'Straight to Hell' (1986), featuring Elvis

Pretty self-explanatory
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'Straight to Hell' (1986), featuring Elvis

Postby johnfoyle » Sun Jun 15, 2003 6:13 pm

It being a sunny Sunday afternoon here in Dublin I had , of course , to spend my time indoors looking at
the DVD of Straight To Hell , the 1986 film that Elvis played Hives The Butler in ( free with the July issue of Total DVD mag.) It is , of course , as bad as I remember it - but still great fun. In Alex Cox`s directors commentary he makes a point of saying ( at 34.35)

It`s interesting how some people who are musicians really don`t cut the mustard as actors and others who do. I mean,I thought that Elvis , in the film , was a sensational actor. He`s so concentrated , so , ah , in character all the time. And other guys are , so , you know, are more musicians. It`s like , it`s difficult for them , you know, - Shane(McGowan), why would Shane do the the same thing twice? He never does on stage.

Timings for other Elvis moments in it ( now you don`t have to wade through it all - amn`t I so

16.59 Elvis serves coffee.
27.19 Elvis accompanies Fox Harris singing Delilah.
29.27 Elvis serves coffee and say`s `More coffee , Sir?
39.30 Elvis does the conga.
48.55 Elvis says `You have been found guilty..` at a hanging scene.
57.45 Cait and co. ( including Elvis) sing Danny Boy in beautiful tracking shot , benefiting from the widescreen presentation.
1.07.12 Elvis shoots a shotgun.
1.10.21 Elvis is shot , while picking up a broken coffee pot.
( Cox's commentary ....and that was an Elvis thing; he wanted to die with the coffee in his hands.`Cos he said 'once the coffee has been spilled there`s no point for him to exist anymore' )

There is an Elvis treat in one of the DVD extras. In a 2000 docu. `Back To Hell` Joe Strummer talks about an outtake. It`s shown about 11 minutes in ; in it we see Elvis tied to a chair - being slapped by Courtney Love. Definitely a moment for the pause button!

Just in case you know absolutely nothing about this movie here's a info. link

Last edited by johnfoyle on Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:44 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Postby whtesde » Sun Jun 15, 2003 6:49 pm

It's been a little while since I saw the DVD, but I thought it was Cait and Kathy Baker smacking Elvis around, not Courteney Love. I could be wrong, of course.

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Postby DrJ » Sun Jun 15, 2003 8:08 pm

This DVD is free??!!!???

I'm off to Eason's...

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Postby grliegrl21 » Tue Jun 17, 2003 3:00 pm

Does anyone know if you can get this magazine in the states?
Crescent Fresh.

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Postby PlaythingOrPet » Tue Jun 17, 2003 4:19 pm

What, the whole film on DVD is free? Nice one.

Alex Cox = a face only a mother (of one) could love. Bless.

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Postby DrJ » Thu Jun 19, 2003 9:11 am

I looked in a few places for this but ended up finding it in Eason's in Liffey Valley this morning, which made me grin like an idiot. E6.80 for the magazine and DVD, cool. The whole movie and all the extras. I've looked at the first few minutes until EC appeared, I'll watch to whole thing in the next few days. It looks enjoyably shambolic...

Thank you Mr Foyle for pointing this out, I'd never have noticed it...

A few notes for those still searching the shops: It's the July issue with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Gardiner on the front from Daredevil. Here's the website, which still seems to be stuck on the June issue..


Plus this months Word come with a free copy of the Rat Pack Confidential book, a Bjorks on the cover. I like Word a lot. I haven't found this months obligatory EC story yet though...

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Postby so lacklustre » Thu Jun 19, 2003 9:39 am

Managed to find a copy in MVC, £3.99 in british money. Just watched the film, never seen it before despite me being a big Pogues fan as well as EC and Strummer. I enjoyed the film although it's not exactly a classic, but it was good fun playing spot the Pogue.


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Postby PlaythingOrPet » Thu Jun 19, 2003 9:47 am

My brother gets Total DVD, which I didn't know. He gave me the DVD. Result. Haven't seen the film yet though I did see the bit where Cait kisses Elvis then gives him a good slap. Ouch. As DrJ said, it looks enjoyably shambolic....

