Alex Cox's "Straight to Hell"
July 1, 2011 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Straight to Hell is a 1987 action-comedy film directed by Alex Cox, featuring Sy Richardson, The Clash frontman Joe Strummer (after whose song the film is named), Courtney Love, Dick Rude, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, Elvis Costello, Xander Berkeley, Kathy Burke, Jim Jarmusch, Edward Tudor-Pole, Miguel Sandoval, as well as members of The Pogues, Amazulu and The Circle Jerks. ... While the film received almost no positive reviews, it has (like several other of Cox's films) achieved a minor cult status, largely due to its cast of musicians, many of whom have cult followings of their own. A soundtrack has been released. (previously, awesomely)
posted by Trurl (42 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
And coffee. Whole lots of coffee.
posted by NoMich at 7:35 PM on July 1, 2011

And little-to-no profanity, if I remember correctly. But lots of violence. And coffee.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:37 PM on July 1, 2011

posted by louche mustachio at 7:39 PM on July 1, 2011

Great first film, bugger all after that. He's the skinny Kevin Smith.
posted by joannemullen at 7:43 PM on July 1, 2011

This is not a good movie.

On the other hand, Grace Jones.
posted by selfnoise at 7:45 PM on July 1, 2011

Whoa. Pre-plastic Courtney looks a whole lot like Juliette Danielle.

Now if I ever find myself watching The Room again, I'm going to mentally recast Courtney as Lisa. I'm not sure if that will improve it, but it couldn't make it much worse.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:48 PM on July 1, 2011

I think Alex Cox made Sid and Nancy which I loved loved loved. And hence after watched every Gary Oldman movie ever made...with varying levels of enjoyment.
posted by bquarters at 7:55 PM on July 1, 2011

Now having read the (minor cult status) article (!) I KNOW he made Sid and Nancy and Repo Man too, and I feel even further validated (well, as my formerly 16 year old self) for having loved that movie so much now that I know Roger Ebert liked it too!
posted by bquarters at 7:59 PM on July 1, 2011

Great first film, bugger all after that. He's the skinny Kevin Smith

Nope. He made 'Repo Man' and 'Sid and Nancy' before this. He had pretty much finished his third film, 'Walker', when he directed 'Straight to Hell'. It was made with leftover money from 'Walker'. Cox at the time used to bring his films in on time and under budget. So, this was essentially him and his cool friends fucking around in the dessert for a few weeks and having some fun.
And, for me, the director of 'Repo Man' gets a lifetime pass; it's enough to have made that movie.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 8:01 PM on July 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

Sid and Nancy sucked; I felt so exploited watching that crap, but Repo Man is so many kinds of fucking awesome. It's so awesome, you should require it played on a loop for your funeral. And for the record, I kind of enjoyed this here Straight To Hell. It was better than Dudes.
posted by NoMich at 8:02 PM on July 1, 2011

I haven't seen it in many many years, but I recall enjoying Walker very much. IIRC it had that ambitious but flawed quality I appreciate so much.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dick Rude made this movie unwatchable for me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:20 PM on July 1, 2011

Absolutely loved this movie but haven't seen it in 20+ years. I still recommend it on random occasions.
posted by derekpaco at 8:24 PM on July 1, 2011

A soundtrack "has been" released? Wait, am I hallucinating having listened to the soundtrack many a time during my late teens and early twenties? *click* *type* *click*

Oh, good. Not hallucinating.

Or is this something new/additional/director's cut?
posted by Lexica at 8:57 PM on July 1, 2011

Straight To Hell in its entirety (didn't see a link to it).
posted by hanoixan at 9:06 PM on July 1, 2011

REPO MAN changed my life completely; STRAIGHT TO HELL at least gave me something good to put in the "occupation" field of web profiles.

Metafilter: Let's make the weiner kid sing his song
posted by jtron at 9:10 PM on July 1, 2011

I admit it. I actually saw this on the (smallish) big screen of an art house film theater in Boston. 1987, you say? Sounds about right.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:23 PM on July 1, 2011

I rewatched Walker recently. I'm not so sure about the flawed part - it stood up just fine.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:33 PM on July 1, 2011

Ugh, Dudes. I'd mercifully forgotten that one.

There's one bit in Straight To Hell I've never quite been able to forget, all these years later: a man is telling a woman he loves her, and she is shooting him repeatedly with - I think? - a machine-gun (possibly while laughing). At the time, it seemed like the coldest thing ever. Most of this decidedly meh movie is played for cheap laughs, but that image... it haunts me.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:47 PM on July 1, 2011

Repo Man was his first full length feature, Phlegmco(tm), the preceding "Sleep is for Sissies" was a 40 minute student film. I agree it gives him the life time pass, but it doesn't mean that anything else he's ever made was any good.
posted by joannemullen at 9:47 PM on July 1, 2011

Lexica: I still have the CD, so you're probably not hallucinating.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:00 PM on July 1, 2011

It's unfortunate that the original version of Straight to Hell is now out of print on DVD, replaced by Straight to Hell Returns, with extra scenes and CGI effects.

I hate it when directors go back to decades-old films and change them around. I mean -- that's fine, I guess, they can do what they want -- what I hate is when they then make the original versions, the ones I've been watching for 20 years, unavailable. Why can't the new stuff be optional? Why does it have to be mandatory?

It's not just the obvious suspects, either, but Alex Cox, Walter Hill, and the Coen Brothers are all guilty of this. It's depressing.

