know, this is a very complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins, lotta outs. Uh, you know. Fortunately I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, uh, limber, you know. Very f--kin' close to your father's money."

But he had to be corrected when he again mentioned that it was her "father's money." Maude clarified about where her father's wealth had come from - with a major bombshell:

"Father doesn't have any...The wealth was all Mother's."

The deceased Mrs. Lebowski had left all of her wealth to the family's charity foundation. According to her, Lebowski was a fraudulent and penniless loser, and had proven to be a terrible company executive. Although avant-garde artiste Maude seemed to be anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, and anti-materialism, she was in charge of protecting her family's money:

"We did let him run one of the companies, briefly, but he didn't do very well at it....He helps administer the charities now, and I give him a reasonable allowance. He has no money of his own. I know how he likes to present himself. Father's weakness is vanity. Hence the slut."

In panic, the Dude spit out his White Russian when she told him she was trying to conceive after his insemination ("What did you think this was all about? Fun and games? I want a child"). But then, Maude emphatically stated that their sexual encounter was only a one-off sperm donation that she needed for procreation. She explained how she had no interest in having a conventional relationship, marriage or partnership with him (or anyone), and didn't wanted him involved in the future child's upbringing: "I don't want a partner. In fact, I don't want the father to be someone I have to see socially, or who'll have any interest in raising the child himself." (The Dude realized the reason for his visit to her doctor - and for having to pull down his shorts - to validate his potency by checking his prostate.)

Suddenly, the Dude had another 'light-bulb' inspiration or epiphany: "So, your father - oh yeah, I get it! Yeah, Yeah!...Oh man, my thinking about this case had become very uptight. Yeah. Your father!..." but wouldn't explain further.

He hurriedly phoned Walter to alert him to an "emergency," but his Jewish friend kept claiming that "Erev Shabbos" prevented him from driving, or from even picking up the phone unless it was an emergency: ("That's why I picked up the phone").

[Note: This was still the same very-long Tuesday evening that began with Marty's performance. However, Walter was claiming it was Friday evening - Erev Shabbos.]

The Dude shouted an ultimatum that they had to get to the Lebowski mansion - "WALTER, YOU F--K, WE GOTTA GO TO PASADENA, MAN! COME PICK ME UP OR I'M OFF THE F--KIN' BOWLING TEAM!"

Private Investigator-Sleuth Da Fino:

Outside his bungalow, the Dude noticed the blue VW Beetle that had been tailing him, parked a half-block away by the curb. He confronted the bald, fat mustached man trying to hide behind a newspaper, and angrily ordered him out of the vehicle: "Why are you following me around?" The individual tried to calm the Dude by claiming he was a 'fellow detective' or "Brother Shamus." The Dude misunderstood and queried back: "Like an Irish monk?"

[Note: The slang term "shamus" (possibly Yiddish in origin) was a term often used in hard-boiled detective novels, such as Chandler's 1939 crime story The Big Sleep with PI Philip Marlowe - to which the parody The Big Lebowski owed its comparison. "Shamus" was also very similar in pronunciation to Walter's - and Donny's rantings about "Shabbas/Shammas."]

The man identified himself as Da Fino (Jon Polito) - an Italian "private snoop" or "dick" (all slang words for a PI or private detective) - "Like you, man!" (he assumed that the Dude was also a sleuth). Da Fino said he admired the Dude for his work thus far: "I dig your work. Playing one side against the other -- in bed with everybody -- fabulous stuff, man." He had been hired not by Mr. Lebowski or Jackie Treehorn but by the Knudsens - the Minnesota farm Swedish parents of teen runaway Fawn Knudsen (aka Bunny):

"It's a wandering daughter job. Bunny Lebowski, man. Her real name is Fawn Knudsen. Her parents want her back."

He pulled out two photos: first, a color picture of Fawn as a 16 year-old HS cheerleader from a year earlier.

[Note: 'Fawn' had run away from Minnesota to Los Angeles, where she first hooked up with Jackie Treehorn to shoot porno films in order make a living - a very common occurrence for young starlets.]