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Postby ReadyToHearTheWorst » Sun Jun 22, 2003 4:11 am

I've just realised that this is the film that inspired 'Town called Big Nothing' and 'Return to Big Nothing', credited to 'The MacManus Gang' and included on the Ryko reissue of Blood & Chocolate.

Strangely, they weren't on the Rhino resissue - wonder when they will reappear?
"I'm the Rock and Roll Scrabble champion"

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Postby miss buenos aires » Sun Jun 22, 2003 6:48 am

ReadyToHearTheWorst wrote:wonder when they will reappear?

I hope never.

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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Sun Jun 22, 2003 9:39 am

Are they so bad? Not as much fun as The Pogues' Fiesta, perhaps, also inspired by this film, and hilarious with it, especially the mongrel Spanish bits.

I knew someone who had a job of reporting from the set of Straight To Hell. He had heard all about the legendary behavious or Shane and co., but still couldn't believe it with his own eyes (crawling out of bed soemwhere in the afternoon and starting off with a pint of brandy, etc.).

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Postby johnfoyle » Sun Sep 11, 2005 1:59 pm

Bump, bump!

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Postby SweetPear » Mon Sep 12, 2005 2:29 am

WORD is a great magazine. I've loved every issue so far.
I'm not angry anymore....

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Postby Otis Westinghouse » Mon Sep 12, 2005 6:46 pm

How did that follow on? Agree, it is excellent. Good on them.
There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more

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Re: Elvis tied to a chair , being slapped by Courtney Love

Postby johnfoyle » Sun Sep 28, 2008 4:30 am

http://www.oregonlive.com/O/artsandbook ... xml&coll=7

X is for movie-making -- 10 of 'em

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Special to The Oregonian

No, Alex Cox's filmmaking memoir "X Films" has nothing to do with pornography. Rather, he writes, he chose this title mainly because it covers 10 of his films and because he has two x's in his name. Cox, of course, is the independent-minded, left-leaning director best known for the cult classics "Sid & Nancy" and "Repo Man."

Even after those films enhanced his reputation, Cox avoided the Hollywood studio world (it seems the feeling was fairly mutual) to pursue more idiosyncratic projects, valuing autonomy and a revolutionary spirit over the once-almighty dollar.

In each of the book's 10 chapters, Cox dutifully details the pre-production, production, post-production and release of a single movie, a pattern that becomes formulaic after a while. The text often seems to have been transcribed almost verbatim from notebooks or diaries kept at the time, attempting to mention every crew member's role at the expense of clarity and coherence. The author also assumes the reader has seen each of the films, less than likely in the case of "Three Businessmen" or "The Revenger's Tragedy." (Anyone? Anyone?)

Still, Cox's passion for social justice and the social aspects of filmmaking come through. He's frank about the nefarious influences of studio executives and insurance bondsmen, but willing to acknowledge personal failings as well. The most entertaining sections cover "Walker," his inflammatory 1988 re-telling of a 19th-century American invasion of Nicaragua, and "Straight to Hell," the previous year's goofball spaghetti Western starring Courtney Love, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and many others (that chapter has, unsurprisingly, some of the best stories).

Sometimes Cox's radicalism gets the best of him, as when he rails about the CIA's involvement in heroin smuggling, but there's also some good advice in here for the aspiring artiste: "It doesn't matter whether executives actually watch your film or not; all that matters is they like it."

Marc Mohan recently reviewed "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson for The Oregonian.

Reading: Cox discusses "X Films" at 3 p.m. Sunday at Cinema 21, 616 N.W. 21st Ave.

The discussion is followed by a screening of "Searchers 2.0," his new movie. Tickets: $6.

X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker
by Alex Cox


http://www.amazon.co.uk/X-Films-True-Co ... 085&sr=1-1


http://www.amazon.com/X-Films-Confessio ... 141&sr=1-1

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986)

Postby johnfoyle » Mon May 31, 2010 6:49 am

A 'bump' for this since the late Dennis Hopper also appeared in it!

Sonya (Grace Jones) and Farben (Dennis Hopper) are welcomed
by Angel Eyes (Spider Stacy) and Biff (Frank Murray)

While I'm at it, here's a still I haven't seen before -


That's Elvis , a Pogue and Courtney Love.

Elvis Costello - Hives the butler

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby A rope leash » Mon May 31, 2010 9:21 pm

Available on NetFlix.

"Hives"...Elvis has so many names to go by.

I'm surprised to still be learning about Elvis history.

