Monday, May 18

Straight to Hell (1987)


"...simply a record of aimless behavior, of a crowd of pals asked to dress up like cowboys and mill about on a movie set." -- Roger Ebert

Directed by Alex Cox
86 Minutes / Key Video, CBS/Fox Home Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A group of bank robbers find themselves stranded in the desert (shot in Almería, Spain), decide to bury their loot, and run across an odd little clapboard town full of guntotin' bandits. They're accepted by the townsfolk, but eventually outsiders come looking for the robbers causing a stack 'em ten high bloodbath to occur.

Being a fan of Cox's Repo Man and spaghetti westerns, I've been wanting to check this out, but never got around to pick up Anchor Bay's now out-of-print DVD. The most striking aspect is how incidental the events are, which I imagine the actors loved, but leaves the viewer a bit cold. For the most part, things simply happen with little reason and the scant plot threads seem begrudgingly crammed in to give some reason for the free-for-all massacre at the conclusion.

It's obvious Cox has great reverence for the spaghetti western since the film is packed with little visual cues and common conventions like sweaty stand-offs, bold close-ups, and slyly strong women. The problem is all together the piece doesn't quite work when filtered through the director's vision, being too meandering and relaxed which complimented Repo Man so wonderfully.

Cox did manage to nail down an eccentric cast with Repo Man alumni Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, Fox Harris (love this guy), and Luis Contreras all appearing. Dennis Hopper with screen wife Grace Jones are in a small scene and then proceed to disappear as if they were apparitions. Musicians Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, The Pogues, and a chubby Courtney Love with a non-surgically enhanced nose (front center gapped teeth too) lurk about the picture. Director of films which I've never seen Jim Jarmusch also shows up for the big gundown climax.

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 6/10
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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