Blu-ray Review: Straight to Hell [Director's Cut Special Edition] | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, May 25th, 2020  

Straight to Hell [Director’s Cut Special Edition]

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Aug 27, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Following the knockout one-two punch of his first two films, Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, Alex Cox was one of the most promising filmmakers on the independent scene. He had channeled some of this hard-earned cache into organizing a punk rock concert tour across Nicaragua featuring artists such as The Clash, Pogues, and Elvis Costello in support of the Sandanista rebels. In the end, funding never came together but Cox still had the touring time committed by all of these high-profile musicians; instead of a tour, he decided to shoot a movie featuring many of them in starring roles. He and actor-writer Dick Rude bashed out a script in short order, gathered a few of their regular collaborators, and zipped off to Spain to shoot this surreal, 1987 pastiche to Spaghetti Westerns.

Three inept hitmen (Rude, Sy Richardson, and The Clash’s Joe Strummer) botch a job for a dangerous mob boss, and so they quickly knock over a bank and hightail it into the desert with a pregnant girlfriend (a pre-Hole Courtney Love) in tow. They find themselves in a burned-out ghost town occupied by a band of bandit coffee addicts (played by members and roadies from The Pogues.) This is where the movie’s story more or less ends and is replaced by a series of increasingly weird and violent vignettes.

It’s hard to point at any one scene which exemplifies Straight to Hell’s bizarreness, but one strange moment of song comes to mind. At one bandit gathering, they force their abused hot dog vendor – who’s beaten and insulted through the entire movie – to sing a catchy jingle for “disco weenies.” The entire cast eventually sings along, seeming to be genuinely moved by the song’s silly lyrics about salsa and ketchup, and getting up to dance. (The poor hot dog vendor continues to be beaten throughout.)

Aside from rock luminaries like Strummer, Love, and Shane MacGowan, the film also features cameos from Elvis Costello (who gets slapped around a bit, and not much else), Dennis Hopper (as the ghost of an oil executive), Grace Jones, and Jim Jarmusch. The movie fell flat on its face in its initial release – the first in a string of flops which torpedoed Cox’s shot at a traditional Hollywood filmmaking career – but plays quite a bit better three decades later. Viewed purely as a bunch of cult rock stars making a nutso Western while on Spanish holiday, it’s easier to appreciate the movie’s surreal highlights and overlook the gags which land with a thud.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ new edition presents the lengthened director’s cut in 2K restoration. Extra features include a feature-length commentary by Cox, archival tours of the shooting locations, and a retrospective Making Of documentary filmed by Cox himself in the early 2000s. 



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Roy Goode
August 30th 2018

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