Thank you, Mr. Foyle.

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby johnfoyle » Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:54 am

Cool poster

http://www.unitedstatesartauthority.com ... thday-bash


Thurs. 08/19 | 8:00PM - 2:00AM

August 19th - Joe Strummer: Feral Clash and Beloved Birthday Bash

At the United States Art Authority

2906 Fruth(Next to I LOVE VIDEO)
Austin, TX

$5 Cover

In honor of the Feral-est of them all, Alex Cox’s “Straight to Hell” & Julien Temple’s “Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten”will be shown along with DJ Gomi, Joe giveaways and coffee/sexual tension.

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:38 pm

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/m ... ter05.html

Seattle Times

November 5, 2010


The Grand Illusion this week presents "Straight to Hell Returns," director Alex Cox's ("Sid & Nancy," "Repo Man") revisiting of his '80s Western parody "Straight to Hell." Cox has added a few effects and an extra 5 or 6 minutes of footage cut from the original version, which stars Sy Richardson, Dick Rude, Dennis Hopper, Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Elvis Costello and The Pogues. Through Thursday at the Grand Illusion, 1403 N.E. 50th St., Seattle; 206-523-3935 or www.grandillusioncinema.org.



31 Oct 2010 -- Roxie, San Francisco
1 Nov -- San Rafael Film Center, Mill Valley
3-11 Nov -- Zeitgeist, New Orleans
3 Nov -- Nickelodeon, Portland
5-11 Nov -- Grand Illusion, Seattle
11 Nov -- CCA, Santa Fe, NM
12,13 Nov -- The Guild, Albuquerque, NM
12,13 Nov -- Vancity Theatre, Vancouver
13 Nov -- The Loft, Tucson, AZ
13-17 Nov -- Cinema du Parc, Montreal
19 Nov -- Billy Wilder Theater, Los Angeles
(followed by HIGHWAY PATROLMAN on 20 Nov)
21 Nov -- Movies on a Big Screen, Sacramento
9-15 Dec -- Bijou Art Cinema, Eugene OR
10-16 Dec -- Clinton St Theatre, Portland OR
11 Dec -- Olympia Film Society, Olympia WA
12 Dec -- Pickford Cinema, Bellingham WA
13 Dec -- Grand Cinema, Tacoma WA
6 Jan 2011 -- Times Cinema, Milwaukee
7,8 Jan 2011 -- FilmBar, Phoenix, AZ


Alex Cox


It's the result of my watching - in quick succession - the old DVD of STRAIGHT TO HELL, and thinking, oh, I wish we'd had the digital technologies of violence and grotesquesness then (back in 1986, when Courtney was still a baby and Shane an innnocent genius and Strummer resembled the young Michael Caine), followed by the DVD of APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX, which Kim Aubry had very kindly given me, and thinking, wait a minute: it's not too late! Because thanks to the wonderful relationship with Collateral Image, who did the million and one special effects backgrounds for REPO CHICK, and most of that film's model stuff, I realised I DID have access to just those violent and perverse technologies. And this new, longer, crueller 'return' is the result.


There was once a version of STRAIGHT TO HELL which was five or six minutes longer. At the eleventh hour, the producer, the editor and I cut out half a dozen scenes, in a misguided flight cutting room madness, thinking that by making the film shorter we were making it better, by making it go a bit faster we were making it funnier...

We were wrong. Now, fortunately, the UCLA Film and TV Archive has rescued the original Interpositive of the uncut version, the missing scenes are restored, and a new HD master has been created, Dan Wool has recovered the missing audio, Richard Beggs has whipped the picture into aural shape, Tom Richmond and Beau Leon have created a new visual strategy - heavy on the yellows and deep blacks - and Webster Colcord has animated some additional skeletons.

All to be in theaters again in October and November 2010, and on DVD and download before the end of the year.
This - along with Microcinema's release of SEARCHERS 2.0 - must be the perfect stocking-filler. Oh! And did I mention all the digital violence by Collateral Image, and the dolly tracks, and the new shot of George's shoes?


While we were editing SID & NANCY, Commies From Mars Inc. organized a concert at the Fridge, in Brixton, in support of the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) in Nicaragua. The Pogues, Elvis Costello, and Joe Strummer played to a full house and we made a couple of thousand quid for the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign.