A second bleak B/W photo was of the "family farm" on a desolate landscape near Moorhead, MN, directly across the Red River from Fargo, ND [Note: A Coen in-joke.]: ("Ran away about a year ago. The Knudsens told me I should show her this when I found her. It's the family farm. It's outside of Moorhead, Minnesota. They think it'll make her homesick").

[Note: The photo of Bunny's unappealing farm was actually a picture of the Clutter house where the killings occurred in director Richard Brooks' In Cold Blood (1967).]

The Dude quipped: "How are ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm once they've seen Karl Hungus? She's been kidnapped, Da Fino....She's definitely not around." The PI suggested that they work together as a team: "Maybe you and me could pool our resources. Trade information. Professional courtesy...," but the Dude dismissed the request. Walter drove up in his white Sobchak Security company van (with his ex-wife's dog barking at the window), and as the Dude climbed into the van, he tried to differentiate exactly what his relationship was to Maude - that she wasn't his "special lady" but that she was his "f--kin' lady friend" - not much of a difference:

"Stay away from my special lady, from my f--kin' lady friend."

The German Nihilists at the Pancake House:

At a round booth in a Stacks of Pancakes House restaurant, the three German nihilists sat with a fourth very pale and thin individual - Franz's German-speaking girlfriend (LA singer/songwriter Aimee Mann), who had stringy blonde hair, a zebra-striped sleeveless tank top, granny glasses, and jeans.

[Note: The 'pancake house' was actually Dinah’s Family Restaurant at 6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles, built in 1959.]

Uli, Dieter, and the female ordered lingonberry pancakes from a waitress (Jennifer Lamb), while Franz ordered three pigs in a blanket. (Notice at first that the female ordered, in German "Heidelberg Pfannkuchen" (or blueberry pancakes), but her order was improperly translated by Uli as lingonberry pancakes.) While they were ordering, Walter's van was seen driving by in the traffic, viewed through the window.

While they spoke in German to each other, the camera descended down the right leg of the female, with a close-up of the front of her ripped-open black boot, with a bloodied bandage on her toes. (To go along with their plan, she had donated her green nail-polished little toe for amputation.) The three nihilists had faked Bunny's kidnapping (when Uli learned that she went out of town unannounced) so they could extort money from Lebowski.

The Eureka Moment During a Return Drive to the Lebowski Mansion:

While riding back to Lebowski's mansion with Walter, the Dude described his revelation that they had made a number of improper assumptions ("We totally f--ked it up, man!") - the instrumental 1969 song "Stamping Ground" by blind musician Moondog played on the soundtrack:

  1. Although the Pay-Off Scheme Went Badly (and the Kidnappers Ended Up with Walter's Underwear), Lebowski Only Demanded Answers But Didn't Make any Further Demands: ("We f--ked up his pay-off. We got the kidnappers all pissed off, and Lebowski, you know, he yelled at me a lot, but he didn't do anything, huh?")
  2. After Criticizing the Dude for Being an Unemployed Bum, Why Did he Hire Him to Deal with the Kidnappers, Instead of Contacting the Police?: ("If he knows I'm a f--k-up, why does he leave me in charge of gettin' his wife back?")
  3. Lebowski's Two-Fold Intentions Were Obvious - First, When He Heard of the Supposed 'Kidnapping', He Realized That He Could Eliminate His Detested Wife: ("He doesn't f--kin' want her back, man! He's had enough! He no longer digs her! It's all a show...The asshole was hopin' that they would kill her!")
    In a flashback, Lebowski wheeled himself toward Bunny, lazily reading a magazine, and yelled at her.
  4. Second, Lebowski Could Make the Dude a Patsy While He Embezzled A Million Dollars From His Own Foundation, By Giving the Dude An Empty Case, And Absconding with the Ransom Money Himself: ("Why doesn't he give a s--t about his million bucks? I mean, he knows we never handed off his briefcase, but he never asked for it back. The million bucks was never in the briefcase. The briefcase was f--kin' empty, man! You threw out a ringer for a ringer.")
    In a flashback (with thunder claps and lightning), Lebowski put three heavy Pacific Bell telephone book directories into the metal attache case. There was no ransom money in the briefcase, so that's why he never asked for it to be returned. Walter's decoy leather briefcase was seen spinning in the air at the drop-off.

