Taglines: A story of blood, money, guns, coffee, and sexual tension.
A gang of bank robbers with a suitcase full of money go to the desert to hide out. After burying the loot, they find their way to a surreal town full of cowboys who drink an awful lot of coffee. The townspeople are hostile to the outsiders at first, but seem to accept them once they’ve killed a couple of people. After a while, a mysterious man named Dade arrives, who seems to have unpleasant business to settle with the robbers. A free-for-all shoot-em-up ensues.
Straight to Hell is a 1987 independent action-comedy film directed by Alex Cox, and starring Sy Richardson, Joe Strummer (frontman of The Clash), Dick Rude, and Courtney Love. The film also features cameos by Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, Elvis Costello, and Jim Jarmusch. Band members of The Pogues, Amazulu, and The Circle Jerks are also featured in the film. The film borrows its title from The Clash’s 1982 song of the same name.
The film has been called a parody of Spaghetti Westerns, and concerns a gang of criminals who become stranded in the desert, where they stumble upon a surreal Western town full of coffee-addicted killers. The film is based on Giulio Questi’s Spaghetti Western film, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (1967), which Cox was given permission to adapt.
About the Story
The film opens with three hitmen, Willy, Norwood, and Simms (played by Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, and Joe Strummer, respectively) who are staying in a posh Los Angeles hotel. After failing a job, they take off in a car with a whiny pregnant woman named Velma (Courtney Love), who is in on their scheme.
They then flee to Mexico to escape the wrath of their boss, Amos Dade (Jim Jarmusch), and rob a bank along the way. While driving through the desert, their car breaks down due to Simms having filled the gasoline tank with diesel by mistake. They bury their suitcase of money in the desert and begin to walk.
Night falls, and they come upon a town in the middle of the desert, where they see a demolished car with a corpse inside. They then enter an empty bar, where the three men get drunk and Velma angrily pesters them to leave. As they exit the bar, the wrecked car has vanished, but the men are too inebriated to notice it.
The group camps out for the night, and the following morning, Velma witnesses several trucks of lively cowboys enter the town, carrying espresso machines with them. Much to the dismay of Velma, who insists they keep a low profile and leave, the three men enter the town, which is now full of townspeople, and go back to the bar.
There, they are confronted by a gang of cowboys addicted to coffee (The Pogues), and a shoot-out ensues, but they are ultimately welcomed by the townspeople. The bizarre townspeople include a couple who own a mercantile full of piñatas, a man running a hot dog stand, and countless cowboys and prostitutes, among others.
The head honcho of the town, Tim McMahon (Biff Yeager), invites the gang to a party that evening. The following day, Tim McMahon’s elderly father is pushed off of a building by his relative Sabrina McMahon (Kathy Burke) and dies. The entire town has a funeral procession for him, and at the funeral, a friend of Amos’, named Whitey, shows up looking for the hitmen and Velma.
The town seizes Whitey for being a “stranger”, and accuses him of the murder of the McMahon grandfather. During the burial of the grandfather, his hand comes up out of the dirt and grabs the priest’s ankle, and the priest shoots into the ground, killing him. Meanwhile, on the gallows, Whitey begins to tell the town the truth about Amos and the hitmen, but is hanged before he can tell his story.
A man named I.G. Farben (Dennis Hopper), who claims to be a house manufacturer, enters town with his wife Sonia (Grace Jones) and introduces himself to the gang and the rest of the townspeople, advertising his company. The next morning, Simms sees Amos’ car enter the town, and tries to get a drunken Willy and Norwood to leave with Velma.
Straight to Hell (1987)
Directed by: Alex Cox
Starring: Dick Rude, Sy Richardson, Courtney Love, Jennifer Balgobin, Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, Xander Berkeley, Grace Jones, Elvis Costello, Jim Jarmusch
Screenplay by: Alex Cox, Dick Rude
Production Design by: Andrew McAlpine
Cinematography by: Tom Richmond
Film Editing by: David Martin
Costume Design by: Pam Tait
Art Direction by: Caroline Hanania
Music by: Dan Wool
Distributed by: Island Pictures
Release Date: June 26, 1987