Eric Fellner, the producer of SID & NANCY, came up with a grander scheme: since the public clearly loved the musicians and was sympathetic to the Nicaraguan cause, why not organize a rock'n'roll tour of Nicaragua, involving the same guys? Eric figured that a video deal would pay for it, and we persuaded the musicians in question to sign up for a month-long accoustic Nicaragua Solidarity Tour in August 1996. The bands agreed; but, as time went by, we couldn't find a video company that would fund the tour.


You know why not. This was the mid 1980s. The Reagan/Thatcher maniac front was working overtime to destroy the Sandinista revolution by any means. Thatcher had even attempted to criminalize the word "Sandinista" -- hence the Clash album of the same name. It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of the punk movement at that time: the Clash, the Jam, the Pistols and their successors were almost the only beachhead many of us had against a tidal wave of reactionary politics. Which put Commies from Mars in a somewhat embarrassing position, having persuaded at least a dozen musicians not to tour or record for the entire month of August. Eric's solution? Make a film instead: as he predicted, it was easier to raise $1m for a low-budget feature starring various musicians than to find $75,000 to film them playing in a revolutionary nation in the middle of a war.


I think it's very funny. I like that it has no swearing at all (the worst thing anybody says is "Go boil yer 'ead!"). It has great cinemascope compositions by Tom Richmond. And it is completely autobiographical. It has fine performances - Sy Richardson, Fox Harris, Biff Yeager, Miguel Sandoval, Xander Berkeley, Elvis Costello, Jennifer Balgobin, Courtney Love, the list unends. The characters were written for the actors: Courtney was the Spungenesque heroine - a Nancy who was tougher and more together. This was her first leading role, and she acquited herself very well, I thought. It was Sy Richardson's first lead role in a feature, too: now he is a great actor - I've been very fortunate to work with him so many times.

Plus there was a great deal of pleasure attached to being there. In Almeria, in the desert, in midsummer, at night. It's a pleasure I can't explain. There are people who think the desert looks like a slag-heap. That is their point of view. For me the greatest pleasure of STRAIGHT TO HELL was filming in that fantastic, surreal Andalucia landscape -- the desert of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY, and FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE - films with extraordinary locations: the weird, ancient clay and sandstone and volcanic badlands, the huge triangular mountain of El Faro on the horizon. Filming there, and making a homage to the great Spaghetti Westerns -- the Leone films, DJANGO, ¿QUIEN SABE?, HELLBENDERS, and DJANGO KILL.

There is an inexplicable beauty to being on location, to working in Spain, in Mexico, staying in a small country town, walking its streets at night, then rising at dawn and going out to the surrounding desert to film till the last light is gone....


I don't know. Perhaps it was a little ahead of its time: there was not then a vogue for jokey films about black-suited professional hit-men a la Jean-Pierre Melville. Certainly some people didn't "get it" -- having rigidly observed our "no swearing" rule, we received an R-rating from the American film censors for "strong language."

And there is also an expectation on the part of film critics that a director will follow a certain trajectory. In their hearts critics have this Hollywoodian fantasy: they imagine all directors want to "graduate" into gigantically-budgeted movies full of special effects and petulant stars.. But this trajectory is illusory: it has nothing to do with me. I turned down the opportunity to direct THE THREE AMIGOS and made STRAIGHT TO HELL instead.


Not at all. Of course, if I'd done THE THREE AMIGOS I would have earned a lot more money. But that money would be spent by now. I would have had to shoot in the United States, and not in my beloved Almeria. I would essentially have been a hired hand for some comedians from Saturday Night Live. It would not have been a good experience, for them or me. The script had these weird political overtones: it promoted the idea that Americans have the right to intervene in a violent way in foreign countries - for all that it was supposed to be a comedy, it was actually propaganda for the Monroe Doctrine. STRAIGHT TO HELL, for better or worse, is my film, and I like it very much.


The music, by Pray For Rain, Strummer, Schloss, The Pogues, and the McManus Gang. And the costumes by Pam Tait. Especially the womens' costumes!


It isn't true. The only spaghetti veterans were Juan Torres, a flamenco singer from the gypsy quarter of Almeria city, and some of the stunt men. But I was told later that Leone saw the film at the Madrid Film Festival, where he was on the jury.


I don't know. There was a rumour that we'd won a prize of some kind, but I never heard any more about it. It would be nice to think that the Old Master did see STRAIGHT TO HELL.