Uncertain that he had been called for "an emergency," Walter was more concerned about his own predicament - that he was breaking the Sabbath and that it wasn't "a matter of life and death." The Dude called out Walter's hypocrisy: "You're not even f--kin' Jewish, man...You're f--kin' Polish Catholic." The Dude didn't accept Walter's claim of converting to Judaism when he married Cynthia, since they divorced five years ago. Walter insisted he was still Jewish regardless of his marital status, and that he was only following in the tradition of another famous Jew - Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax. Both were honoring a Jewish holy day:

Walter: "So, what are you sayin'? When you get divorced, you turn in your library card? You get a new license? You stop being Jewish?...I'm as Jewish as f--king Tevye."
Dude: "Man, you know, it's, it's all a part of your sick Cynthia thing, man. Takin' care of her f--kin' dog. Goin' to her f--kin' synagogue. You're livin' in the f--kin' past."
Walter: "3,000 years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax --YOU'RE GOD-DAMN RIGHT I'M LIVIN' IN THE F--KING PAST!"

[Note: The comparison to the fictional character of Tevye referenced the musical (opening on Broadway in 1964) and movie Fiddler on the Roof (1971) - based upon Sholom Aleichem's Yiddish short story. Tevye was the main character, a milkman, who sang about "Tradition." Walter also argued that he had an extensive Jewish lineage, from the sacred to the profane, stretching "from Moses to Sandy Koufax." Koufax was one of the best and most famous Jewish ballplayers in major league history - playing for the LA Dodgers. The left-handed ace pitcher was well-known for refusing to pitch in the opening game of the World Series in 1965 against the Minnesota Twins, and instead went to the local synagogue to celebrate the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.]

Confronting Mr. Lebowski About the Faked Kidnapping and Embezzlement:

As Walter's van pulled into the Lebowski mansion's driveway, tire treads had scarred the front lawn, and Bunny's crashed red sports-car rested on the edge of a massive stone wall surrounding a water-fountain (again to the tune of "Viva Las Vegas" blaring from her car). They descended a set of steps into the black-and-white checkered hallway where they found Brandt bent down and picking up the discarded clothing of Bunny - who was briefly viewed through French doors prancing around on the outer balcony behind him - totally naked (and probably high on drugs). Brandt nervously told them about Bunny's whereabouts - obviously, she had never been kidnapped:

Brandt: "Visiting friends of hers in Palm Springs. She just picked up and left, never bothered to tell us."
Dude: "Well, I guess the f--king nihilist knew where she was!"
Walter: "Jesus, Dude! She never even kidnapped herself."

They burst into the study where Lebowski bitterly blamed them: "So, she's back. No thanks to you." Both Walter and the Dude wanted to know about the money. The Dude turned the tables and echoed the same question that both Woo and Lebowski had asked him earlier: "Where's the f--kin' money, Lebowski?" Walter stated it differently: "A MILLION BUCKS FROM F--KIN' NEEDY LITTLE URBAN ACHIEVERS! YOU ARE SCUM, MAN!" Walter identified himself to Lebowski: "I'm the guy that's gonna KICK YOUR PHONY GOLD-BRICKIN' ASS!" The Dude was more self-controlled:

"We know the briefcase was f--kin' empty, We know you kept the million bucks for yourself."

Lebowski had his own version of what happened to the money and refused to admit his guilt or responsibility: "You have your story, I have mine. I say I entrusted the money to you, and you stole it." Walter conveniently snapped back with an obvious lie of his own: "AS IF WE WOULD EVER DREAM OF TAKIN' YOUR BULLS--T MONEY!"

