November 8, 2010
By Zack Carlson

or: Why STRAIGHT TO HELL, OVER THE EDGE and others didn't make the cut.

Let’s set something straight. This book is about punks on film. That means one of two things:

1) The depiction of punks in a fictional narrative feature, or
2) The documentation of self-identified punks in a non-fiction film.

Between these two types, we were able to cover 1100 films and fill over 500 pages. That’s a lot of punks. Each of the movies we wrote about featured subjects that fell into one or both of these categories.

That being said, there were a few films that felt as if they ought to fall under the book’s banner, but they honestly just didn’t. Maybe the titles offered a tangible feeling of youth rebellion, or the filmmaking itself espoused a punk aesthetic, or maybe the actors on screen were actually punk musicians but playing non-punk characters. But for any number of reasons, the movie wouldn’t feature our basic criteria of PUNKS on FILM.

Most notable among these were Alex Cox’s STRAIGHT TO HELL and Jonathan Kaplan’s juvenile delinquent masterpiece OVER THE EDGE. Both movies are deeply entertaining and both feature NO PUNKS.

Since copies of our book have begun circulating to critics, etc, we’ve received several gripes about the exclusion of these films. Thumbs down. We also expect to hear about THE WARRIORS and others, but let’s just nip this all in the bud right here.

For the record, Alex Cox stated himself in a direct conversation that STRAIGHT TO HELL has no punks. He said he was excited to cast musicians he respected as well as former collaborators from his punk films. When we told him we were wrestling over whether or not to include it, he admitted he hadn’t written any of the characters as punks, and there was nothing in these characters’ aesthetics or attitudes to indicate otherwise. Paraphrasing here (it was five years ago): “Lowlifes, criminals, sure…but no, not punks.”

STRAIGHT TO HELL and OVER THE EDGE were the two films that were most painful for us to exclude after many bouts of arguing and self-doubt. But, early on in the research for the book, we’d realized that we sorely needed to set a very strict criteria for what we covered, and that had to be a concrete depiction or documentation of punks themselves.

Admittedly, punk spirit is infinitely more valuable than a Hollywood flub like MAJOR LEAGUE or WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S II. But this aspect is much more subjective and would have been nearly impossible to pin down for the book the same way outspoken and/or “visually apparent” punks are. Imagine the difficulties in trying to have over a dozen contributing writers find a common definition without semi-uniformly identifiable traits. With junkies, bikers, greasers, metalheads and longhair juvenile delinquents in the mix, it’d get pretty swampy.

We were careful to lay out the details of the criteria in the book’s introduction, knowing that people would nonetheless contest certain decisions. So, with that in mind, we opted to contact the filmmakers whenever possible when we were faced with a situation like STRAIGHT TO HELL. We figured their word would be the best guide, and if they intended for any character in the film to be an actual punk, we’d include that title without question.

So, we reluctantly drew these lines and stuck to them. And it burned our guts excluding STRAIGHT TO HELL and a few others, as we have only the deepest, highest respect for the films. Hope this explanation helps you see the reasons for that decision.

If it doesn’t, all we can say is: SHUT. UP.

Tags: , DAM!!! Criteria, Not Punk, Over the Edge, Straight to Hell, The Warriors

9 Responses to SHUT. UP.

  1. PF on November 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Soundtrack aside, Joe Strummer combing his hair with gasoline should qualify as a punk antic…

    • Zack Carlson on November 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      We’re still sticking with Alex Cox’s statement that there were no punk characters. Not to mention the fact that people used to put gasoline in their hair to kill lice, so unless housewives from the early 1900s are punks, I don’t think that qualifies.

  2. Austin on November 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The book is obviously comprehensive. People kvetching over minor exclusions are just trying to play the beloved hipster game Obscurer-Than-Thou, and that is certainly NOT PUNK.

    It’s not like the writers of a book reviewing over 1000 movies would just forget about Straight to Hell. I think you made the point quite clearly — you have to draw the line somewhere or else the book would be 3000 pages and lose the original intent.

    • Zack Carlson on November 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

      Did my personality splinter and create you just to leave that comment? That was perfect! Thanks, Austin!

  3. Chris on November 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    No Uncle Buck? Punks galore!

    • Zack Carlson on November 30, 2010 at 6:53 pm

      We rechecked the movie to make sure and we’re not seeing any punks. Most of the high school kids have a late ’80s art school/beatnik thing going on–the costume designer definitely cleaned out the beret department at Big Lots. The boyfriend’s name is Bug, which while promising, doesn’t deliver the true punkness. And we know that actor can bring it (see the ABC afterschool special “The Day My Kid Went Punk”).

      If you want to send us a time code or a specific scene to check, feel free. Otherwise, we’re gonna have to stick with Uncle Buck=No Punks.

  4. viva on December 27, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I get it. Good calls all around.
    However; Blank Reg from Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was punk – regardless of what the Grant Craig or say.

    • Zack Carlson on December 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      We didn’t include Max Headroom because it was a TV show. Even though “20 Minutes into the Future” was a two-hour pilot, it was still a TV show. Nothing against TV…we own one!

  5. Punks on the Big Screen « Music on January 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    [...] that they decided to not include the films Over the Edge and Alex Cox’s Straight to Hell.  Carlson addresses this at the book’s website, so I won’t go into it.  But I will post these trailers for the films and leave with the [...]