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:00 am

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/ne ... 9562.story

Jennifer Balgobin, left, Sue Kiel, Cait O’Riordan and Kathy Burke play the gun-toting women of Blanco Town in "Straight to Hell." (UCLA Film & Television Archive, UCLA Film & Television Archive )

By Mark Olsen, Special to the Los Angeles Times

November 15, 2010

There was a time in the mid-1980s when filmmaker Alex Cox would have been considered on par with such contemporaries as Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and David Lynch at the forefront of the ascendant notion of "independent film." Coming off the critical successes of "Repo Man" and "Sid and Nancy," Cox stood to bring a punk-inflected sensibility of subversive smarts to a broader audience.

Then he made the one-two punch of "Straight to Hell" and "Walker," both released in 1987, two unapologetically political, inside-out genre pastiches. "Straight to Hell," in particular, was a flaky, sweat-stained take on spaghetti westerns, hitman pictures and corporate intrigue that featured a catch-all cast of actors, friends and rock 'n' rollers.

"My career in features, I started out working for Universal and I ended up working for Roger Corman," said the English-born Cox, 55, during a recent phone call from his home in Ashland, Ore. "It's supposed to go the other way."

Film screenings

A new version of "Straight to Hell," dubbed "Straight to Hell Returns" — which screens Friday at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, where Cox is scheduled to appear in person — might help the movie finally get the reappraisal it has long deserved. This new cut is 41/2 minutes longer, with a few deleted scenes added back in — including a hilarious bit with a bound Elvis Costello being slapped silly by a roomful of women — some newly created animation and insert shots, a new sound mix and a digitally revised color scheme overseen by the film's original cinematographer, Tom Richmond.

Also screening over the weekend is 1986's "Sid and Nancy," which turned the doomed tale of Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (played with incendiary power by Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb) into something of a tragic romance, and "Highway Patrolman," Cox's Spanish-language 1991 story of a Mexican cop.

Shannon Kelley, head of public programming at the UCLA archive, noted that not only is Cox a graduate of UCLA's film program but also that the original elements used for "Straight to Hell Returns" were discovered at the school's archive.

"It's a nice chance to first of all salute a career like Alex Cox's and the conviction behind it," said Kelly, "but also to remind ourselves that it was fostered at this institution."

Shot in Almería, Spain, on locations actually used for classic spaghetti westerns, the film features the Clash's Joe Strummer, Costello, members of the Pogues and a young, chubby-cheeked Courtney Love as an odd assortment of killers, bandits and sidekicks. It's dotted with faces that have gone on to be familiar character actors, including Xander Berkeley, Miguel Sandoval and Sy Richardson, and there are cameos by Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and Jim Jarmusch. British actress Kathy Burke and future director Sara Sugarman can also be seen in small roles.

Producer Eric Fellner has gone on to be part of the successful production company Working Title Films.

"It's densed up over the years," Cox noted of how the film arguably plays better today than when it was originally released. "Partially, there's a nostalgia aspect to it because some of the people who were in it aren't around anymore. I also think it's gotten better, with all the weird stuff we've just done to the film. Some films you can improve and other films — you couldn't really go and do a 'Citizen Kane' redux, that wouldn't make it any better."

Offbeat origins

The new version had its debut in San Francisco on Halloween and is making a small theatrical rollout at festivals and art houses across the country before being released on DVD in December.

The original "Straight to Hell" sprang from origins as offbeat as the story it tells. When Cox couldn't fund his initial plan of taking Costello, Strummer and the Pogues on a rock 'n' roll tour of war-torn Nicaragua in support of the Sandinista rebels — "Big media corporations do not support revolutionary movements in the Third World," noted Cox — he decided to shoot a feature film in the same period of time the musicians already had blocked off.

A script was quickly prepared, everyone decamped to Spain, and the film was shot in four weeks.

The response to the movie on its initial release in summer 1987 — with a local premiere at a Burbank drive-in — was largely one of derision and dismissal. "It's going straight to nowhere," proclaimed Variety, while the New York Times called it "a mildly engrossing, instantly forgettable midnight movie."

'Badge of honor'

Dick Rude, cowriter and costar of the film, specifically remembers that when "Straight to Hell" made a list of the worst films of the year in the Los Angeles Times, "I was so proud. It was such a badge of honor to me. That meant I succeeded in making people feel something. And it served as a paradigm for years after that when people would write about other films — 'this is almost as bad as 'Straight to Hell.'"

