The Clash Star in Rare, Long-Lost 1980′s Gangster Parody ‘Hell W10’
Behold fans of The Clash! I present for your viewing pleasure a very rare gangster parody film titled ‘Hell W10’ (named after the post code of Notting Hill in London) that Clash frontman Joe Strummer wrote and directed during the summer of 1983. It features his band mates and was filmed while the band was on a break from touring. Its bittersweet to watch, as this is the very last creative project the band worked on together before Jones was ousted from The Clash in late 1983.
‘Hell W10’ is a 50 minute-long, Super-8 silent film that plays like Mean Streets on a shoestring budget. It tells a tale of gang warfare between a brigade of punks led by bassist Paul Simonon and a bunch of sharp-suited gangsters fronted by guitarist Mick Jones. The film is an amateurish, funny, gory, and fascinating document of the early 80’s. It was lost to time until a pair of fans found a copy at a garage sale a few years back (the film was later released as part of the Essential Clash DVD collection).
While it’s not exactly the kind of thing you watch again and again, it’s worth viewing at least once for the images of London in the early ’80s and the gusto with which the band members throw themselves into their roles — Jones camps it up like a pantomime villain as Mr. Socrates, while Simonon plays his Jimmy Cliff-channeling rude boy nemesis Earl. Strummer puts in a cameo as a mustachioed crooked cop (prefiguring his later movie work in Alex Cox’s ‘Straight to Hell’ and Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train’). Both Tony James and Martin Degville who later went on to form Sigue Sigue Sputnik also feature in the film.
The plot focuses on Earl (Simonon) and a drug-lord/porn director/crime lord named Socrates (Jones). Earl’s girlfriend gets involved with Socrates and soon enough Earl becomes the man’s number one enemy. Socrates tries to get his goons on Earl’s case, especially after he sells a batch of Socrates’ X-rated films, but Earl manages to wrangle up a group of his friends to rebel against them.
Watcher be warned: ‘Hell W10’ is no masterpiece. The camera work is sloppy at times and individual scenes last longer than they need to. Still, it’s hard not to enjoy any movie with an all-Clash soundtrack, and I got a huge kick out of watching Mick Jones scowl in his white tuxedo like a silent-film Scarface.
The soundtrack is a highpoint and features excerpts from a mix of instrumentals of well known Clash songs, as well as a few rarities including in order “Version City”, “Rudie Can’t Fail”, “First Night Back in London (Instrumental)”, “Know Your Rights (Instrumental)”, “Long Time Jerk (Instrumental)”, “Cool Confusion (Instrumental)”, “Ghetto Defendant (Instrumental)”, “Junco Version (Instrumental)”, “Atom Tam (Instrumental)”, “Silicone on Sapphire”, “Wrong ‘Em Boyo”, “Overpowered by Funk (Instrumental)”, “The Call Up”, “Red Angel Dragnet (Instrumental)”, “Jimmy Jazz”, “Mensforth Hill”, “Junkie Slip”, “Time Is Tight”, “Armagideon Time”, “Listen”, “The Equaliser”, “Police on My Back”, “One More Dub” and “Rock the Casbah (Instrumental).