Straight to Hell (1987)
Featurette-Making Of-Back To Hell
Audio Commentary-Alex Cox (director/writer) & Dick Rude (actor/writer)
Music Video-"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" by The Pogues
|Year Of Production||1987|
|Running Time||82:40 (Case: 86)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (59:35)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Alex Cox|
Gloria Miralles Ruiz
Jose Pomedio Monedero
|RPI||?||Music||Pray for Rain|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
Three drunken hitmen, Norwood (Sy Richardson), Willy (Dick Rude) and Simms (Joe Strummer), oversleep after a big night. By the time they wake up, their mark has escaped and their boss, Mr. Dade (Jim Jarmusch) isn't going to be happy. With Norwood's whiny girlfriend in tow (Courtney Love, before she stopped eating), the posse robs a bank and heads for the border to lay low until the whole affair blows over.
The outlaws arrive in a small, dusty town run by the coffee addicted MacMahon family (who are made up mostly of members of the band The Pogues, with Elvis Costello as their butler). They bury their loot on the outskirts of the town and head for the nearest bar. The hitmen become honoured guests of the MacMahons after they kill a posse of bounty hunters who are trying to bring in two of the MacMahon family (although they really only wanted to protect their own whereabouts). As they enjoy the hospitality of the MacMahons, Willy falls for one of the MacMahon girls and Simms falls for the wife of a maniacally jealous local shopkeeper.
It's not long before the locals begin to notice the large amount of money being splashed about by the newcomers and suspect there is a fortune hidden away. Over the course of several days, the locals try to discover the whereabouts of the loot, bounty hunters come looking for the hitmen, and, eventually, Mr. Dade himself comes to finish the job.
Straight to Hell is a bumpy ride, but also a wild one. It is a strange comedic homage to the spaghetti westerns of the 1970s, filled with rockstars and minor actors. The film's genesis explains it all; In the wake of the success of Sid and Nancy, director Alex Cox attempted to put together a concert tour to Nicaragua for a handful of his favourite bands. When he failed to find the finances for the tour, he managed to pull together a modest budget for a film starring the musicians that he had booked to tour. A script was quickly chopped together and Cox roped together a bunch of his mates to fill the other roles. They all headed for Spain for a 6 week shoot-come-vacation and came home with a finished film. Bizarre is the order of the day in this story and it more or less works.
The film itself isn't a patch on Alex Cox's better-planned masterpieces Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, but it shares much of the same erratic energy and fluid style of his best work. The acting varies as wildly as the plot, with Sy Richardson, Joe Strummer, Xander Berkeley and Dennis Hopper putting in some genuinely good performances amidst what occasionally looks like a high school drama production. Thankfully, what the film lacks in dramaturgy it makes up for in style. Straight to Hell oozes cool from every pore.
Some of the cooler aspects of the Straight to Hell have been fairly liberally borrowed by directors since. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction certainly owe a debt, having taken a great deal of inspiration from the hitman characters as well as the style of the dialogue and the general look of the action.
It is certainly not a film for a mainstream audience, but Straight to Hell is recommended viewing for Alex Cox fans, fans of any of the musicians featured, or anybody that enjoys offbeat indies along the lines of Jim Jarmusch's work.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer quality is better than you would typically expect for a 20 year old cult film. The image is sharp and only a fine level of grain is noticeable throughout the film. There is a good level of detail in dark areas. The colours are a little on the pale side, but that seems accurate for the dusty, wild west look of the movie.
There are a reasonable number of sizeable film artefacts visible throughout the film, generally a couple every 5 minutes. The print from which the transfer was minted appears to have been very clean, however, as there are virtually no small film artefacts due to dust. The film artefacts visible are all vertical lines across the length of the picture or blotches (although there were only two of these, by my count) - both of which are the result of damage to the print itself, rather than a careless transfer. There is also a noticeable 'bump' in the video at 40:45, although it is hard to tell if this is a telecine wobble or the camera being bumped during the original filming. These artefacts, whilst certainly noticeable, do not detract from the viewing experience. Quite the opposite in fact; they manage to emphasise just how good every other aspect of the transfer is.
There are no signs of MPEG compression related artefacts at any point of the film.
There are no subtitles on this disc.
This is a RSDL disc. The layer change occurs at 59:35, but was not noticeable on my equipment.
The audio is rather basic, but true to the original film. There is one English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio track available.
The audio is well synchronised throughout, but the dialogue is occasionally a little soft (most likely a result of cheap sound recording during production). There is no distortion affecting clarity, however.
Living up to the expectations that the cast of punk rock stars generates, the soundtrack is great. Comprising music from The Pogues, Pray For Rain and Joe Strummer (although much of it is under a pseudonym for contractual reasons), it does a great job of mixing the spaghetti western themes into their own brand of music.
There is no usage of the surrounds or subwoofer, in fact there is very little discernable stereo usage. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the soundtrack is presented in its original theatrical format and would not gain anything from a fancy 5.1 remaster.
|Surround Channel Use|
A rather catchy Joe Strummer/Pogues collaboration plays over the menus.
This 'Making Of' featurette is assembled from relatively recent (this was originally assembled for the 2001 Region 1 release) interviews with the cast and crew, who each tell their story of the production of the film. The featurette is edited so that clips of interviews discussing particular aspects of production are chopped together in a manner that almost form a fluid narrative. The editing is occasionally a little hyperactive, but works very well. The end result is a very interesting yarn and will certainly please most fans, particularly as this is the sort of film that people will be drawn to for based their familiarity with the cast or crew rather than the movie itself. Fans of the late Joe Strummer will definitely be pleased to see him back from the grave.
The Pogues give their rendition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in this rather dated, psychedelic music video.
Cox and Rude provide a very interesting and rather chatty commentary. Rude does a good job of prompting Cox into sharing quite a number of good anecdotes as well as sharing plenty himself. As well as being a generally interesting commentary, this commentary will appeal to would-be indie film-makers and anyone looking to drive through Spain and see some different sights!
After an annoying anti-piracy trailer, there are trailers for Ask The Dust, Be Here to Love Me, Narco, Shakespeare Behind Bars and Clean.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 release is identical to the, now out of print, Region 2 edition, save for the Madman Propaganda trailers for other Madman releases.
The Region 1 edition misses out on the Pogues Music Video and Madman Propaganda trailers. The Region 1 edition does not contain any additional features to the Region 4 release.
Given its ready availability and full complement of extras, the Region 4 edition is the winner of this comparison.
Though it's far from Alex Cox's best work, Straight To Hell truly deserves its cult status. It is a completely unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable homage to spaghetti westerns that keeps an offbeat sense of humour throughout. Anybody checking the film out for their love of any of the rock stars featured in the film won't be disappointed either.
The video is of an excellent standard for a 20 year old independent film. Though there are a handful of large film artefacts visible, the image is sharp and easy to watch. The audio is a a little hard to hear on a few occasions, but has no other faults.
The package of extras is modest, but each is well worth a look.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|