Since "Straight to Hell" and the follow-up film "Walker" — a historical story in Nicaragua filled with purposeful anachronisms — Cox has remained extremely prolific, though off the radar of the Hollywood industry. He hosted the British television show "Moviedrome" for seven years and has continued to make features such as "Death and the Compass," "Three Businessmen," "Revengers Tragedy" and "Searchers 2.0."

Cox is heartened that "Straight to Hell Returns" could receive some retroactive appreciation.

"It's a bizarre fusion of its time and right now," said Cox. "It has become the film that it should have been."


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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby A rope leash » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:29 pm

I watched Straight to Hell this morning, along with the documentary, Back to Hell.

I thought it was quite entertaining. In a way, it was predictive of movies like Pulp Fiction.

Elvis looks blind without his glasses.

Coffee addicts...heh-heh...truer than we admit.

Karl's Disco wieners. On sale in the lobby.

A beautiful moment, in the final shootout, as Big Nothing plays. It's great to have some context for that music.

Two thumbs up, and POW!

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Re: Elvis in 'Straight to Hell' (1986), with Dennis Hopper

Postby johnfoyle » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:22 pm

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Re: 'Straight to Hell' (1986), featuring Elvis, back in cine

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:57 am

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Re: 'Straight to Hell' (1986), featuring Elvis, back in cine

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Mar 01, 2011 1:48 pm

http://www.nypress.com/blog-8378-straig ... x-cox.html

Straight Talk from Alex Cox


March 1 2011

In 1987, Straight to Hell had a theatrical run of about a week and dropped into obscurity. Preceding Pulp Fiction and the genre-bending movement, the punk-rock western was too futuristic for a generalized American audience. Decades later, the film has gained iconic status as a cult classic, so director Alex Cox (of Repo Man and Sid and Nancy fame) decided it was time for a comeback. Wednesday at the Walter Reade Theatre and Thursday at 92YTribeca, Straight To Hell Returns screens for the first time in New York City. Though the showings will each feature a Q&A with Cox, we couldn’t wait that long to talk about the film, the gore and the future.

Straight to Hell

Walter Reade - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 8:30PM

http://ticketing.filmlinc.com/single/Se ... Status=new

Date & Time: Thu, Mar 3, 2011, 7:30pm
Location: 92YTribeca, 200 Hudson Street

http://www.92y.org/shop/92Tri_event_det ... =T-MM5FM03

New York Press: Tell me about the Straight To Hell Returns. How close is the relationship to Straight To Hell?

Alex Cox:
It’s really the same film. It contains additional scenes which weren’t in the original version, because we cut them in the eleventh hour. It has a completely different visual aspect, because the cameraman, Tom Richmond, re-toned the picture, gave it this completely different color cast. It has a new soundtrack, because everything of course has to be 5.1 stereo and the original soundtrack was mono. And it has additional violence, bloodshed, flies and skeletons, all of which were either done digitally or as stop-motion motion animation (you know, like when they move the little puppets one frame at a time).

What motivated looking at the film again?

I saw Apocalypse Now: Redux. Coppola put back these scenes that he’d taken out of Apocalypse Now and made the film about half an hour longer. And most of the scenes, you know, I’m looking at it, probably thinking what people are thinking about Straight To Hell, 'Eh, it’s OK.' But then you get to one scene, where Marlon Brando puts Martin Sheen in a shipping container and reads to him from the pages of Time. And it is the best scene in the movie. It’s better then surfing, then blowing things up and all that other stuff. It’s just a wonderful scene. And so I thought, Straight To Hell is a film that I have the opportunity to revisit—I know where the footage is stored at the UCLA campus, so I could go and get it back and reconfigure the film and try to make it better.

What were the factors that made the original come about?

It was originally supposed to be a rock 'n' roll tour of Nicaragua in support of the first Sandinista government back in the mid 1980s. And Elvis Costello, The Pogues and Joe Strummer were all committed to go on this tour which we were going to pay for by the sales of a video cassette, as it would have been in those days. We couldn’t raise the money to tour. We had all the bands ready to go and they all carved out a month of their schedule to go on the tour. So the producer of what then became the film said, “I think I can raise the money to make an independent film with these guys.” Therefore the prerequisite of the film was that it would have The Pogues, Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello in it. And then I sort of filled that out with actors as well, and Courntney Love, who was neither an actor nor a musician at the time, but more of a young phenomenon. And people who were, like, real actors to carry some of that weight.