The Dude was miffed that he had been treated as a deadbeat slacker and had served as Lebowski's exploited "sap" -- and then admitted that was essentially a deadbeat - as accused

Dude: "You thought that Bunny had been kidnapped and you were f--kin' glad, man. You could use it as an excuse to make some money disappear. All you needed was a sap to pin it on, and you'd just met me. You, you, human paraquat! You figured, oh, here's a loser, you know a, a deadbeat, somebody the square community won't give a s--t about."
Lebowski: "Well, aren't ya?"
Dude: "Well, yeah, but --- "

[Note: "Paraquat" was a very powerful and toxic herbicide (dangerous to both humans and animals) that was sprayed on Mexican marijuana fields by the US government during the 1970s.]

Lebowski ordered both of the "bums" out of his house. On top of all the accusations that were flying (including Lebowski's pretension that he was a "phony dude pretending to be a f--kin' millionaire"), Walter also distrusted that Lebowski was disabled or paralyzed from the waist down ("I've seen a lot of spinals, Dude, and this guy's a fake") - he hoisted up Lebowski by the armpits and as his useless legs dangled in the air and he screamed helplessly (he proved he wasn't a "strong man"), Walter dropped him onto the floor. (It was one of the few times that one of Walter's wild presumptions was completely wrong.) The barking pomeranian began to cheerfully lick Lebowski's neck, but he shoved the dog away.

Premonitions of Donny's Death - More Taunts from 'Jesus':

The Dude's bowling team was back on their lane, at 8 minutes to 8 in the evening. For the first time in the film, an ominous sign, Donny didn't roll a strike - and one pin (the # 8 pin) was left standing, and he stood in disbelief. [Note: It didn't seem to be a coincidence that the three 8's resembled the symbol for infinity, an 8 set vertically, and that Donny would soon be dead.] As Donny sat back down, he shook and wiggled his right hand and arm - a premonition that he was suffering the first signs of a stroke.

At the scoring desk, Walter was conversing with the Dude (who was applying clear nail polish to his fingers), comparing the upcoming desert Iraqi Gulf War to his own fierce, face-to-face guerrilla-combat in the jungles of Vietnam:

"But fighting in desert is very different from fighting in canopy jungle...I mean 'Nam was a foot soldier's war whereas this thing should uh, you know, should be a piece of cake. I mean I had an M16, Jacko, not an Abrams f--kin' tank. Me and Charlie, eyeball to eyeball...That's f--kin' combat. The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy f--kin' adversary... Whereas what we have here, a bunch of fig-eaters, wearin' towels on their heads tryin' to find reverse on a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy f--kin' adversary."

On the next lane over, 'Jesus' (in a blue polyester jump-suit) - although restrained by O'Brien, was furious and yelling at Walter about Jewish Sabbath restrictions on the bowling competition schedule - and that their game had been rescheduled - as part of a psych-out strategy: "What's this 'day of rest' s--t?" Although he was violently accusatory and out-of-control, he then claimed he wasn't really upset: "I don't f--kin' care! It don't matter to Jesus." Before strutting off, he vowed that he would soundly defeat them whenever they competed:

"It's bush league psych-out stuff! Laughable, man! HA HA! I would've f--ked you in the ass Saturday. (He suggestively rotated his hips) I'll f--k you in the ass next Wednesday instead!"

The Nihilists Torch the Dude's Car in the Parking Lot:

As the trio emerged outside into the bowling lane parking lot, Walter was mumbling: "The whole concept of aish. I mean, many learned men have disputed this, but in the 14th century, the Rambam..."

[Note: Walter was attempting to impress them, again, with his knowledge of his Jewish heritage and history.
- "Aish" is the Hebrew word for fire - a premonition of the Dude's burning car
- The "Rambam" was a Hebrew acronym and shorthand name for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (or Maimonides), a very famous Jewish scholar, philosopher, and physician in the 12th century, not the 14th.]

They all stopped short when they discovered that the Dude's car was completely engulfed in flames. The Dude was aghast at this new form of destructive performance art:

"They killed my f--kin' car."

Standing cross-armed in front of the burning car were the three disgruntled, leather-clad German nihilists (l to r) with their motorbikes parked nearby:

  • Franz - holding a boom box with techno-music blaring (their own album?)
  • Uli - with a gleaming sword/saber
  • Dieter

Uli: "We want the money, Lebowski."
Dieter: "Ya, otherwise, we kill the girl."
Franz: Ya, it seems you have forgotten our little deal, Lebowski."