Anyway. I love Straight to Hell, not necessarily for the right reasons.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 10:20 PM on July 1, 2011

Repo Man was his first full length feature, Phlegmco(tm), the preceding "Sleep is for Sissies" was a 40 minute student film. I agree it gives him the life time pass, but it doesn't mean that anything else he's ever made was any good.

My mistake, still like Walker though.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:33 PM on July 1, 2011

Repo Man is the best movie ever. Period. Sid and Nancy was my introduction to punk rock and as such changed my life irrevocably. And I really liked Walker. But Straight to Hell only kept me moderately entertained for an hour or so about 20 years ago. I wonder if theres ever been a thread for Another State of Mind on mefi. Not from Cox, but still worth a look for fans of the era.
posted by jake1 at 10:58 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love all of these films, Sid and Nancy decidedly included. Straight to Hell is absolutely my favorite of them, though.

Cox lives just east of Mount Shasta these days and keeps cranking out no-commercial potential films. Awesome.
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 PM on July 1, 2011

Another State of Mind is available on DVD, and worth the six bucks.
posted by mwhybark at 11:29 PM on July 1, 2011

Salsa y Ketchup
posted by humboldt32 at 12:39 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Car wash scene. Elvis Costello. COFFEE.

What more could you ask for?

I saw it on opening night, and a few times after.

Saw Repo Man many, many, many times more. And Buckaroo Banzai.
posted by chavenet at 12:56 AM on July 2, 2011

What about Amazulu?
posted by mintcake! at 1:40 AM on July 2, 2011

I LOVE Straight To Hell...I have a raggedy old VHS copy that has been watched so many times it's worn thin.

"Well if it ain't old Bruno, and Angel Eyes Muck-Ma-Hawn!"

And of course, "Farben gasoleo?!?! NORWOOOOODDDD!!!"

It's one of those movies you either get or you don't. Like Repo Man.
posted by biscotti at 2:48 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also the first presenter of Moviedrome on BBC2, essentially a compendium of really cool movies of all different kinds which shaped the world of at least one generation of British filmgoer. And it was very brave of him to make a feature film out of a Borges short story (featuring Peter Boyle and Christopher Eccleston).

To be honest, I'm not sure that the idea of "good" and "bad" movies (or culture in general) is very useful any more, as "bad" seems just to be a synonym for "I don't like this very much", and I'm currently finding the fact that someone doesn't like something of fast-dwindling interest or relevance, but am fascinated by people's genuine enthusiasm for things (especially things that I don't like, and particularly things which it seems no one else on the planet likes).

(Cor! It looks like Highway Patrolman is on DailyMotion as well - I've not seen that - I'll check it out later.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:22 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Highway Patrolman is very good. It's representation of policework as being akin to other working class jobs, and just shy of being a criminal enterprise, is astonishing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:28 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't remember which film critic described 'Sid and Nancy' as "a mature treatment of some willfully immature people", but I think that's a very accurate assessment. Every time I watch "Sid and Nancy", I see something different in it.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:04 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ooh. I heard of this movie but haven't seen it. Now that I know Edward Tudor-pole is in it, I have to see it. For probably the only film with him singing, catch "Absolute Beginners" which I think is vastly underrated.

And yeah, Repo Man is goddam awesome. A lot of it was filmed right around and in front of the Starkman Building, where I used to live in a crappy artist's loft. I knew a lot of the cast and crew, and lived around all the locations. Repo Man is like a time capsule of what my life was like in 1984.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:15 AM on July 2, 2011

El Patrullero is the best of his films that I've seen. But then I've not seen any of the films he's made since then.
posted by warbaby at 8:46 AM on July 2, 2011

Edward Tudor-pole (AKA Tenpole Tudor) also sings Who Killed Bambi?, after a fashion, in The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle.
posted by Grangousier at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cox recently directed a version of The Reverger's Tragedy as duystopian SF. It worked pretty well.

The Borges adaption Grangousier mentions above was confusing, but interesting to watch, Kind of like The Element of Crime, only not horribly horribly boring.

And I have a group of friends who will still burst out into renditions of "Salsa y Ketchup" at any cry of "Hey, let's make the wiener kid sing his song!" -- so, haters, you need to move on.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:25 AM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

If I were watching in 1987 and someone told me this woman would have such a powerful voice in just four years, I'd say you were crazy. There's no accounting for taste, but my god, she makes the amplifiers seem redundant.

Not even Johnny Rotten himself ever screamed "Fuck you" in a song as viscerally as she did on "I Think That I Would Die".
posted by Trurl at 1:33 PM on July 2, 2011

Stopped watching his movies after watching Breakfast with Hunter, when he told Hunter S Thompson that the only thing people remembered about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were the cartoons.

Having said that Repo Man has a special place in my heart. Next to Dogs in Space.
posted by gonzo_ID at 10:49 AM on July 3, 2011

Nice to see so much love for Straight to Hell. IIRC, it was shot on a Spanish set that had been built for a Bronson film; all the buildings were a bit small in order to make Bronson look big. So everyone in StH looks almost epic.

Someone once described it as a film about greed, coffee, and sexual frustration, which is a tidy enough summary but doesn't convey the sheer spaghetti-spoofing fun of it, with good music to boot. I can understand why some people hate it or find it boring, though.
posted by Stan Carey at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2011

The Pogues did a lot of the music, including the excellent "Rake at the Gates of Hell," a fun version of "If I Should Fall from Grace with God," and a shite version of "Danny Boy."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2011

Watched this in high school with my music-d0rk friends. We counted on it being awesome because there were so many awesome people in it. (Right? I know!) And when we were done, we all quietly doubted our beloved rockers a little, and began to realize that maybe awesomeness doesn't translate across domains.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:19 PM on July 3, 2011

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