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I'd LOVE to be able to say that 'Straight To Hell' is one of the lost
classics of the 80s but frankly, it's almost as bad as the mainstream
critics make out. I say ALMOST, because it isn't an entire waste of time. Sy
Richardson is as cool as ever, and the eclectic supporting cast (Cox
semi-regulars like Sandoval, Berkeley, and Yeager, various musos and the
king of weird movies, Dennis Hopper) make this worth watching for the "six
degrees of separation" game alone.
Now look, I DO like Leone, and I like punk rock and I love Peckinpah, and I can sorta see what the other comments are saying about it almost prefiguring Tarantino, but there's one BIG problem - the lack of a decent script. For every good moment there four dull ones, and some funny lines or interesting characters wouldn't have gone astray.
So basically, if you watch this expecting the worst you'll enjoy it more than if you expect it to be as great as 'Repo Man'. I also would like to point out that Cox's next movie 'Walker' is a 100% improvement on this one, and almost IS a lost classic of the 80s!
I saw this twice during its too brief(one week!)run in Seattle in 1987
and i was always showing it to people later on video who thought i was
INSANE, which may or may not be beside the point, but this is one of
THOSE movies, like Big Trouble in Little China, that can inform you
about someones personal sense of humor and taste. Either you get it or
you don't. I think this movie is some kind of psychopathic classic that
perfectly sends up the extreme amorality of the spaghetti westerns and
prefigures the homicidal men in black suits later to turn up in Pulp
Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. And few films can top it for sheer
nihilistic rip-it-apart glee. I am glad it is finally being seen on DVD
in its original aspect ratio, because in the theaters it had very
carefully staged WIDE-SCREEN compositions which were lost on video. The
cast is uniformly weird and wonderful: Sy Richardson, channeling pure
self-righteous macho bad-assness, Joe Strummer, showing a surprisingly
light touch for comedy, Dick Rude,hilariously channeling a psycho-punk
James Cagney,Courtney Love gives a truly committed performance as a
shrill whiny Nancy Spungen caricature, the Pogues almost manage to say
their dialog, Elvis Costello doesn't have much dialog but acquits
himself well. I could go on and on about the rest of the cast, and
there's plenty of them still to mention, including and especially
MIGUEL SANDOVER, who does the greatest Clint Eastwood send-up i have
ever had the pleasure of watching.
Watch this film ...you'll either get it...or you won't. I laughed like hell.
The price of man's obsessions are a trip Straight to Hell (in a rented
red import no less). There is no nuance in this movie, just blood,
money, coffee, guns and sexual tension. There is a pregnant demon named
Velma and a Christ figure named Karl. All but two of the characters in
the movie are hardly characters at all, just expressions of lust and
obsession. Conveniently they are all played by non-actors (Musicians
that couldn't get the backing to do a concert in Nicaragua in '87).
Dennis Hopper plays what is essentially Mephistophilis calling all the
players home to hell. Sy Richardson's Norwood is the only character who
is not ruled by his obsessions. In this morality play that is what
separates his fate from everyone else's. An important commentary on our
modern world. Or maybe it was just all that mescaline.
Seriously folks cut Alex some slack. The picture is beautifully filmed. The people who can't act are given one dimensional roles which is highly preferable to giving someone that has no acting ability a role with weight and importance (Daryl Hannah in Wall Street, Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing). It's got a fantastic soundtrack and Karl doing the Weiner Dog Song is one of the funniest things ever. Really. Ever.
Picked up the DVD of this for £4.49 and it's worth every penny. Not only is
this film a better spoof of westerns than Silverado but it contains enough
weird and wonderful characters to give Lynch a run for his
Firstly you have got the superb Sy Richardson as Norwood(Tarantinos inspiration for Samuel L's Pulp Fiction character?), Joe Strummer as Simms(RIP), and the 'runt' Dick Rude completing the main trio.
Also popping their heads round Alex Cox's casting room door are: Courtney Love(pregnant Velma), Fox Harris, Kathy Burke, Edward Tudor Pole, Dennis Hopper (IG Farben), Grace Jones, Jim Jarmusch, Miguel Sandoval(Eastwood impression), Xander Berkley(priest), Elvis Costello(butler) and the Pogues(Mcmahon coffee gang)...Superb!!