They again threatened to kill the 'kidnapped' girl if they didn't receive the ransom money, but their deception would no longer work: (Dude: "You don't have the f--kin' girl, dips--t. We know you never did"). In a rare moment of concern, Walter comforted Donny that the 'kidnappers' were not Nazis but nihilists (who believed in 'nothing' although they hypocritically wanted the money!) - a very lame pun:

"These men are nihilists. There's nothing to be afraid of."

Uli (persisting): "We don't care. We still want the money, Lebowski, or we'll f--k you up." Walter was ready to single-handedly argue with them and take them on: "Without a hostage, there is no ransom. That's what ransom is. Those are the f--kin' rules." The nihilists incongruously and weakly admitted that it wasn't fair:

Dieter (referring to Franz): "His girlfriend gave up her toe."
Franz: "She thought we'd be getting $1 million dollars."
Uli: "It's not fair."

Walter called them a bunch of "crybabies," and the Dude added: "There never was any money. The Big Lebowski gave me an empty briefcase, so take it up with him, man." Walter was still griping about his lost underwear: "And, I would like my undies back!"

The nihilists gave up on the ransom money idea, and decided to just rob them of their cash (the Dude reached for $5 dollars and Donny for $18 dollars, and the Dude implored Walter: "We're ending this thing cheap"), but Walter refused to be intimidated on principle: ("What's mine is mine!") and urged them on: "Come and get it!...Show me what ya got. Nihilist!...F--kin' dips--t with a nine-toed woman."

During a violent fight and scuffle with them, Walter threw his bowling ball case into Dieter's chest to crush his lung, then viciously bit off one of Uli's ears and spit the bloody appendage into the air. He then punched Uli in the face after calling him an "Anti-Semite!," and knocked out the third nihilist Franz with the boom box.

[Note: Viewed in the parking lot was a billboard advertising "Ben-Hur Auto Repair" - referring to Walter's identification with the famous Jewish hero, Ben-Hur.]

In the aftermath of the assault, Walter was bleeding from a saber cut, but more seriously, the very-frightened Donny was found lying on the ground, not with a gunshot wound, but suffering from a fatal heart-attack. Walter treated him like it was a war-time wound: "Rest easy, good buddy, you're doin' fine. We got help chopperin' in." The scene faded to black, except for the 10 colorful starburst decorations appearing to float on the outside wall of the bowling alley building - a symbol of a 'perfect game' - 10 strikes in a row. As the camera rose up, the soundtrack was playing sounds similar to the whale singing that the Dude listened to in his bathtub.

The Mortuary Meeting With the Funeral Director:

At a mortuary, the Dude and Walter ("the bereaved") met with the conservatively-dressed Funeral Director Francis Donnelly (Warren Keith) in his office. [Note: Notice that when the Director entered, he stood behind his desk with a large desk calendar showing the year as February 1997. Also, he placed his black folder TWICE onto the desk calendar.]

The Dude gazed up at a Bible-verse engraved in gold letters on the wall behind the desk:

AS FOR MAN, HIS DAYS ARE AS GRASS, AS A FLOWER OF THE FIELD. SO HE FLOURISHETH, FOR THE WIND PASSETH OVER IT AND IT IS GONE. PS 103.15

When Walter viewed the credit-card bill in the black folder, he questioned one of the categorized items - the urn: "We don't need it. We're scattering the ashes." The director explained how they had to have the ashes transmitted to them in a container, and that they already had chosen the "most modestly-priced receptacle" cremation urn at $180. Renting the urn, the Dude's suggested idea, was not an option. Walter became agitated and raised his voice: "We're scattering the f--kin' ashes! Look, JUST BECAUSE WE'RE BEREAVED DOESN'T MEAN WE'RE SAPS!...GOD-DAMMIT!! Is there a Ralph's around here?" [Note: It was appropriate that the film began and ended with Ralph's, the Dude's - and Walter's - favorite local grocery store that was an LA institution.]

