TOA/V: Straight to Hell Returns

So I got to meet Alex Cox at the Hudson Basilica run by former Hole member Melissa Auf der Mauer (who introduced him) and see the rejiggered STRAIGHT TO HELL RETURNS so how big was my smile? Very! I love this film. I felt for years as if I were the only person crazy enough to do so (though Bertie is too if only by osmosis), but it was so great to see it with new colouring, cleaned up and with some of the missing bits restored as well as the final song from Strummer. How was it Awesome. I won’t pretend to have any critical distance about this film. It only improves upon reacquaintance. I was laughing my head off.

We don’t half live in hipsterville, eh? Many of the local varieties in attendance. We should write a guidebook to the varieties.

The basilica is an amazing space. I was imagining all the things that might be done with it. I have to read up a little more on their plans. Hudson really is chock full of — yes, hispters — but also people who are trying to do cool things with the space here. I’m all for it.

Cox talked about the making of the film — how a planned tour in support of the Sandinistas fell through and he had bands with time on their hands, film crew and Joe Strummer’s love of Almeria. Three days to script and boom. They were on their way. He spoke graciously of Tarantino ripping off paying homage to Sy Richardson’s role (the man does not get the respect he deserves) with Samuel L. Jackson’s take on the role in Pulp Fiction. You cannot see this film and have any doubt about that debt. Cox is teaching in UC Boulder and seems to enjoy working with the students and is ambivalent about working in Hollywood. He characterised it as getting rid of all the people with talent and filling up the studios with not very smart admin — just like academia.

No argument here.

I got to ask him a couple questions including whether the cameos were planned or just whoever happened to be in Spain at the time. A combination: Grace Jones was filming Siesta and stopped by. Dennis Hopper had just got clean and his manager was keen to keep him far from temptations so he was available. Cox spoke about how impressive Hopper’s work was, his ability to be natural that he tries to convince young actors to hold onto: “Every reaction is a gift” which captured it perfectly. In contrast to Shane MacGowan who couldn’t repeat a take no matter what but was always entertaining. The Pogues on the whole were very good — and I’m not just saying that because they looked so good in their bandito outfits especially Jimmy Fearnley and Spider Stacey (rowr). I also asked about how he got to work with Kathy Burke who is such a phenomenal woman; again it was sort of coincidences but he went on at length to talk about how amazing she is (hope the hipsters were taking notes).

As we were leaving I told him how obsessed I was with the film when it came out. Nice to have the opportunity. And be sure to check out Cox’s books on films including his Spaghetti Western book, 10,000 Ways to Die.

Be sure to check out all of Tuesday’s Overlooked Audio/Visuals at Todd’s blog.


  1. Crispinus says:

    Sounds awesome. Makes me want to revisit the film, which I haven;t see in a looong time.

    1. katelaity says:

      I always adored it but I genuinely find it funny — and it was really so far ahead of its time that I think it works better now.

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