MORE THAN ANY OTHER OMISSION, it pained editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly to leave out 1987's Straight to Hell from their otherwise comprehensive Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks on Film, published earlier this year. That's because Straight to Hell doesn't contain any actual punk characters—despite the fact that it starred Joe Strummer and the Pogues, and despite the fact it was directed by Alex Cox, whose filmography is littered with iconic punk movies (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy).
Cox makes an appearance Friday at the Clinton Street Theater with a new, digitally remastered director's cut of Straight to Hell, followed by a Q&A after each screening. It'll be interesting to hear what Cox has to say about the revised version of the film, which—despite having acquired a dedicated cult following over the years—is still hard to view as anything but a disaster. Straight to Hell originally came about because a proposed concert tour fell through; the assembled musicians and crew decided to make a movie instead, and the surreal comedy/spaghetti western is the amateurish, inside-jokey result.
It's a good-looking movie—it was shot at a location in Spain where several spaghetti westerns were filmed—and it has marginally okay performances from Strummer, Dennis Hopper, and Jim Jarmusch's hair. But otherwise, Straight to Hell is a tough slog. The script is stream of consciousness and largely incomprehensible. All the characters drink coffee for some reason (because it's funny?). There's a musical number called "Salsa y Ketchup," which fans of the movie will tell you is its best scene. (Which it might be, but it isn't good.) Courtney Love screeches her way through a dreadful role as Sy Richardson's pregnant girlfriend, vying with Kate Capshaw from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the coveted title of Most Annoying Person in a Movie Ever. I suspect Cox's new director's cut can't fix all these problems, but it should be fascinating to hear him talk about it.