Donny's Memorial Cremation and Service:

Atop a Pacific Coast elevated, wind-swept cliff side promontory, Walter (with his dogtag and his wedding ring on a chain around his neck) carried Donny's cremated ashes in a cheap, red Folgers Coffee can (with a blue plastic lid - an anachronistic detail because Folgers' lids were usually clear-colored or white).

[Note: The cliffside was at Point Fermin Park (at 807 W Paseo Del Mar in San Pedro), at the southern tip of the ocean-side city of San Pedro - the site on the Palos Verdes coast was known as the Sunken City. The nickname referred to a devastating 1929 landslide that destroyed several exclusive cliff-hugging homes, now an area of graffiti-covered ruins.]

With the Dude at his side before the scattering of the ashes, Walter presented a rambling eulogy (including an inappropriate rant about Vietnam):

"Donny was a good bowler and a good man. He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors and bowling. And as a surfer, he explored the beaches of Southern California, from La Jolla to Leo Carrillo and up to Pismo. (He gestured toward the different directions) He died, he died, as so many young men of his generation before his time. In your wisdom, Lord, you took him, as you took so many bright, flowering young men at Khe Sanh, at Lan Doc, at Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. So did Donny. Donny who loved bowling.

(Walter held up the coffee can with both hands)

And so, Theodore Donald Karabatsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well. Good night, sweet prince."

[Note: "Good night, sweet prince," were words quoted from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2, on the occasion of another death.]

However, as Walter removed the lid and tossed the ashes toward the ocean, he had misjudged the direction of the wind, and the strong breezes blew the ashes back - and all over the Dude's face. This "accident" made the Dude infuriated about Walter's continuing failings, uncompromising attitude, and his fixation on Vietnam: "Everything's a f--kin' travesty with you, man!...What was that s--t about Vietnam?! What the f--k does anything have to do with Vietnam! What the f--k are you talkin' about?!" Walter offered a sincere apology, and hugged his buddy. The two decided to make up by going bowling: (Walter: "Let's go bowlin'.").

The Dude Abides:

At the bowling alley, the jukebox played Townes Van Zandt's 1993 version of "Dead Flowers" (it was originally released by The Rolling Stones in 1971), during a one-minute montage:

  • a slow pan along the slats of a wooden bowling alley toward the pins at the far end
  • a bowling ball whished by and struck the pins for a perfect strike
  • the mechanical pin-setter activated (top view), with the pins moving through a conveyor system to be reset
  • after hours, a bowling alley employee (dressed in black) pushed a lane-sweeper or cleaner from the pin-setter toward the foul line
  • from the distant perspective of the bowling alley's bar, a player laid down another perfect strike

The Dude approached the bar, ordered two beers, and exchanged a few words with the bartender about Donny's passing: "Sometimes you eat the b'ar, and sometimes, uh, uh, you know..." He turned to see the friendly Stranger seated nearby. The Dude responded to him about how life still had its ups and downs, in bowling terms: ("Strikes and gutters, ups and downs"), just before the semi-final bowling tournament was to be held the following day. The Stranger wished for the Dude to "Take it easy" - something he usually did - and as he returned to the lanes where he was bowling with Walter, he responded: "Well, the Dude abides."

The Stranger smiled and summed up (facing the camera) what he liked about the Dude, beginning by repeating the Dude's final thought: "The Dude abides." He expressed his hope that the Dude and Walter would win their upcoming bowling tournament, and stated that Maude was pregnant with a "little Lebowski" - not with Maude's surname but with the Dude's surname!:

[Note: 'The Dude abides' was a reference to Ecclesiastes 1:4 in the Bible: "One generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the earth abides forever." The words were also an obvious reference to the final words of protective matriarch Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) at the conclusion of The Night of the Hunter (1955), when she spoke of her adopted children -- "They abide and they endure."]

