By all rights, Alex Cox's absurdist spaghetti western Straight to Hell
, should be up there in the canon of must-see cult movies. It was written in three days and filmed gonzo-style in six weeks in the Andalusian desert landscape of Almeria, Spain, on an abandoned film set originally built for Savage Cowboys
, a 1969 Charles Bronson western. The cast includes the good, the bad and the ugly of rock and roll--namely Joe Strummer, Courtney Love (in her first starring role) and Shane McGowan--and cameos from Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and Jim Jarmusch. It also features a pre-Reservoir Dogs
plot concerning three sharp-suited but incompetent hitmen on the lam in the desert with the proceeds of a bank heist and a pregnant girlfriend in tow (Love). There they stumble upon a remote, ramshackle town, home to a gang of coffee-guzzling gunslingers called the McMahons (the Pogues) who initially accept the bumbling assassins as one of their own. But the appearance of shadowy industrialist IG Farben (Hopper) throws the precarious peace into a trigger-happy turmoil. Despite the promise, the film was almost universally panned on its release, the main criticism being that although the cast and crew seemed to having a blast, not much thought was put into translating the joke to the audience. It's certainly anarchic and frivolous, but also silly and pointless. Sy Richardson as the Jheri-curled Norwood who steals the show, remaining stoic and super-cool as the chaos rages around him.
On the DVD: "Back to Hell", a 20-minute feel-good featurette, reunites the majority of the cast members (minus Courtney Love) 14 years on to reminisce on their experience making the film. At the end, Alex Cox cannily manages to elicit guarantees from the actors to appear in a mooted sequel. The original dialogue plays at low volume underneath the commentary track, making it hard to hear what the filmmakers are saying at various points. A promo video for the Pogues rendition of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is tacked on at the end, but looks as if it was sourced from a worn videotape. --Chris Campion