Sunday, October 19, 2014

Straight to Hell (Alex Cox, 1987)

Warning: The following may contain words and pictures that promote the notion that: A) Courtney Love is sexy as a pregnant gangster's moll (sit on that jukebox, you leggy hosebeast, you). And B) Courtney Love is an okay actress. What am I saying, "may contain"? Oh, believe me, this review of Straight to Hell will most definitely contain a crapload of notions that promote the off-kilter shapeliness that is Courtney Love. If that's the case, why am I giving you a warning? Somewhere back in the recesses of my mind, I must know that Courtney Love isn't the type of person you can openly heap praise on, at least not acting praise. I mean, she's not like, say, Mink Stole or Mary Woronov, people who are universally beloved. Show me, by the way, someone who doesn't like Mink Stole or Mary Woronov, and I'll show you one seriously disturbed individual. At any rate, it's obvious that Courtney Love and the rest of cast of Repo Man and Sid and Nancy all answered their phones when the pride of Bebington (Don't fuck with The Wirral!), Alex Cox, called 'em up asking them to appear in his wacked out tribute to Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, because they're all in it.

(Even Zander Schloss and Xander Berkeley?) Yep, even them. Remember all those hot punk chicks who hung around The Sex Pistols in Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy? Well, they're all in it as well. And, yes, that also includes the ultra-gorgeous Michele Winstanley. You might remember her, she makes a great face when that guy at The Sex Pistols concert says he doesn't want to be a punk anymore.

Oh, man, I just realized that having most of the cast of Repo Man and Sid and Nancy in this movie doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be smooth sailing. If anything, the film could be just one long reminder of how good they were in those films.

No doubt leading to moments like: Hey, there's Sy Richardson, wasn't he amazing as Lyte in Repo Man? Or, look, that's Sara Sugarman! I loved her as Abby National in Sid and Nancy ("Sugar man, won't you hurry / 'cos I'm tired of these scenes").

While there's some of that going on for sure. The film does manage to create its own unique universe. In other words, it's not really fair to call this Sid and Nancy: The Western or Repo Man II: The Legend of Otto's Gold.

However, no matter how you spin it, the film is still a mess. Right, Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper?

Just as I was about to give up on this film, along comes Jennifer Balgobin in a pair of pink shorts. Instructed to wash Miguel Sandoval's motorcycle, Jennifer Balgobin, who plays Fabienne, goes outside with a bucket of soapy water. Opening her brown trench coat with much fanfare, Jennifer Balgobin, who is wearing, like I said, pink shorts, and a pink, cut-off tank-top with the words "Hot Property" written on it, proceeds to clean Miguel's bike in an erotic manner.

You gotta envy the eyeballs belonging to Sy Richardson, Joe Strummer and Dick Rude. I mean, to witness such a titillating display up close like that, it doesn't get any better than this. Or does it? I'll get to whether it does in a minute.

I think might have spoke too soon regarding Courtney Love's performance in this movie. Don't get me wrong, the sight of a barefoot and pregnant Miss Love sitting provocatively on that jukebox is a enough to power a thousand misguided erections, but every time she would open her mouth, a small amount of blood would ooze from my ears.

(I thought you liked shrill and unpleasant women?) Yeah, but not that shrill and unpleasant. Where's Chloe Webb when you need her?

Since I can't go back in time and stop Alex Cox from casting her, let's soldier on, shall we? Look, the film stars as Sy Richardson, as the forthright Norwood (the inspiration for Samuel L. Jackson's Jules in Pulp Fiction perhaps?), Joe Strummer as the oily-haired Simms and Dick "Let's Go Get Sushi and Not Pay" Rude plays Willy. In other words, the film is still salvageable as far as entertainment goes.

Oh, it's salvageable, all right... Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup. Salsa y ketchup... Salva-fuckin'-geable!

The characters I just mentioned, in addition to Courtney Love, who plays Velma, Norwood's pregnant girlfriend, rob a bank in, oh, let's say, Mexico (the film was shot in Spain), and flee into the desert. When their car breaks down, they bury the loot (about four suitcases stuffed with money), and walk to a nearby town.

From what I gathered, the plan is to stay in the town until things blow over. Only problem being, the town is home to an unruly gang of gun-totting coffee drinkers.

When Norwood, Simms and Willy save two of the gun-totting coffee drinkers (Shane MacGowan and Spider Stacy of The Pogues) from a group of bounty hunters, Frank McMahon (Biff Yeager), the leader of the powerful McMahon Clan, welcomes the outsiders with opens arms.

While trying to buy nails from a local merchant named George (Miguel Sandoval), Simms gets his first glimpse of Jennifer Balgobin's Fabienne. Like any ex-member The Clash would do, Simms leaps on her with an enthusiastic jelonka ogłoszenia. Now, if you're worried about George getting upset by this untoward yet totally reasonable display, fear not, for he is in the back looking for nails.

The next day boasts the scene where Jennifer Balgobin washes Miguel Sandoval's motorcycle in pink shorts. I used to always say that Jennifer Balgobin's best work is in Alex Cox's Repo Man and Stephan Sayadian's Dr. Caligari. Well, now that I've seen Straight to Hell, I feel it's time to change my opinion. That's right, if you love Jennifer Balgobin, and I mean, really love Jennifer Balgobin, than Straight to Hell needs to be injected into your nervous system immediately. I don't care if her accent is a tad on the wonky side, this is the movie to see for all your J-Gob needs.

While Simms is getting all riled up by Fabienne, Willy's motor is more in tune with Louise (Michele Winstanley). Taking her to the local cemetery to visit her grandmother's grave, Willy declares his love for Louise. This, of course, doesn't go as planned, and Willy ends up dirty, sexually frustrated and alone.

It should be noted that almost everyday while the foursome are in town ends with a song: Day One ends with a performance of the song "Delilah" by Kim Blousson (Fox Harris), with Elvis Costello on guitar; day three ends with a performance of "Danny Boy" by Cait O'Riordan; and day four ends with not with a song, but random acts of violence and cameos by Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper.

Which leads to the final day, where Norwood, Simms and Willy wind up taking on the entire McMahon Clan in a large-scale, Wild Bunch-style shoot 'em up.

What's that? I forgot to mention the song that ends day two. That's weird. No, it's just that the song that ends day two just happens to be featured in what I now consider one of the greatest scenes in movie history. And get this, it has nothing to do with the massive slit on Jennifer Balgobin's dress or the robust nature of Michele Winstanley's jet black ponytail.

Everyone be quiet, because someone has requested that Karl (Zander Schloss), proprietor of Karl's Disco Wiener Haven, perform his theme song, "Salsa y Ketchup." Picked on and abused throughout the movie, Karl's unexpected triumph is the epitome of awesome.

Maybe it's because the song has lyrics such as: "Sizzle, they grizzle, you step up to the griddle, Salsa y Ketchup, you tell me and I'll fetch up," or maybe it was Karl's twitchy demeanor. Whatever it was, this scene turned what was up until then a mildly entertaining pseudo-spaghetti western into a genuine cult classic.

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