"I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there, the Dude, takin' her easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals. Well, that about does her, wraps her all up. Things seem to have worked out pretty good for the Dude and Walter, and it was a pretty good story, don't ya think? Made me laugh to beat the band. Parts, anyway. I didn't like seein' Donny go. But then, I happen to know that there's a little Lebowski on the way. I guess that's the way the whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself, down through the generations, westward in the wagons, and across the sands of time until we -- oh, look at me. I'm ramblin' again. Well, I hope you folks enjoyed yourselves.

Catch ya later on down the trail. (To the bartender Gary) Say friend, ya got any more of that good sarsaparilla?"

During the scrolling closing credits, "Dead Flowers" segued into "Viva Las Vegas" performed by Shawn Colvin.

Summary of Many Features of the 'Shaggy Dog Tale'
(And Some Unanswered Questions)

  1. The alleged kidnap victim (promiscuous trophy wife Bunny, originally a runaway teen from Minnesota who made porn films in LA for Jackie Treehorn when she first arrived) was on an unannounced vacation to Palm Springs, CA, when schemers took advantage of her absence
  2. The ransom demands came not from pornographer Treehorn, to whom Bunny owed money, but from three opportunistic German nihilists (one of whom was Bunny's boyfriend) who thought they could con Bunny's rich husband Mr. Lebowski with ransom demands when Bunny went missing; it was probable that both Bunny and Uli went to Palm Springs together (and quite possible that Uli and Bunny concocted the kidnapping ploy in order to pay off Treehorn's debt that maybe they both owed as stars in his porn films?); it was also a possibility that it was Brandt and Lebowski who cooked up the plan when they learned that Bunny was going away
  3. Both briefcases were 'ringers' and had no ransom money inside: Mr. Lebowski's metal attache case (with heavy phone books), and Walter's leather briefcase (with underwear)
  4. The slacker Dude had been hired by Mr. Lebowski to be the patsy or fall guy (to be framed for stealing $1 million), in order to cover up Lebowski's own crime of embezzling money from the Lebowski Foundation, that could then be blamed on the Dude and the Nihilists
  5. Mr. Lebowski was an entire fraud and phony: he had no wealth of his own (he married into wealth, and upon his wife's death, she gave all of her money to the charitable Lebowski Foundation)
  6. The Dude's car was involved in two crashes (into a pole near the wooden bridge drop-off, and into a dumpster), had one of its tires shot, was stolen from the bowling alley parking lot and vandalized (by a 15 year-old), had its windows smashed with a crowbar by an incensed Corvette owner seeking retaliation, and was set on fire with kerosene by the nihilists
  7. The Dude's first rug was peed upon, then replaced by a second rug from Mr. Lebowski's mansion, that was then stolen back by Maude Lebowski; his bungalow apartment was trashed by both the nihilists and by Treehorn's thugs. However, the Dude's original rug was never stolen (it was just soiled) - although he kept claiming he wanted his rug back
  8. The Dude was personally beaten numerous times (by Treehorn's thugs, by the nihilists, and by Maude's assistants), attacked by a ferret in his bathtub, and slipped a drugged drink by Treehorn; he was injured in the forehead with a hurled coffee mug by the Malibu Police Chief, and thrown out of a cab for disliking the Eagles
  9. The Dude needlessly lost a lot of things - his original rug, his car, any of the promised deals, and one of his best friends who died of a heart attack (when Walter refused to be intimidated by the nihilists); on top of all that, Donny's cremated ashes ended up in the Dude's face
  10. Red Herrings included: the kidnapping plot, the severed toe, Treehorn's note, the Homework assignment, the ransom money, and the character of Da Fino, to name a few
  11. Unanswered Questions: Did Smokey cross over the foul line? Did 15 year-old Larry Sellers actually steal the Dude's car and take the case from the backseat? (Or was it the nihilists who stole the Dude's car?) What did happen to Lebowski's metal briefcase? Did Mr. Lebowski ever face criminal charges for the embezzlement? Was Lebowski really crippled? Were any charges filed by the owner of the damaged Corvette? Did Bunny ever pay off her debts to Treehorn? Was Bunny (or Fawn) returned to her parents? Who replaced Donny on the team, and who won the semi-finals bowling match?

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