There are a lot of insider nods to cinephiles and music geeks.

We have lots of music references, we have lots of Italian western references because the film is in the style of an Italian western. It was made as a homage to this one particular Spaghetti Western called Django Kill, directed by Giulio Questi, one of the masters of Spaghetti Westerns. You know, he only made one, but that was the best. So we took his film as a visual model for our movie and also were inspired by its ingenious sadism.

Do you have to be “in the know” to get the film?

There is a danger of that. But I think people are a lot more film literate right now then they were in 1985 when the film first came out. I think if the film had come out a little bit later, if it had come out after Pulp Fiction, people would have got it more readily, because people are more hip and more cross referential in their media. Every film is genre-breaking now where a while ago that was an outrageous thing to do.

One of the questions I did have was about the reception back in 1987. How did it go then, and how did it go this time around?

The film only had one good review in 1987, and was, I think, from the Seattle Post Intelligence or some other Seattle paper. But in all of the English speaking world, only one good review. And I think it played for a week in Seattle. Everywhere else, after a couple of days, it was, “Oh, God, can we get this out of here?” The only places where the film really had a life was Spain, where it actually won a prize, and was given to us by the great Spaghetti Western master Sergio Leone, the greatest Spaghetti Western master of them all apparently presented this prize, but then the prize was stolen and I never saw it. It was unfortunate. But Spain was OK. And Japan. In Japan the old Straight To Hell was quite popular. I think really what made it popular in Japan was the costumes. The women’s costumes were very in taste for young Japanese. And then, 20 years later, the redux version of Straight To Hell, Joe Strummer predicted, in the golden box, with all the restored scenes and the blah, blah, blah. I think people get it more now, maybe because that sort of post-modernism isn’t off-putting. People like Shane MacGowan and Courtney Love, maybe they seemed very strange to a more general audience when the film first came out and now they’re nostalgic. Young kids don’t even know who Courtney or Shane are.

It’s funny that you bring up that kids now don’t necessarily know who Courtney is. It’s a unique set of characters and factors that made the film in the first place, except it’s only popular now. Could a film like that ever happen again?

It’s sort of a slice of time, isn’t it, that’s just been re-jigged and digitalized, given this jolt of electricity. So I think it is whatever that slice of time in people’s lives means to them. Could it happen now? Probably not, because it was funded by an independent film company and there really aren’t any of those anymore. Most of the independents have gone bust, or shut down or been purchased by the studio. There’s not, like, an Island Pictures. Island Pictures was a subsidiary of a record company, so they were basically a music company which was dabbling in film. And there isn’t a funding phenomenon like that now.

So you disparage of the indie movement as a source of alternative film?

Well I don’t know. It’s really, really indie. I mean people are making very good, funny independent features. I saw this film about a lost cat. Have you seen this film, Goliath about the lost cat? Oh, it’s good. It’s really sad, but it’s funny. These two brothers, the Zellner brothers, did it in Texas. And I thought it was great. But it was, like, really, super low budget. They just went out and made it. And it’s funny. But doing those independent, super low budget films, how do you get them into the theater when the theatrical distribution is entirely dominated by the studios? It’s difficult. So then one hopes: oh, wait, maybe the internet! Maybe we can figure out a way that people will watch this film on the internet, so send me money! And that’s the new hope of independent film maybe. But then we become solitary consumers of film.

What’s next for you?

I have just finished illustrating a children’s book called Three Dead Princes. And the author of it is Danbert Nobacon. And it’s very funny. It’s published by a company called Exterminating Angel Press. Excellent book for young adults or old children. I’m trying to do a movie called Bill The Galactic Hero, based on a science fiction novel by Harry Harrison. I’m trying to raise the money to do that. Maybe I’ll do it with sock puppets, that way we can build the sets much smaller and save money.

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Re: 'Straight to Hell' (1986), featuring Elvis,NY,March 2&3

Postby johnfoyle » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:43 pm

A rehash of the Straight To Hell story -

http://www.parascandola.com/blog/2012/2 ... -hell.html

- with some photos of how the film's location now looks -



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