Plot: What’s it about?
Willy (Dick Rude), Norwood (Sy Richardson), and Simms (Joe Strummer) have just robbed a bank, so they decide to dash with the cash and lay low, at least for a while. The three men load up in the car and with Norwood’s pregnant girlfriend Velma (Courtney Love) in tow, the gang heads out into the desert, which seems to be a logical destination. After some car problems, the guys manage to bury the money for safe keeping, then decide to check out a town and of course, find a place to settle for the night. The town turns out to be very strange however, as it seems like an old mining town, as if time has forgotten it. The men dress in cowboy fashions and sling guns, but they love to drink coffee and lots of it, to be sure. At first our three robbers are treated with disdain, but after they gun down a few folks, they’re taken in like part of the family, which is good news. But when a mysterious stranger arrives and claims to have a debt to settle with the trio, it seems like a massive shootout is the only way in which to solve the conflict.
This movie was quite hard to track down for a while, but as they often do, Anchor Bay has nabbed a cult level film and released it in grand form, which is good news indeed. This Alex Cox directed picture takes a lot from the Leone era westerns, but also blends in art house and French new wave elements, which makes for an unusual blend, to be sure. I’ve talked to people who simply hate the movie and find it to be pretentious, while others seem to find it dull or pointless, but there is an audience for this movie, I assure you. I admit that Straight to Hell is not even close to a mainstream flick, but if you have an off kilter taste in cinema, you should be sure to give this release a spin, I think. It helps to be up on your westerns, but even if you miss a lot of the references, this is still a humorous movie. Dick Rude (who also cowrote), Sy Richardson, and Joe Strummer all provide terrific performances, but Courtney Love steals most scenes, due to her hilarious whines and complaints. I give this movie a very high recommendation, but rent first if you haven’t seen it, as this movie simply isn’t geared toward the masses, not by any means.
As both director and cowriter, Alex Cox seems in fine form here, which is impressive, given the unusual nature of the material. Cox tips his hat to various westerns and also uses outside elements, which creates this most offbeat mismash, to be sure. But I don’t think the movie ever veers off course too much, so you’ll never be lost and always be entertained, so long as you have a basic working knowledge of westerns, that is. Cox pulls all the different cogs together and makes them run as a machine, but also allows for meandering at times and that is vital I think, especially in an unusual picture like this one. Other films directed by Cox include Sid and Nancy, Walker, Death and the Compass, Three Businessmen, and Repo Man. The cast here includes Dick Rude (Repo Man, Night of the Comet), Sy Richardson (Men at Work, Petey Wheatstraw), Joe Strummer (Mystery Train, Candy Mountain), Miguel Sandoval (Do the Right Thing, Jurassic Park), and Courtney Love (Man on the Moon, The People Vs. Larry Flynt).
Video: How does it look?
Straight to Hell is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I never thought this movie could look so good, but Anchor Bay has issued a fantastic transfer, to be sure. The image still shows some grain and other small problems, but this is still a terrific presentation and by far, the finest home video edition to date. The print looks clean and shows minimal age signs, aside from some slight grain here and there. The warm color scheme comes across well also, with rich hues and natural flesh tones, but no smears or other errors. The contrast is even handed and never falters either, so detail remains high throughout. As usual, Anchor Bay has been able to deliver an excellent visual presentation for a cult level film, where most studios would have left the release on the shelf, to be sure.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track is clean and more than adequate, but I do wish a surround mix were created, as this material would be greatly enhanced, I think. I think the music sounds good in this mix, but a surround option would open the floodgates, which would be cool. I also think the surrounds could add to the atmosphere, given all the gunshots, car chases, and such found within the flick. But I also have to think the mono adds to the whole experience, given the approach taken by Alex Cox and his crew here. The basics are more than covered here also, which leads me to report minimal complaints, to be honest. The dialogue is sharp and always at a proper volume, so none of the hilarious dialogue misses a beat.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a video promo for The Pogues, a featurette titled Back to Hell, and an audio commentary track with Alex Cox and writer/actor Dick Rude. I’ve enjoyed the other tracks from Cox and I knew this would be no different, especially with Rude on deck. Cox and Rude discuss all sorts of topics here and while some remain on topic, the two also wander into various other issues, making for an unusual, but interesting session. If you’re a fan of Cox or this film, this session offers more than enough goods to warrant a spin, if you ask me.