There is also the great setting of Almeira, the funny costumes, Pray For Rain music and the priceless dialogue(regional dilects etc). So stop criticising and just enjoy yourself in Cox country!!
To be honest, I can see how this film could be a little tedious to sit through if you are expecting anything clever. It is clever, but it is well hidden. The subtext relates to the American invasion of Nicaragua in the 1980's, relocated to a spaghetti western Spanish village, with the Mcmahon gang (played by pseudo Irish folk-punkers The Pogues, with Elvis Costello as the butler) taking the part of the anarcho-syndicalist Sandanista government and the gang of robbers (including The Clash's Joe Strummer and Courtney Love) turning up and upsetting the status quo. They are playing the roles of the American trained rebels sent in to overthrow the government. Still with me? Good. There is an uneasy alliance until IG Farben (Nazi chemical manufacturer in real life, trivia fans) turns up and provides them with a suitcase full of weapons, which indirectly leads to the kicking off of a huge firefight, resulting in the deaths of everyone who lives in the village. After all the land owners are dead, Farben returns, and sets up his oil drilling business with no competition. Satirical, and quite apt, given the current climate. On the other hand, abandon the politics and enjoy the spectacle of a slew of eighties punk-rockers having a great time in the Spanish desert.
This is a story of three desperadoes and a girl who accidentally go to a small town after screwing up an assassination job and robbing a bank. The town is owned by the McMahon family (the Pogues with a few others thrown in) all of whom are addicted to coffee and enjoy killing and being all in all bastards. There's tension, characters clashing and sexual. The film didn't have a whole lot of a plot, but that doesn't really matter much because it seems to be more of a spoof on spaghetti westerns and even the actors and actresses themselves. It takes repeated viewing to really get down what is going on and how the parties are related to each other, but that doesn't seem to matter quite so much. All in all, I recommend this film to those of you who love weird movies and everyone who remembers the 80's punk scene.
Apparently this film was made because a bunch of musicians realised that it would be more profitable to make a film than to hold a big tour. I'm not a fan of any of the artists in this film; but to be honest, I'd rather them have done the show - because at least then I wouldn't have had to suffer it! Quite what this film is supposed to be is anyone's guess - the humour isn't funny, and the Leone spoofs aren't very well worked. The violence isn't shocking and the story isn't interesting - so what's the point? It's a shame really because the idea of a bunch of punks getting together and making a film has 'cult' written all over it, but unfortunately this lot couldn't deliver something worthy of the name. There's barely anything good I can say about this movie - not even the desert setting looks nice. There's a small role for Dennis Hopper, which is always nice; but the rest of the performers are all pretty dire. It would seem that the cast and crew thought that their mere presence would lead to a good film so the story isn't important. They were wrong, Straight to Hell is a sprawling, boring mess of a film and it's one that I don't recommend sitting through.
Imagine a parody of a French art film version of a spaghetti western built entirely out of oddly distorted cliches. Expect it to be every bit as incomprehensible as the stereotypical art film. Don't expect it to have a plot or anything close to a normal gag. If this still sounds interesting then you may enjoy it as much as I did, but I warn you that I'm the only person I know who doesn't think this movie is awful.
This movie is not a cookie-cutter Hollywood picture. The plot wanders through a cast of characters who slightly resemble stereotypes you've seen in other Westerns and gangster movies, but the resemblance is like that seen by someone with a very high fever. Don't worry about the plot, just let the movie flow. If you are upset and confused by the strange and unusual, you won't like this movie. If, however, you long for something different, something funny, something just plain bizarre, this is it. Your jaw will be hanging open as you're mesmerized by this film. If you don't laugh out loud at this movie, you're taking life (and movies) way, way too seriously. It will not move you to tears or inspire you to change your life, but it will probably alter the way you look at coffee and hot dogs forever.
There are several other people out there who liked this movie. In fact, I went so far as to buy the movie and the soundtrack. Anyone who likes the Pogues should put this on their must see list. If you want to see a movie full of shoot-em-ups, car chases for no reason and lots of dialogue that will make you say to yourself, "Did he say what I think he said?" then turn your brain off for an evening and watch this.
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